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Do What You Know

by Jack White on 1/11/2012 8:47:23 AM

This post is by Jack White, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  Jack has enjoyed a forty-one year career as a successful fulltime artist and author. He has written for Professional Artist Magazine for 14 years and has six art marketing books published. In 1976 Jack was named the Official Artist of Texas. He has mentored hundreds of artists around the world.  Jack authored six Art Marketing books. The first, “Mystery of Making It”, describes how he taught Mikki to paint and has sold over six million dollars worth of her art. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here. 


One of the major reasons artist fail is they attempt to do what they know nothing about.


I’m acquainted with an artist that I’ve spent a great deal of time with teaching him to paint landscapes. Finally, he consistently painted with strong thresholds across the foreground and a splash of light into his subjects adding depth and interest. Great landscapes bring light into the scene and then block the sunshine from sliding off the canvas. Perhaps a tree, bush, pot, anything to prevent the light from slipping too far to the right. Why did I say right? I suggest that light come into a painting from the upper left. We read newspapers and books from left to right. Do the same with your paintings.


Last month, I got his newsletter announcing he was giving up the landscapes to become a portrait artist. I wrote asking if he knew the three color zones of a human face.


COLOR ZONES!!! What do you mean color zones in a human face?” He shouted back over the Internet. No doubt I scared him. He felt secure, then with one question he suddenly let himself realize how little he knew about painting faces. Then I asked, “If you draw straight lines straight down from the center of the human eye where does it intersect?” Reluctantly, he emailed me the image. It was clear at first glance he owned an opaque projector. The nose on his portrait was too large, telling me his camera foreshortened the image. Many times you see really big hands on portraits. The artist didn’t know to compensate for the camera distortion. You also see a horse with a big head and small rump. If you use a camera for animals, people and such buy a long telephoto lens.


Peacemaker ~ Jack White


I didn’t jump to teach him portraits, because we had already spent five years perfecting his landscapes. He was selling, Very Well. We had been showing him how to look at a scene, select and then execute the painting. Many times it’s what you leave out that’s more important than the stuff you add in. Just because there’s an ugly telephone pole, cell tower or highline wires doesn’t mean you should screw up your painting by including them. Some artist don’t know enough to be selective as to what to not add into a scene. Your goal is to make a painting folks will buy, not to record nature in a perfect delineation. You can’t compete with a camera, but you can paint emotions.


Truculently, the landscape painter emailed me his pride and joy portrait. I could almost feel his anger in defense of his work. His chip was placed squarely on his shoulder. The first thing I noticed was his catch lights were located perfectly in the center of his subjects pupils. This made the subject look like they were on drugs. You see a lot of new and none seasoned portrait artists making this glaring mistake. His photograph had the catch lights in the center of the pupil so why would he make corrections? The reason is he didn‘t know, he simply copied what he saw. He, like so many others, learned to trace or project the human face onto a canvas then fill in the blanks. No doubt he was thinking the client would like the portrait, because he traced a photo. A portrait is much more than a photo copy with the lines filled in. He had the mistaken idea that was all there was to painting portraits. He knew none of the important things necessary to render a fine portrait. He had never studied the planes of the human head. No one had ever told him that the catch light in the eyes are always placed at 11 or 1 o'clock - just at the edge of the pupil. The light shins through the cornea, highlighting the iris across from the catch light. Like a highlight on the top of a jar, the light catches on one edge and reflects straight across. He didn’t understand painting soft edges into a wet background to prevent his subject from looking cut out.


New artists are the worst. They paint a few pieces and then decided to paint some faces. Nothing is as bad as a poorly painted portrait. One thing in common with all beginning portrait painters, they fill the mouth with teeth. Teeth are almost impossible to paint. If they are too dark, the teeth look dirty. Too white and the teeth jump out of the mouth.


