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Being a Professional Amateur

The Painter in his Studio-1663, Adriaen Jansz Van Ostade

When I was younger, I imagined a painter as a solitary person in a studio surrounded by canvases with brushes and paints in hand. The reality is that I spend a small percentage of my time actually painting and most of my time learning the skills of the trade. I had to learn how to build a canvas. I had to learn how to mix colors. I had to learn how to use brushes and paints. How to select brushes and paints. I had to learn how to build a website. I had to learn how to promote myself. I had to learn how to take photos of my paintings and upload them to my website. Thank goodness for Google!

It's true that I spend a lot of time on the computer. I'm addicted to the Internet because my mind is always taking me places and then I want to find the answer right away. The loveliness of the Internet is that at midnight when I suddenly can't sleep because I'm wondering what's the right way to stretch a canvas, I can watch it on Youtube. The side effect of being addicted to the Internet is that I've taught myself shortcuts and tricks along the way. I'm not an expert on anything, but I can wing it a lot of the time.

For example, I am a very bad photographer. I have this fancy SLR and I have no idea how to use it or what all the apertures and what not means. I'm also not very good at taking care of it. I dropped it the other day and so I had to buy myself a new lens. I spent the weekend messing around with it until I got the desired effects. Most of what I create is very intuitive and I actually like the effect I get when I'm doing it with half the knowledge. I love the happy accidents and I don't neccessarily want to recreate the same effect every time. So, being an amateur works for my aesthetic (photos I took below).


In the past I always felt a bit uneasy when talking with other artists because everyone else seemed to know so much more and have so much more experience. I've never been a very detail oriented person and tend to learn just enough about a topic to get what I need and then move on. Over time, I've learned to become more comfortable with being a "professional amateur." Some how I think, I've made it work for me.

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