Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Aspiring to Be an Artist

I was in London at the Tate Gallery a few weeks ago studying the works of J.M.W. Turner. His paintings take my breath away.
I didn’t know this fact: most of the paintings that we recognize as Turner’s are actually paintings he never finished. His paintings remained works in progress until he hung them in a gallery or at an exhibition to sell.
Turner worked on several paintings at once, and always carried a sketchbook with him—there are 300 of these fat little sketchbooks at the Tate Gallery alone, each chock full of lovely watercolors, his “practice” sketches for his final paintings.
There are 19,000 Turner paintings in British museums. That doesn’t include the paintings that aren’t in British museums.
Turner lived from 1775-1851, 76 years. If he started painting when he was 10, and only painted those hanging in British galleries, he would have painted 287 paintings per year. And I’m not talking about desk top art, I’m talking about giant wall- covering paintings.
And that doesn’t include the 300+ sketchbooks. 
Turner painted.
Studying Turner is a lesson in humility. A serious artist –writer, musician, chef, dancer-- engages in her art. She doesn’t wait for the right moment, she doesn’t wait for inspiration. She paints or writes or sings all day. Every day.

I stand amazed in the presence of such wonderfully gifted and disciplined artists.


  1. I'm thinking Turner either had a very doting and resourceful wife, or he wasn't married. LOL, he definitely wasn't taking his children to dive lessons, working 8 - 5 at a different job, teaching Bible class on Wednesday nights, planning vacations, going over to Grandpa's to make sure he eats, etc.

    But, there is that guy on telly who can do a painting in 5 minutes. Probably a different caliber, eh?

  2. My dad at the age of 54 started painting. He was an amazing painter. I have one of his paintings in each room of my house. When he died he had lots of unfinished paintings but we've hung them anyway.

  3. Ah, the fallacy of waiting for the muse. Just dive in and do it! Thanks for sharing your experiences at the Tate Gallery.

  4. I so agree with this notion. If you want to write, then be a writer. I remember how I'd always wanted to write from grammar school and throughout high school and long after I'd become an adult. But one day about thirty years ago, I went to a lecture series about Southern women writers at the library. When I left there, I thought-- I have to keep doing this. I am a writer, so I'm going to write. After that, it became a priority rather than a dream. I tell aspiring writers--Dreaming is okay but setting goals and trying to achieve them--that is a dream come true.


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