I was on a roll my third year as an artist. My income was climbing almost daily and banks were phoning me to do shows in their lobbies, including the First National Bank in El Paso. On Sunday a night, the president and board directors gave me a catered reception, inviting several key bank clients. The place was crowded. Art was selling as fast as I could write orders. I had one large show-stopper, which was my pride. The painting was of a six-horse hitch stagecoach. This was done in my gold leaf technique. When I was about as high as possible an old bow legged rancher, in scuffed boots stopped examining my painting. If my memory is correct, he was wearing jingling spurs, which was not all that uncommon back then. I’d been told he owed the largest cattle ranch in the area. He cocked his head and said as only a loud Texan can, “You don’t know much about a six horse hitch, do yah?” He could not have spoken louder with a bullhorn.


Everyone in the room stopped. You could hear a pin drop. Suddenly all eyes in that crowded room were on me. I gulped, stuttering something in defense.


Pointing with a finger that looked ten inches long, he barked, “Look here, you left out this lead line. Without that line the horse on the right won’t know to turn. He needs that line to turn him.” By then, most of the bank was listening. I knew any defense I came up with would be too late. I envisioned a long line of people wanting their money back. In truth I did know, I’d been raised on a working ranch and had hooked up four and six team hitches many times. In haste to finish the piece I forgot the extra line, which is easy enough to do. I finally felt the best answer was, “Much obliged, for pointing out my glaring mistake. I’ll bet my best boots, you would't hire me during dipping time.”


I tossed in cattle dipping, because I knew that with his ranch being so close to Mexico, tick fever was always a threat. Until I mentioned cattle dipping, he was getting ready to leave. He suddenly knew, I knew. He cocked his head again. “I suspect you knew, but forgot to add the line. Too bad about the mistake, I was thinking about taking this to my office.”


Then the salesman in me rose to the top, “Mr. Walters, it might be more of a conversation piece with the lead line missing. You could test people to see if they could find my mistake.”


He broke into a smile for the first time, “Young feller, I bet you could sell refrigerators to Eskimos.” He pulled out a roll of hundred dollar bills that would choke a horse and pealed off 50 crisp new Ben Franklins. Back then $5,000 was my biggest sale to date. When he shook my hand, his grasp was like a vice. I tried to squeeze back with little success.


Then he stunned me, “Boy do you like to hunt?”


I didn’t want to tell him no, so I answered the last time I hunted was with Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson on Governor Dolph Briscoe’s ranch.


“Next year give me a call and I’ll take you to Mexico get you a real deer, those skinny things Dolph (Briscoe) has is embarrassing to shoot.” The old rancher died that Christmas so I never made the hunting trip. I hated his loss, but I no longer cared to kill deer. When I was a boy we needed the meat for food. It was okay back then but just to pick out one with a massive rack for my wall was no longer appealing.


I know of a western artist by seeing his work in the art publications. He does a great job with people, either cowboy or Indian. Then he places them on horses. It’s clear his photographs are taken in a western photo shoot. There are companies providing sets for those doing western subjects to take photos. Thirty to forty artists show up for a three day shoot. The company provided mountain men, gunfighters, Buffalo soldiers, in authentic garb also cattle and horses. When a horse gets tired his ears droop. Since that artist doesn't know horses, he paints the drooping ears as seen in the photos. The rider will be perfect and the horse’s ears will be saying "I’m ready to get this rig off my back and wallow in the mud." This is a clear example of an artist painting what they don’t know. Don’t paint horses unless you know them.


In a recent issue of Western Art Collector, there was a painting of an Indian on a horse killing a bison. The horse's head was bigger than the bison. It was clear he had never seen a horse next to a bison. His lack of knowing his subject revealed how little he knew.


I did a series of McDonalds restaurants in the Salt Lake City area. I was clueless on the history of Mormon Church. I flew out to Salt Lake, went to their library, purchased books and talked to some locals historians. Hand-pushed carts were something I knew nothing about. Remember what you don’t know shows. The franchise owners were Mormon. When my art was installed one called to tell me how authentic my paintings were. That’s because I took the time to learn about the struggle of their migration. If you don’t know, then learn.


When you don’t know, don’t try to fake it. People will see you are a fraud and no matter how good you get they won’t ever truly believe in you again.


It’s always a good idea to make your client the expert. In Salt Lake City, the franchise owner talked for two non-stop hours giving me his expertise on all phases of the Mormons movement west. He offered to get good photographs and be available for advice. If you don’t know, find out before you screw up.


