"Our patience will achieve more than our force."
"Patience has its limits. Take it too far, and it's cowardice."
I recently posed the following question to a group of artists, “When creating new art, do you jump right in and attack the canvas or do you take hours/days to develop your vision and let your ideas grow?” The responses to my question were as varied as the work of the talented artists who shared their artistic processes. Personally, I have tried and succeeded with both approaches. One thing is for certain; one approach is not the correct approach, yielding better results than the other. The question is how does inspiration strike for you.
Some artists are inspired in the actual action of creating. The movement of the paintbrush and the flow of the paint triggers the idea and the story develops along the way. Others are inspired more by patient thought than action. First comes the idea or inspiration, and then time allows it to grow and blossom in their mind. Next it is transferred to a sketchbook, and finally allowed to develop on canvas. It is possible that one or the other approach will simply come naturally to you, but if you are unsure, give each process a try and compare the results.
I remember being frustrated by a friend who likes to think things through exhaustively before committing to an action. I felt like he should just dive in from time to time without thought. After a time, I realized that I was the one who had a lesson to learn. If you dive in too quickly without forethought you can ruin something that might have turned out beautifully with a small amount of planning. There are times when passion can benefit from being tempered by patience.
Unfortunately, passionate inspiration is not on call ready to be dialed up when you need it. Recently, faced with a deadline, I tried to produce a painting under time pressure. I set the canvas in front of me with only the subject matter in mind. I knew it had to be a peacock at the request of the client, but had not really envisioned the finished product. Long story short, I ended up painting that peacock three times in one day, painting over the canvas again and again, becoming more and more dissatisfied with the results. Finally, ignoring the deadline, I stopped painting and spent two days thinking about what I wanted that peacock to look like, I spent time in silent contemplation, painted it in my head while lying in bed at night, and considered it when walking in the woods during the day. Then I sat back down, and painted it as I had envisioned it over the last two days. That painting ended up being one of my most popular with my students.
On that occasion, I found that patience and consideration yielded a well-formed vision and successful outcome. However, I think all of us, particularly the artists among us, value the idea of being overwhelmed by artistic inspiration that literally flows on to the canvas in an enviable burst of creative passion. Those experiences are amazing, but cannot be counted on to occur on a regular basis and reliably meet the demands of clients and schedules. Ideally we would not have to worry about these real world considerations, but some of choose not to be “starving artists”.
When the inspiration strikes, by all means, let it roll and give in to the passion, but always remember that a little patience and planning will not kill your creative spirit and might actually help you fully bring your vision to life.