Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Find Your Passion & Outwork the Competition

The subtitle of this blog could easily be Where Does Talent Fit In? And it doesn’t matter what line of work you’re in, the following concepts apply to every walk of life.
      I think there’s a dichotomy between artists who have talent (I prefer to see it as touched by the finger of God) and artists who are able to accomplish things in their career that others never manage to do.
     Here’s an example:  Consider a classical singer who can hit such extraordinary notes that no amount of training can achieve that range.  That talent is truly a gift from God.
     I think art, in many aspects, is different.  It’s my belief that even if you have no drawing ability, but you have the persistence to learn, and the willingness to put in the time; you can learn to draw and you can learn to paint.
     All through life you’ll meet people who are naturally gifted.  They don’t have to study to get an A; things come easy.
     Some people have to work twice as hard to get that A, but they can still reach that goal.  My art career has followed that path. 
     I went to school with a guy who had “the gift”.  He could render drawings that were unbelievable!  But he never had the passion or the “want” that I did.  To this day, he’ll do one or two pieces a year, and give to his mom for her birthday, or Christmas.  But this guy had a crazy gift and the natural ability to draw, but he never capitalized on it.
   I guess I can summarize my advice in one short sentence:  Find a vision for yourself, be persistent, and outwork your competition.

     And here’s my step-by-step method to accomplish this plan:
     1. Visualize what you want your piece to look like.  Try to imagine how it will appear on the wall, and make that your focus throughout the execution of the painting.
     2.  Figure out what you want to say with your painting.  I’ve seen some excellently rendered paintings that say nothing.  They don’t give you any insight into the artist’s passion.  Follow that passion; figure out what it is.
     3.  Present the finished product in a way that outshines your competition---in short, out-frame them; if you’re doing an outdoor show, get the best panels and the best lights.  Do everything you can to make your work standout from the competition.
     I want to make myself clear:  I’m not talking about putting the brightest shade of red lipstick on a pig.  This is about painting the best piece you can and framing it with the best materials and the highest quality you can afford.
     I can’t tell you how many wonderful pieces of art I’ve seen that the artist has killed their sale by slapping a cheap metal frame on it, or something that looks like it came from a junk shop.  It kills the whole look of the finished piece.
     If you’re not sure what to do, or what kind of frame to put on it, then seek professional help and get the advice of a qualified framer.
     The appearance of the painting goes through another transformation after you frame it.  Executing the painting is just the first step in your presentation.  Framing is what completes the piece.  I don’t care what you say, it’s the truth!  Now for the last little bit of advice:  Get out there and outwork them!                    All content and images © J. Mark Kohler Studio. 


  1. I love this, Mark. Just do the good work and you will find yourself surrounded by others who are doing their own good work. Amy

  2. I hesitate to even ask this question, it seems like a no-brainer, but do you have any advice on identifying your specific passion? I love painting people but that is a rather large arena. Up until now I've done mostly western but would love to add some other themes also. My logic says to find a subject and stick to just that. Would appreciate your thoughts.

  3. Jeannette, your question is so timely! I am planning a blog on that specific subject for next week. In the meantime, let me give you a quick theory of mine: don't paint what you logically think will sell, but paint what you HAVE to paint, i.e. paint what you would do for free because it's so much a part of your soul! And that passion will show in your subject and it will draw people to your work. And I promise a more in-depth blog on identifying your passion in a few days. Hope this helps!

  4. Thanks so much, Mark. This truly helps! Can't wait to see what more you have to say on this next week. I really enjoy reading your blog posts.