The Marks of an Art Pro

It's the spring semester in 2003 and I'm rushing my way to school. I'm cutting it really close because I always underestimate the backed up traffic situation where the 55 meets the I5, but I slide into class right on time (can't have a German girl be late). It's Figure drawing class and the model is just getting on the stand. Still a bit out of breath from sprinting across the parking lot, loaded up with all my drawing gear, I reach into my backpack for my pencils. To my chagrin they are all broken. Ugh!!!

So I slink over to the trash can, Xacto knife in hand and hurriedly try to get a passable tip onto one of my charcoals. The blade must be old because it keeps getting stuck in the wood. And of course, just when I think I finally got a good enough tip, the damn thing breaks. F****ck!

In the meantime the model is already doing her third pose and all my class mates are busily sketching away. Finally I get one of my many broken pencils to a point that'll at least make a mark, and I try and catch the last two poses of the set. The drawings look awful because the pencil is way too hard and barely wants to make a mark on the page and I'm about ready to throw something (which of course I would never do because my college self is way too shy to draw that kind of attention to myself). I'm so upset because I love this class, but here I am, missing part of the lecture now because I'm trying to improve my gnarly pencils tips so the next drawing set isn't as disastrous as the last one. This is so not the way I wanted to start my day off!

If I could reach through time and tap my younger self on the shoulder I'd take her aside and tell her this:

"Girl, it's time to turn pro. If you really love this sh*t you gotta get yourself organized, because right now you are cheating yourself. Become a pro and stop wasting time. The quicker you do this, the sooner you'll learn your craft, which will allow you to discover all the hidden treasures art has in store for you."

And then I'd teleport Steven Pressfield's book "Turning Pro" into her lap, whisper an encouraging "You've got this!" and let him do the rest.

In case you're not familiar with Steven's work, here is a small sampling of the traits he identifies as separating pros from amateurs. A pro:

  • Shows up regardless whether they feel like it or not

  • Stays on the job

  • Doesn't avoid the hard parts

  • Patiently plays the long game

  • Takes the work seriously but doesn't identify with it

  • Is prepared (Ahem... sharpen those pencils the night before and protect them in a padded pencil case ;)

  • Establishes order

  • Accepts/ makes no excuses

  • Masters craft and technique

  • Doesn't require outside approval to keep going

  • Doesn't take success or failure personally

  • Asks for help

  • Acts even though they are afraid

Just to be clear, turning pro doesn't mean deciding to make money from your art, it just means truly embracing your passion for art and honoring that commitment by giving it a special importance in your life. So special in fact that you'll organize and prepare around it.

And in case making a career of that passion is part of your commitment, then you'll definitely want to get prepare for the career portion, too. Art school usually takes care of the craft and technique, but often leaves big gaps in preparing artists for career realities. And if that's been on your mind then you'll definitely want to checkout our "Turning Art Pro" week in January 2020 with Marshall Vanduff and I. It'll be a 6 day immersion program getting you as prepared as you can possibly hope to be, to arrange your life to honor your passion for art, respect your personality traits and have a strong footing for your career.

You can see all the details here.

And if you have no interest in an art career but want to get better at drawing, give Mr Pressfield a read anyways. His insights are gems for excelling at anything creative and meaningful.

I'm cheering you on as always, Carolin

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