Donald Fox asked in one of his articles what was the best advice anyone had given us. I answered, A. D. Greer telling me to stay focused. I should have said what Bill Ryder told me in 1970, not long after I began making art. Bill was already an accomplished painter when we met. He told me, “Jack you will be tempted to try to paint things you know nothing about. Resist the temptation. People who know…KNOW!”


Frankly at the time, I didn’t know enough to appreciate his advice. I wanted to be able to paint everything. My thinking was all great artists should be able to paint anything. Then I began to observe how G. Harvey had switched from painting bluebonnets to focus on one subject, cowboys on horses walking in the direction of the viewer. In colleg,e he had worked in a gallery carrying Edouard Cortes, who painted wonderful wet street scenes. Gerald (G. Harvey) was able to take the Cortes style into the western motif. He found his voice. He is a millionaire several times over painting what he knows and has become a very respected painter, doing simple, yet powerful work.


My best advice is stay focused until you master what you know. The fastest way to the top is being really good at something, rather than knowing a little about a lot. I see many, many websites where the work looks like ten different artists did the art. If you want to be successful, then find what you know the most about, then become an expert on that one voice.

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Topics: advice for artists | art education | creativity | FineArtViews | inspiration | Jack White | originality 

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Lorrie Beck
You really nailed this one, Jack. I've been drawing and painting horses all of my life. I've also been a lifelong horse owner which has helped immensely in my renditions over the years. One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing horses and/or tack portrayed by artists incorrectly. You are so right! Folks KNOW when your wrong. I've received a lot of wonderful comments about my work throughout my career, but one that really stands out came from a Wyoming cowboy. He stared at one piece in particular for quite some time and finally said, "Little lady, you sure do know a horse."

Luann Udell
Jack, I love your stories! They stand on their own, while functioning as powerful parables for the lessons you impart to us.

You've reminded me of an instance where someone, did an homage....of one of my little horses and submitted the image to a magazine for publication. Instead of 'ancient horse' or 'Lascaux Horse', the person called it a 'Jurassic horse'.

Now, anyone who knows anything about prehistory knows that the Jurassic period was ruled by....the dinosaurs! No mammals yet, let alone horses.

To my mind, rather than evoking a powerful personal narrative, it just seemed silly.

Barbara Reich
Jack - My best paintings are always based on places and objects that I know well - things that I have an emotional connection to. Learning to paint something new requires focus, determination, and hard work. It's ok to try new things. For me, a recent move to a new location with vastly different views will surely result in very different landscape paintings. Getting to know the land through plein air painting should be most helpful. Learning as much as possible about your subject is critical. I like to be one of the people that "knows"!
Barb Reich

Bettye Rivers
Jack, I am a hugh fan of your great gems of advice! I feel honored that you share your incredible wisdom with us.

Sandra R Cutrer
I really enjoyed this article, and appreciate all of the great advice. But, I am still looking for that certain subject that I know a lot about! I feel like the only way that I can find "it" is to practice by painting everything that I feel a need(burning desire!)to paint. I envy those who know what they are good at, and have perfected those one or two subjects. I haven't been able to accomplish that-yet! I do know that painting landscapes bore me (although I love looking at others landscapes),but I also know that I need to know how to paint landscapes, if I want to put animals in rocks, mountain areas,Indians by the river, etc. Native American Indians and animals keep me at the canvas,but I don't see too many Indians,cougars,bears,or even owls where I live in Southeast TX. I have lots of books, and constantly look at other's paintings, which is about all I can do from where I live. If I painted what I know a lot about, I'd have to paint the Bible,what I cook, or something that I've had to do for the last 55 years. None of that appeals to me, so I'd have to just stop painting!

Sheila Tansey
Thank you Jack for such a wisdom filled post! I enjoy reading the gems you have on an artist's life! As the previous "poster" mentioned...I'm feel that I too am still searching for that one thing I know! I am still at the stage of wanting to paint everything that thrills me and gives me joy! And I love the mystery of whether my attempt at something new will "turn out". I am still searching, and hope one day it will "hit" me between the eyes!... and Maybe, just maybe the fact that I find joy in the painting is a good start!

