Someone recently asked me this question. In the moment I responded, “I have always liked to make things.” But becoming an artist means more than just making things. The quote from Steven King is true: “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”
My first step in becoming an artist was beginning to take myself seriously. I applied myself to the study of art. I learned the language of design. I read art books. I studied art history. I took classes with professional artists. As I heard or read professional artists or art critics discuss art work, I tried to see what they saw. This is one of the ways I worked on developing my eye. I learned how to critique my own work. I also made visiting art exhibits a higher priority. For example, I traveled to London just to see the retrospective on Paul Klee at the Tate Modern. It was transformative for me.
I also began tracking how many hours I was actually working as an artist. This was inspired by another artist, Lisa Call. (Check out her awesome website lisacall.com.) She was achieving things I dreamed of doing, and I have to admit that I was a bit jealous. But then I asked myself a hard question. Am I really working as hard as she is? She shared that she tracked how many hours she worked. So I began to do likewise. I later heard a comment from my father when he was discussing one of his businesses. He said, “What gets measured gets improved.”
The country western singer Tim McGraw has a song titled “How bad do you want it?” It always boil down to this. How much are you willing to invest in developing your abilities? How seriously are you pursuing being an artist? How hard are you willing to work at developing your talent to its fullest potential? At then end of the day no one else in the world knows or cares how many hours I work in my studio. Only I do. So I measure my hours striving to improve efficiency, quality and production. Hopefully my hard work shows.