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You Are the Diamond Cutter

by Clint Watson on 12/30/2009 2:02:43 PM

This article is by Clint Watson,  former art gallery owner/director/salesperson and founder of FineArtViews. You should follow Clint on Twitter here.

A well-honed diamond can be a thing of breathtaking beauty. It reflects the light of the world and refracts that light in ways that sparkle, shine and seem to emanate an inner glow from inside the stone. That uncut, unpolished, lump of stone….in the hands of a well-trained, well-practiced master…becomes art.

The catch is that becoming that well trained and well practiced master is well …. Hard work.
If you’re going to change the world with your art, then the world deserves something truly amazing from you, and it’s possible that amazing is currently better than your very best efforts. We know that the Universe has given you an enormous, enviable gift: your artistic talent and creative ideas, and, most importantly, a hunger to use those talents and ideas. 
That gift is like a diamond that you, and you alone, just pulled out of the ground. But we (the rest of the world) aren’t interested in your lumpy, unpolished stone – we’re interested in what you can do with that chunk of stone. We’re interested in diamonds that have already been cut and polished. 

So if you’re not already well trained and well practiced and creating stones of amazing, world-changing beauty…. Then there is hard work ahead.

But, the good news is that if you want to change the world with your art, are willing to be honest with yourself about the current quality of your work, are disciplined and determined to continually improve your work, and most importantly, have that insatiable hunger to create . . . . then it is only a matter of time until you succeed.


Clint Watson
Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic

PS - "Talent is overrated . . . there are thousands of people with talent and 'visual circuitry'-- it's what you DO with the talent that counts." – David Leffel, artist


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Related Posts:

Climbing to the Top

The Hunger, The Void, The Logos and The Ultimate Gifts

Don't Be Afraid to Change the World

Make Amazing Art, Be Authentic, Tell Your Stories and the Art Will Sell

The Gift of Beauty

Topics: Art Business | Art Commentary | Creativity and Inspiration 

What Would You Like to Do Next?
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Monte Wilson
Clint- another good article with good insight. Point well taken. Now off to feed the hunger...

Esther J. Williams
Clint, I love how you used the word Universe, it really describes how I feel about this hunger to create, it's larger than life itself, it is taller than a Giant peering over the mountain tops. We are all born as diamonds in the rough and through practice, practice, practice we become more polished. The diamond needs a skilled hand to cut it and make perfect facets, so we all need help from more seasoned artists to hone our skills and talents. If I began a painting, I like to think of the process as creating a jewel, I often use that term when a little plein air piece is completed and it turns out wonderful. I love diamonds, of course I am a girl and they are definitely my best friend. I can see your analogy in making a finely crafted work of art that shines in the best light though. We simply have to place more effort into using all our tools in producing a shiny piece of art or make a sincere effort to attain better tools by learning from others.

Debra Russell
Clint...I like your thought of taking the talent, and then putting in the hours practicing!! I often times get a comment about how much fun it must be to sit down and create a painting. FUN !??? Not always! It's constant work, but well worth the hours spent trying to become a better artist.

Judith Martinez
Amazing how you can supply both hope and guilt in the same paragraph ! Tonight I am updating my FASO website for the new year, wishing that I had easy access to high-speed service, so that it would go much more quickly. Dial-up doesn't leave time for side-trips like this ! Back to trying to save at least my website tonight; tomorrow the world.

Mark Yearwood
Thanks, Clint.
I'm going to go work on being a better diamond cutter. I start tomorrow with a commission piece with no limits from the collector. What a great way to start the new year!

Ann Bell
Even more than your post, I love the reminder contained in your PS.
"Talent is overrated . . . it's what you DO with the talent that counts." – David Leffel, artist

Whatever talent I received was a gift, but I can always work harder to improve my results.

Tuesday I enjoyed FLOW and it didn't feel like work. I plan to post new work to my blog this weekend.

Ann Bell

anne watson
I always wonder if any artist, no matter how experienced, recognized and successful, feels that they are truly a master--having reached the top of their art, no higher to go....

Filomena Booth
Many times we, as artists, take our gift for granted. Thanks for reminding us that it is a precious gift that needs to be constantly honed and polished!

