by Donato

This past week while at the Illustration Master Class in Amherst, Massachusetts, I was posited the question of what is the best advice I could give a young/new artist in their development of skills and career.  This is a difficult question as every artist comes to their art with varied needs, but by far the best and most effective answer is to be prolific.  Make art.  Make tons of it.  Make it all the time.

Easier said than done, correct?  Of course if an artist could make twenty masterpieces quickly they wouldn’t hesitate to begin. But masterpieces, or even artistic successes, do not line up nor flow smoothly from one to another – they are sporadic, fleeting, and fraught with difficulties.  Some come easily, others after only weeks of tortured modifications.  Success is only achieved in hindsight, with the artist already moving onto the next project.

There are no paths to retrace to drink deeply from a well of masterful creation.  The intoxicating brew which formed one masterpiece tastes bitter and foul when tried again.  It is a trait of creation which drives me into bouts of near depression.  Without the knowledge of a path, what advice can I offer to young talent?

To instill the desire to walk a path.  For it is only once on a path that an artist may journey into an unexpected masterpiece.  To hesitate, to become too precious over every action, every shape, every color, is to wither in the light of the start.

Nearly all of my early successes in illustration and painting came about because I was willing to journey onto paths of varied destinations and quantity.  I did not ‘prepare’ for these adventures, but rather embraced them headlong, expecting to work out any and all problems in the moment.  Being fearless is a major part of being prolific.  Try something new, embrace the difficult while at the same time standing on ground you have some familiarity with.  If you are great with animals, use them as a structure support to a narrative, hang your figures all around them.  If you are great with color, make a statement with those design choices;  Irene Gallo showcased numerous color themes on her Facebook page these past months.

By moving forward in constant motion, you will never be left behind, and may some day find yourself leading the pack…

Below is a sample of my moving forward in drawing, week after week, month after month, year after year.  I have challenged and traveled hundreds of paths – some are dead ends, most I find contentment with, but a few lead to inspired images.  From small abstracts, to rough concepts, to finished preliminary drawings I am constantly exploring, experimenting and reveling in the act of creation.

Pick yourself up, walk a path, and see where it may lead you today.

As Dori from Finding Nemo wisely stated  – ‘Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…’