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Put the Fire Out

by Keith Bond on 5/9/2011 9:39:33 AM

This article is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.



A forest fire was blazing out of control.  Many acres had burned and the fire was continuing to grow.  Firefighters were called in from across the nation to help battle the blaze.  They were spread out around the perimeter of the fire, trying to contain it.  But to no avail.  As hard as they worked, they simply could not make any progress.


Finally, the Fire Chief realized why.  All of these brave men and women were fighting this fire.  But there commission was not to fight it, but rather to put the fire out.  This simple change of focus made all the difference.  And it prompted a change of tactics. 


Instead of being spread all around the perimeter, the Fire Chief concentrated the effort to one area at a time.  With much more man-power and a concerted effort in a smaller area, they were soon able to contain that portion of the fire.  They then moved on; working together to contain the next area.  And so on until the entire fire was completely contained.


There is a parallel with your art.


Let’s let the fire represent the areas which need improvement – both with art itself and with your business.  If you are like me, there are plenty of areas in which you need to improve.  It is a lifelong endeavor – that is, if you wish to continue growing as an artist.


Some of the areas might include:  proficiency with your medium, color theory, drawing, composition / design, value relationships, texture, mood, harmony, rhythm, meaning, etc.  Some of the business tasks that need improvement might be:  organization, bookwork, marketing, writing, talking about your art, following-up with clients, managing time, maintaining your website, etc.


Throughout my career I have frequently identified areas which I need to work on.  Much like the firefighters, I concentrate my efforts on one thing at a time – seeing value relationships, for example – until I feel that I have that fundamental “contained.”  I then moved on to something like color theory or composition.  By focusing on one thing at a time, I make quicker progress.  Whenever I attempt containing too many fronts at a time, I struggle and get frustrated.  Little progress is made.


When a fire is contained, it is not extinguished yet.  It is still burning within the containment line.  That line serves as a barrier around the circumference to prevent it from spreading in unwanted directions.  Once it is entirely contained, the fire crews can then work within the containment lines to control the blaze.


Likewise, some level of “containment” in art and business principles does not mean that you have “put the fire out”.  Mastery of all there is to learn – to totally extinguish the fire – takes more than a lifetime. 


Although I have reached a certain level of proficiency in several of the principles of art, I find myself returning to them over and over.  There is always more to learn – more work to be done.  I may have contained the fire, now I need to work on controlling it. 


And I hope I never put the fire out.


Best Wishes,

Keith Bond



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Related Posts:

The Invisible Prison

Fish Stew and the Self-Taught Artist

Walk the Labyrinth

Build Your Faith

Topics: FineArtViews | inspiration | Keith Bond 

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Sharon Weaver
As my work changes, I become ready to learn and tackle different areas. The fight is an ever changing landscape.

Marian Fortunati
Great parable, Keith!

Sage advice for all of us.

I, too, do hope all of us continue to forever be able to put out fires... (while we keep them under control!!)

Be well and enjoy the fight!

Margi Lucena
Great article. It sometimes feels very overwhelming when you feel the "fire" and feel compelled to express it, but you know there are areas where attention is so needed. Your "isolate and conquer" method sounds like it might feel less daunting. Makes good sense!

Since returning from a month log vacation the fire has been raging. What with impatient jobs, books framing the time spent catching up is like working on a out of control fire. Wonderful analogy. I now will go tackle some of the edges-books- and get that out of the way so the return to issues of composition may be faced. Thanks D

Carol Schmauder
Another great article, Keith. I think you are right on about concentrating efforts on one area at a time, otherwise the task seems daunting.

Nithya Swaminathan
Great article Keith. Wonderful parallel drawn with art and put across so well.

It is definitely true that quicker progress is made by identifying one weakness at a time. For some like me, the ability to focus on one thing at a time itself is one of the main topics. Just get distracted too easily. If I made a list of weaknesses, distraction would top the list.

Thank you for writing this!

Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA
Good article Keith..

Plus it helps to know that other artists struggle with the same issues. I can get so gosh darn frustrated at times.
The business end and the organization end drives me crazy. It is like the right and left side of the brain are fighting one another.

AND I am glad to know that no one is expected to mater it all in one life time.

Well, I DO KNOW that about art, but the business end, etc...whew.

How fortunate are artists who have spouses or someone else to take care of that side of the art. Shout for joy if you do.
My husband helps leep track of sales, and does the tax thing then at the end of the year for me... etc..thank goodness......but there is so much more when it comes to getting the word out there ...publicity, marketing, organization which I am not so good at....etc...etc...
Too much to think of it all right now. My heads hurts so I have to stop thinking of it all.
Maybe it is ADD.

Thanks Keith for a good article.

Michael Cardosa
Great article Keith! One can never hope to learn everything there is about painting and if it were possible, what a disappointment it would be!


Donald Fox
Analogies usually only work within limits. One doesn't want an uncontrolled blaze wreaking havoc. Yet, we do want the fire of desire, that fire in the belly to drive us forward. Also, when there is no fuel, there is no fire. We each have to determine where to add fuel and where to take it away. Very thoughtful post.

jack white
Your fire example hits close to home. Texas has lost over 2 million acres to these recent fires. We are still burning.

I did a portrait of Ray Kroc and he told me, "Jack when you are green you are growing. When you get ripe you begin to rot. I hope to keep growing until they call for the four black horses.

Thanks for the reminder to always grow. jack

Joanne Benson
Good article Keith. Love the analogy. Now if only I could contain myself to focus on one area at a time. I have been painting in 4 different mediums recently and I am feeling very scattered. This article hit home. I think I need to focus on one medium at a time. Thanks for the good advice!

George De Chiara
I agree with you about concentrating on one area/thing at a time. I've been using this method for the last few years and I think it's really helped me. I keep mental lists of the things I want to work on (the fires) and try to work on them. I've been thinking lately that I might start actually writing them down to make it easier to remember the list and always have it on hand.

Donna Robillard
This is a great analogy. I, too, find that if my brain gets too scattered, I need to step back and take things one step at a time - narrow the focus.

Jo Allebach
I always like to have an analogy or way to picture an idea. Your fire story really is very helpful. I sometimes seem to be "fighting" a project when in reality I need to put my full attention on one thing at a time to gain the power to overcome any problems. Then i will win without the fight.

geri degruy
thank you! sometimes it's easy to get overwhelmed with all there is to learn and do. focusing on one area at a time is logical, it works, and it brings peace into the process.

Spencer Meagher
Good analogy Keith. we need to chip away at our improvements in small bits. Identify the areas and work diligently to improve them.


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