Diane Tasselmyer
Clint, this is going to be my mantra this year..I am going to be more honest with myself about the quality of my work. This spurs me toward working harder and better. Honesty, discipline, determination (along with a good dose of "better time management") WILL take me further this year.

Judith Monroe
Again, the topic of work and self discipline rings out; it's not our raw talent, but what we do with it that counts...

And I don't imagine there would be many good artists who ever felt they were "there" yet - in my experience, the best are generally always working to get to that unattainable spot.

Leslie Saeta
Thanks Clint for reminding us that striving to be the best should be our goal. The "diamond" will always be my goal!

Peggy Guichu
I really find the beauty of being an artist is the fact that we all continue to learn, strive to become more. We are always learning from each other. I find the best way to stimulate my creative juices is to look at other artwork. It might be a stroke used or a color in just the right spot, but something will put the thrill inside me to continually work at becoming a better artist.

Sharon Weaver
I think the key to this article is if we "are willing to be honest with yourself." That is never easy but so necessary. I am always striving to be better. It is a fine line to walk between humble, but confident; not arrogant and self serving.

Tuva Stephens
I could not agree more with this article. Right now I am painting a portrait of a young man from Africa that was a student of mine. I am finding myself looking deep into his eyes and becoming inspired by trying to impress what his gaze into the distance could imply. I am striving to make the diamond have a brilliance that can be transferred to the viewer. I am at the point in my life I want every painting to be outstanding in every way possible. I have worked hard and continue to be a scholar of watercolors.

Sue Martin
I agree with your admonition to work hard and be honest about where you are in your development as an artist. I would add that part of that self-awareness is to develop a greater awareness of the art world beyond yourself. Though it takes time, constantly exposing yourself to the best contemporary artists, as well as those who have gone before us, helps you raise the bar on your own development. For the past year I've gone back to school (back to basics!) to work on a fine arts degree. It has caused me to see and think about my work in a different way; to see what separates "hobbyists" from "fine artists," and to set my goals higher. I love the challenge!

Kate Dardine
We are all diamonds in the rough...and it does take knowledge and hard work and a willingness to see past where we are now to where we will be. This year I've committed to doing 5 small studies a week, in addition to my larger paintings, just to get more miles on my brush without the pressure of having to create "gallery" pieces.

Sue Martin
Kate - others should heed your example! One of the best ways to learn is to play with paint...get miles on that paintbrush...and constantly ask yourself "what if...?" rather than producing finished pieces for galleries. Thanks for this reminder!

Debra Russell
Kate....good idea! I've tried the painting a day in the past and can't seem to keep all my gallery committments in top of painting and posting a small painting everyday. Committing to 5 per week would get the same results, but be more achieveable for me. I think the underlying idea here is just paint all the time! They can always be wiped off at the end of the day!

Stede Barber
Hi Clint, thank you, great analogy! I hope my skills become great enough to bridge my inner urge to create with awesome beauty and peace for those who see my work...and I hope there's no end to continuing the joy of learning and growing with every painting and drawing! Drawing comes more easily to me than painting, but I wouldn't quit learning with my canvas and paints for the world. Seeing people walk up to a painting that calls to them and stand before it having an inner experience is one of my rewards...amazingly so, after having already received so much as I painted.

Bless all of us who love, do, and support art in any way! Here's to a satisfying, wonder-full 2010 before the easel, and in the marketplace.

Stede Barber
wow, this one really has me going. I heard a story about Gainsborough and his Blue Boy painting...his master asked him, Is this the best you can do? a number of times when he presented the painting as "done". He kept working at it until he really could say, Yes, for now, this is the best I can do.

I ask myself that question as I paint, and trust that I will also know when to stop. It's easy to dash off the first strokes and catch the essence of a piece. But as I'm willing to keep showing up and presenting myself to the painting, I will see where to proceed and how. Sometimes I put a painting away for awhile. When I return to it, I have more to give to it than before. And then each piece has a moment when...that's it...enough...for that particular piece. My work will continue to improve, but this piece is done. OK, the wood stove is fired up and it's time to go to the studio. Then to update my website...

Nancy Park
Um, looks like you were talking directly to me!! Years ago I was told by an art teacher that most artists are 90 percent work and 10 percent talent. But that I was 90 percent talent and 10 percent work. I was such a lazy idiot that I thought it was a compliment...