Ann Feldman
I find myself agreeing and disagreeing with Jack on this one. While I do believe that it's crucial to become an expert in a certain genre of painting, I also believe that all types of painting inform and enhance our areas of expertise. I'm primarily a portrait painter, and I painted strictly from life for about 5 years before I really felt comfortable with it. However, I dabble on a regular basis with landscapes in order to keep my brushwork fresh and to examine interesting edges. Still life setups are invaluable in understanding the relationship of solid objects with light.

Whenever I change things up, I come back to my portraits refreshed and with a new perspective. But I do agree with Jack on this-- I feel comfortable calling myself a portrait artist, and I spend about 80 percent of my time in this genre. But mixing things up keeps me fresh and spontaneous in my approach.

Marsha Hamby Savage
Jack, your stories are always intertaining .... and give good advice without sounding "preachy." I have been asked many times to paint something I have no experience of and have to explain what you have said so well. Like snow ... I live in the South and don't have much experience. I do have trees, and love to paint them.

Thanks for all your wonderful insight and sharing.

JT Harding
So true. By the way, what are the three color zones of the human face? I never heard of this but Sargent used to say the forehead has more yellow the cheeks are more red and the jawline is more bluish. Is this what you are talking about?

Sharon Weaver
How true. Recently I have been struggling to paint some figurative work with little progress. At the start of the new year I went back to painting my landscapes and realize, I don't like to paint the figure. My love is landscape and I'm sticking to it.

Betty Pieper
I wonder personally if "voice" or personal style can safely transcend subject matter or genre.
I like to paint landscapes, abstracted 'mind work', figures...I wouldn't call them portraits but my interpretation of people near and dear.
What is the best way to know if other people perceive a commonality or unique voice? Once a woman came into a juried show where I had only one painting and said, "I knew as soon as I walked in that that was yours." That made me feel good but I also think about wouldn't it be nice if I like to paint only one genre...

Shawn Cameron
I appreciated this article and although Ann Feldman has a point that all art forms are a learning experience and that it keeps one fresh to experiment,I agree with Jack on the value of mastering a specific subject. Jack's example of artists painting horses and Western scenes they know nothing about is a good one for it is not focusing on "basic painting principals" but the knowledge of the subject itself. Mastering the elements of a good painting are necessary for all work. However, certain subjects require a deeper knowledge for the resulting work to be considered a serious artwork in its category. I have seen glaring errors, as Jack spoke of, in high dollar Western paintings that were not of the artistic nature but technically wrong. It was evident the artist didn't know what they were painting about nor could they talk about it even though it was "well painted". I view all forms of artwork to advance my skills. As a Western artist, my goal is to improve in both knowledge of my subject and ability to portray it. The more I learn the more I realize there is to know.

jack white
I learned the three zones from studying Sargent. The zones are more prominent in males, but if you look close they are in women. Yellow, red and blue.

Betty, you have a voice when people can walk past a galley and recognize your work through the window. We have a voice for Mikki that people can spot her work in a room full of other art. Genre is not a voice. A voice is like your handwriting. It's like turning on the radio and the moment the singer starts you know it's Willie Nelson. (or whoever) Two or three words and you know their voice. We need a voice that is known with one glance.

Shawn, I take for granted well painted work. I assume the artist has mastered his/her medium. The point I'm trying to make, is don't try to paint snow if you grew up in Key West. Don't attempt to paint the Grand Canyon from pictures. Some things you have to see to know. I recommend wildlife painters spend time at Zoo's with a sketch book. Learn the wolf's movements, the lion's gaze. It's difficult to paint horses if you have never ridden. All too many equine artist work from photos and know nothing about the language of the horse. We were on the Big Island and saw a painting in a gallery. The horse had his back legs spread apart urinating. The gallery owner was shocked when we pointed out the mistake. It's clear the artist saw the horse and took a quick photo. No one who knew horses would make such a glaring mistake.

Most successful artists have a style and master their subject. Tim Cox a friend, is president of the CA (Cowboy Artist) has mastered western art. He also lives on a working ranch. G. Harvey has mastered on style and his work sells for a million or more.

