T he most recent Communication Arts has a feature about the making of a visual artist, including early life, school and professional work. Take note. These lessons apply to anyone who creates something, from artist to speaker to filmmaker to writer.
On creative courage
Speaking about his early work, the artist says:
Most students have a hard time finding something to say in their work – their picture making skills advance quicker than their content skills…. There are more important variables that come into play for an advancing illustrator or artist than talent. Persistence and courage are critical: You must stay in the game long enough to find yourself and develop something uniquely yours that elevates and distinguishes you.
It took me years to learn to trust my creative instinct. Early on, before I had the technical ability to fully realize my vision or lead others to create a vision, I would let the artistic will of others drown out my own voice. And I would get very frustrated. In recent years I have found my artistic voice, as a writer and a creative director. Partly this evolution, to the place of feeling comfortable enacting a vision, was about learning to work in the technical language of the industry. Partly it was about acquiring expertise in a creative field – in my case, writing. Mostly, as the quote says, it was about persistence and courage.
On conveying a message
Later in the article, an old friend of the artist comments on milestones in his early professional work:
I used to look at Ted’s work and know who was influencing him at that moment. Now, I cannot. I see only him. He now believes in himself. This happened when he decided to abandon the myth of doing what he thought others expected of him. Ted now trusts his own hand.
The biggest difference, the friend says?
The difference between “then” and “now” is the power of his editing, compositionally and technically.
She then described that in his earlier work, he created layers upon layers, painting over.
Today… at any point, he can erase – edit – the drawing before he touches the work surface with finishing materials.This allows more time to focus on technique. His compositions lack excess but remain evocative and rich. That is not easy. It’s easier to convey a message in 500 words than it is to make the same point in a single sentence. The difference is that people are more likely to respond to a single sentence.
Conveying a message with power is the same in any medium – oral, written and visual. Effective communication is a simplicity that lies beyond complexity. It is knowing a subject so well that you can summarize a problem, and a solution, in single statements. And getting there is not about the first draft.
The difference between mediocre work and powerful work is not in the composition. It’s in the editing.