I still tend to be lazy, but I'm gradually recovering from being an idiot. Now I'm actually working on improvement, if it's not too late. I tend to write more frequently than I paint, and I'm trying to turn that around, too. I think, after having had it pounded into my head for so long, I may be getting some common sense!

Sue Martin
Well, Nancy, you write well, so don't give that up...just paint more!

Carole Rodrigue
Talent overrated? You betcha! Just last night I was having this discussion with someone, talent vs hard work and this non-artistic person couldn't understand what I was trying to express: that great art comes from a small portion of talent, and a whole lot of hard work. He couldn't believe it and the discussion almost became an argument. The only way to make it clear was to explain how someone who is an artist understands this and people who aren't think we're born with a magic paint brush in our hands. In fact, I can almost become upset when someone looks at one of my paintings and says that it's great because I have talent. This person doesn't understand the hours of hard work, in fact years of hard work, that led to one good painting. And they certainly don't see the slosh pile waiting to be burned!

Excellent article and again, oh so timely! Really now Clint, do you listen in to our homes before writing your next articles! I'm starting to wonder, lol.

Mark Haglund
Hello Clint:

Great post. I heard this quote about practice from Harvey McKay, "Perfect practice makes perfect".

Harvey's point is, just don't practice for the sake of practice. Practice to improve yourself. Find a good mentor and study them. Take lessons from someone you think is great.

Set goals to challenge yourself. This summer I set a goal of 100 paintings in 100 days. Most were plein air. I had done very little plein air until then, just one workshop with Skip Whitcomb.

It took me 120 days, but I finished. I also emailed my contact list twice a week with the paintings and a little commentary for each painting. I was surprised at my improvement.

My new project is twenty portraits in 45 days. I am on day 19 now and only 6 paintings done. Life gets in the way sometimes. For me the challenge is what motivates me to paint and the fact I tell about 80 of my contacts keeps me honest.

Thanks for the great emails.

P.S Your post earlier in 2009 about email newsletters was my inspiration for the 100 day project. Thanks.

Donald Smith

I really like the quote by David... "Talent is overrated . . . there are thousands of people with talent and 'visual circuitry'-- it's what you DO with the talent that counts." - David Leffel, artist.

I know a couple of very talented artists, that love to create, but they don't sell anything. Not because they aren't good enough, they don't have the desire to try and sell it. They are perfectly happy creating and giving their art away to friends. They have succeeded in their own way. One of them would like to sell her art, but she has no desire to market it. I don't consider selling my art as a sign of success, but it is icing on the cake. I've learned a lot about marketing from your blog, and the guest writers. I'm slowly applying what I've been learning, and appreciate your hard work.


Fay Terry
Thanks for a well written and very encouraging article.
I have watched many artists that I know get better and better, the more they work at it. I know that my work has also improved tremendously but it is never as easy to see your own progress.
I don't think I will ever get to the point that I am totally satisfied with my work, but lately I have been getting a small taste of what it feels like to know that I have done the very best that I am capable of at this point in my artistic development.

Judith Martinez
Looks like diamonds really DO get all of the attention ! What a long list of comments.
I do have a question, though; if diamonds are the hardest substance known to man, where does that leave art marketing in the grand scheme of things ? It seems much "harder" to me....

Lauren Nash
Very nice, I like the diamond analogy. Though in a way I like to approach every piece and idea as if it's a lump of coal turn it into a diamond. I get lost in time during the process. These are the hypnotic moments I love most and crave.

Georgeann Waggaman
Your daily articles by different artists are becoming so exciting. I really feel like I am part of a community of serious artists. Your encouragement and yes, prodding to do better are both so necessary. I think I am exactly at that point you speak of so often. 'Good' but still reaching for 'great' and we need great to succeed. No one but other artist realize how challenging art can be. I am trying to catch the illusive dreams I see in my head. Thanks.

Diane Tasselmyer
Clint, Discipline and Determination and "adventure" are what my help me to continue to polish and work with that gift God has given me.
I add the "adventure" part because it is what makes it so enjoyable.

Ann Bell
This truly does feel like a community.
I think we all benefit from sharing views and realizing how much we have in common, regardless of our skill level or whether we attempt to sell. The creation process is what makes us artists.


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