We will never succeed if we are the Jack of all Trades and master of none. Be good at something. Better yet be great at something.


George De Chiara
"If you don't know, then learn" - This is a great piece of advise Jack! I've found that not only does it help make my paintings more accurate, it also makes painting a little easier since I know what I'm looking at.

Kathy Chin
Hi Jack,
Great truths accumulated through lots of experience and accented by wonderful stories! What you've say makes a lot of sense. Am still looking for my one voice, even though you have said it is not as important for photographers. For some folks, Geminis among them, it's difficult to settle on one thing...and lots of artists like to spread their wings to other media. But I do understand that finding a voice is critical to success in selling our art so am trying. And we also understand that once we find that voice, we have to learn as much as we can about the subject in order to portray it to it's best. Got it Jack, thanks!!
(now if i could just hurry up the process of finding that one best thing...)

Shawn Cameron
Jack...reading your reply to me, it appears I wasn't clear in my writing. I thought that's what I was saying.

Sandra R Cutrer
"Most successful artists have a style and master their subject. Tim Cox a friend, is president of the CA (Cowboy Artist) has mastered western art. He also lives on a working ranch. G. Harvey has mastered on style and his work sells for a million or more"

Ah, so what you are saying is we aren't really sucessful artist until we've made big bucks. Not many of us will make that kind of money, nor will we ever live on a working ranch,live in the mountains,on a river,on a reservation with Native American Indians(if that's what we love to paint. I think being a sucessful artist is when you feel good about what you've painted, continue to grow and learn,take photos,sketch like you suggested,study others works, but never give up!I do understand what you are conveying, but I don't agree with everything you've said.It's almost as if you'd rather see those who don't have a specific subject,that they are great at, should call it quits so those who are great can sell all of their art.I may never be "rich" from my paintings,but I will have had fun trying to be a the best artist that I can be.Isn't that what sucessful really is!

Your stories are the best. I can never turn down a chance to read one. I've always heard that someone who is proficient in one type of art, may be in others; sure seems true with you. I've spent lots of time on the water my entire life. I love the water, and everything near the water. I'm making it my main focus. Thanks for the words of wisdom.

jack white

If you have read any of my books or other FASO blogs you would know I NEVER suggest giving up. I don't know that word. I'm one of the most positive writers you will ever read.

Success is what you consider it to be. Money is not the guide, but reaching your top potential is. I try to use examples of named artists to show what I mean by voice. They just happen to earn a lot of money.

For some just selling enough to buy supplies is a success. I can't judge your success. Only you can know when you have reached your goals.

I am saying you can get there faster if you paint what you know. If you know abstracts then go for them. If you paint chickens, then do the best you can. I don't think we can ever reach the top, because it's moving target. When we think we are going to grab the top rung, the ladder grows longer.

The truth of the matter is very few get rich making art. A person can have a bank full of money and be miserable.

Whatever you call success is fine with me. I wish you the best in reaching your goals.


tom weinkle
Well, I'm not defending or attacking anyone or the traditions of portrait painting, but I think there are many ways to paint one that will be clamored for.

Aside from that, I think you are one of the best storytellers I have ever read. Always a great point, and great evidence and compelling language.

Thank you again. Dale Carnegie should have had you write his books.


Sandra R Cutrer
Thanks,Jack.I really enjoy your stories and appreciate your ideas and advice, whether I agree with all of it, or not.God bless!

Marian Fortunati
Unfortunately, Jack, many of us don't know what we don't know.
Happily I am able to paint because I enjoy painting.. not because I need to pay for the next meal. I will continue exploring and enjoying until it isn't fun.
I guess we all have to keep on trying and revising and trying again ... at least I do.

Rod Moore
Terrific advice Jack. I just statred reading Mystery Of Making It last night and was reading the chapter on developing your voice. This really struck me how important it was to know your subject when developing your voice. What really hit home was how much research and effort you went to with your partner to learn everything you could about the subject. It forced me to take a hard look at my subject and to commit to finding my voice.

Thanks so much.

