Let's dive a little bit deeper on what does it mean to have a meaningful relationship. If you haven't, I strongly recommend you read through my last week's blog post - Establishing a meaningful long term relationship with your skill set. I made a analogy between developing painting skill and maintaining a long term relationship. I took the example of my relationship with my wife. We been through much during the past 15 years, and those years of efforts and hard works have borne fruit for us. Same for our painting skill, we will see success if we are willing to treat it as a long term relationship.
However, it's worth noting that not every long term relationship is equal. I see it many times from relationship or skill development alike. I know some couples who been dating for 10 years, and the relationship went nowhere but evaporated. I've seen people who been painting for a very long time and their artwork still look amateurish. Nothing is more frustrated than knowing you spend countless hours with little to no result. While I do believe natural talent is a small factor, it's far from being a major role. I have a few tips that can hopefully shed some light on this:
- Do you have a goal?
This sounds painfully obvious, but believe it or not it's probably what most people skimp on. Who do you want to be in 10 years? What do you want your painting to look like? It's the same for many long term relationships I witnessed that end up a giant waste of time. The couples don't have an end goal. I remember asking one of my friend who has been dating his girl friend for 5 years if he has a goal for his relationship (if he is going to marry the girl). Only had him look me in the eyes and answered me he was not planning to. It wasn't hard to predict that after a year or two, his relationship ended. Such a waste of time and youth! When Betty and I started to date, we had a clear goal that we are going to work on this relationship towards marriage. We didn't know if it will workout for us, but because we know our goal, we know what to work on!
What about painting? Do you have a goal? Which artist's painting do you want yours to look like? When you figure that out, you can find out what you lack and what to work on. If you just blindly doing painting with no expectation or goal, it become a routine and a chore. You might be painting physically, but you are not growing as an artist, and that's not a good use of time.
- What do you need to do to reach your goal?
Two people working toward to build a marriage is not an easy task. There were many things Betty and I had to work on, from our personality, our communication to our lifestyle. When you have a goal, it will be like having a destination of a trip. You will then need to figure out how to get there, turn by turn. I started to paint watercolor because I seen my mentor Joseph Zbukvic's work. I'm so inspired by him, I wanted to paint like him. I started to study his work, how he paint, how did he do the washes, his sense of shape and design. There are times when I focus my painting on getting good clean washes. After I feel pretty good about my washes, I start focusing on getting good value, then shape, and so on. Having a solid goal will help you spend your time practice with a purpose. When you start painting with a clear goal in mind, you will gain something from every painting you do. Even when you consider the painting is a failure, it's never wasted because you learned from it and know how to do better next time.
There are many other artist's work I admire and enjoy, but I am committed myself to paint in Joseph's way. Imagine I switch style every time I see something I like, I have a little success and I have to scratched everything I learned. I will end up no where! It's like a person get exciting about dating someone, and all the sudden drop the relationship after a few month when he/she see someone else he/she likes. That's not to say I am stuck at one style and will just end up being a copy cat of my inspiration. But when you committed to a master's style, you will be able to improve faster and opens up more possibility for you. I want my scenery paintings to look like Joseph's, but my portraits were inspired by Charles Reid. I have yet discovering a way to incorporate both styles, but as I keep learning how to paint like they do, I actually gain more ability to develop my own way of working.
10-15 years seem like a lot of time, but it's easily wasted if you don't spend it with meaning or purpose. It is difficult to commit yourself to something(someone) for a long time, quite possibility for the rest of your life. But it's probably the only way to be truly successful in it. And that commitment is not just for being there, it's to engage, actively involve and evolve.