Kathy Chin
The more I'm convinced that finding your "best" subject makes all the difference, the more I realize that I really don't have a "best" subject to concentrate on. Seriously. Now what?

Rod Moore
Kathy ... have you read Jack's book Mystery Of Making It? The chapter on finding your voice I think will help you answer the question 'Now What?'

Donna Robillard
The best paintings come from painting the subject you know something about or have an emotional attachment to. It seems if you are just painting to be painting something, the painting seems rather 'staged'.

Thanks for an inspiring post. I do agree with creating art with what you know. Too many, me included, have tried to follow the trends making what will sell. I believe creating art in the subject I know will lead to more sales and more success. Thanks for reminding us that doing what we know will take us further quicker and be more rewarding than just following the current whim of the market.

Linwood Berry
People who know”¦KNOW!” I plan to file that thought in the hard drive that I carry between my ears.

Jack, you KNOW. Thanks for sharing that knowledge with the rest of us. Trust you have a great 2012 and that your wisdom multiplies as you so generously give it away.

Donald Fox
Your posts are always well received. I have to admit that I enjoy the voice that comes through your writing as much as what you say. Have you ever recorded any of your stories? Being a Texan by transplant and married to a native (I moved from NC in 1977), I love to hear stories told in a Texas drawl. My wife's late father was a good storyteller and humorist. Bet you could sell a ton of CDs.

Jana Botkin
Sounds as if some of the folks commenting here aren't familiar with the fact that Jack has spent years helping artists become financially successful. When he writes about subjects such as finding one's voice and painting what one knows, I believe his intended audience are those who are seeking to sell more work. If you just paint because you love to paint and have other ways to keep food in the frig and gas in the tank, then do anything you want and have fun! (Jack, am I right about the intent of your writing?)

jack white
You are totally right. (Thanks) I realize not all reading my books and blogs are going to be able to earn great sums of money selling their art. What I try to do is paint word pictures of a path those needing to earn more can follow.

Some make art just to be able to say they are an artist. Others have families to feed and need the income.

I put the information out for all to read. They can either accept what I say or reject my words. The information is free. I don't force feed anyone. (smile)

The problem with me doing tapes, I have such a strong Texas drawl only the natives like your wife and you by now would understand what I was saying. I speak pure Texan, which as you know is a foreign language after you cross the state line.


tom weinkle
I like what marian said. We have to explore to learn, even if the cost may be a missed sale on our specialty. Nothing wrong with selling or exploring and my book.

Jana Botkin
Because there aren't very many artists in my area, and I have a reputation of delivering the goods, sometimes I get asked to draw or paint things that I know nothing of. Because I need the work, sometimes I accept those commissions. In order to do something unfamiliar, the main thing I need (besides GREAT photos), is a customer who is a fantastic communicator. If the customer can talk me through the piece and together we can fix the parts I don't understand but he does, then I have been able to get away with breaking the "Do What You Know" common sense rule.

Ann Feldman
Hi Jack, I was thinking about your post last night as I was painting a portrait from a model. The "Three Zones" theory popped into my mind, and it occurred to me that it might be helpful to have a brief explanation available to your readers, if they'd like it. I posted it on my blog.

All the best!

jack white

The human forehead has less warmth, because the blood vessels are hidden under the skin. This tends to give that section a more ocher cast.

The cheeks and nose have tiny blood vessels very close to the skin; therefore warmer and red.

The lower third, is really blue with men because of the whiskers, but it's also cooler for women. The blood vessels are much deeper than even the forehead. The lower third is more in shadow.

In portraits the catch light should be at 11 or 1 o'clock. At the edge of the pupil. Never in the pupil. If the light is in the pupil your subject will look drugged.

One thing a lot of portrait artist don't realize is how warm the old masters painted the tip of the nose and cheeks. One of the reasons for light red is the color brings them forward. They also use a catch light on the tip of the nose and up the bridge to help give it shape.

I hope this helps, Jack

Ann Feldman
Thank you Jack. You are a very generous and thoughtful teacher. I've been enjoying your posts very much!

Kyle Wood

This is great information! I am young representational artist, who still has many years ahead me. I strive to paint subjects I like and work only from my strengths, which happens to be architecture and landscapes. Naturally, these two areas are closely related and they overlap each other.

I have to say I don't agree with this article.I am in my 30's and there is no one that I know in my age range (besides artists) that are the least bit interested in art. They are interested in having a nice house, nice car and are probably spending their money on raising a family. The baby boomers are the ones with the money and no children/college to spend it on. Of course Galleries are going to market to people with money. Supply and demand.

Brenda Behr
I just watched the documentary Bill Cunningham New York. I loved it and loved what Cunningham had to say. In fact, I jotted down a few things he had to say regarding money relative to his art,"If you don't take money, they can't tell you what to do.... That's the key to the whole thing. That's the important thing. Money's the cheapest thing. Liberty and freedom are the most expensive things....Don't fall into the traps of the rich."

So like most artists, I do what I have to do to get by, and I dream of the day when I can more than get by. But exploring and evolving in the hopes of growing are part of what I truly believe is necessary to being an artist. I think it's good for us to get out of our comfort zone even if it's just a sidetrack.

Barbara Mitchell
Hi Jack, You are so right! A few weeks ago, I bought a card with a horse rolling on the ground, feet up in the air. I liked it, it was different...but when I got home and looked it over, I noticed that the horse had cow hooves. I felt embarrassed for the girl who painted it. Thank you for the good information you share. I look forward to reading you're posts!

Jacqueline Kinsey
A phrase comes to mind when reading this post; "hook, line and sinker". I could sit here and critique and tear apart what you have written Jack, but I won't. I have thought for some time about how to comment on this post. This is all that I came up with; paint what you love, what your passionate about and in that you will come to know your subject better. Even if you think you know all about a certain subject matter, there is much to learn in our love of it. Investigate it; tear it apart and put it back together again. Dig deep. Re-create it. Show the light and dark of it...
I hope this explains what I am trying to convey. To truely know something is to truely be passionate about it. The rest will follow...even the money. ; )

Brenda Behr
So well put Jacqueline. Thank you for taking the time to think out your response.

Sandra R Cutrer
Jacqueline said it better than I could have! I will add, if the money doesn't come- you are still an artist! I would never tell someone they aren't an artist- or a musician, etc, if that is what they have worked at and love, no matter how much money they made or didn't make!

Carol Schmauder
I always enjoy your posts, Jack. The advice you give is priceless. Thank you for sharing your expertise with us.

Jack, thanks for the reminder and your stories which are always instructive and enjoyable to read. I must confess, I much prefer to have an experience of what it is I'm painting before I paint it. It's never as satisfying, for instance, to do paintings as commissions from the client's photos as it is to paint on site or from my own photos or imaginings of a scene. I think the personal experience and emotions attached are what help develop my voice.

Brian Sherwin
Jack -- I agree with you 100 percent on the need to have a solid focus/direction. I know there are artists who have been very successful working in several directions 'style-wise', if you will. They are the exception in my opinion -- not to mention that most of them had a focus early on -- and branched out after their name itself became a selling-point.

If you want a shot at being recognized and successful as an artist you almost have to bite the bullet and stay true to the direction that speaks to your soul the most. If you have not found that direction yet -- find it.

Bobbi Baltzer-Jacobo
Loved Jack's comments, article, so true! An example could be taken from the past: Vincent Van Gogh.
Many will say: "But he painted alot of subjects, look...his paintings now sell in the multi-millions!"
Yes, they do NOW! In his lifetime he seemed to be a student of everything that caught his eye and his fancy. He painted Still-lifes, Landscapes,Portraits of friends and neighbors,Daytime streetscenes, Nightscenes, interior rooms by day and by night. Hundreds of self-portraits. We have them to enjoy today, but as you know, in his lifetime his Art-agent brother (and also an uncle, too) could not get his work sold!!! He really jumped around alot, by the way...painting shoes, too!
There is some straight-out wisdom to be gleaned here in Jack's advice, use it. Take a look at some other Artists that you may know that also jump-around alot to everything, style, medium and subject matter, do you really admire them? Enough said.

It is so hard to stay focused on one subject but I keep my colors and brush work the same.


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