Art Talk

"Can you help me be an artist?"

by Al Van Mil

Al Van Mil is an accomplished, full time artist living in Thornhill, Ontario. Occasionally he receives emails asking him questions like, "Can you help me be an artist?" Here is an example of that sort of thing, with his reply. Enjoy.

Dear Al,

I need a mentor. How do I begin the thought process of painting about my poem? I mean it. Help me get started. Yours Truly,
A. Wannabe

Dear Wannabe,

This is the truth, straight from a real artistís mouth: do not listen to other wannabes. To become a real visual artist, it is extremely easy.

Start quick drawings, not worrying about quality. Just do a bunch of them. Work itself generates ideas.

It is like dreaming. It will come; do not worry. It is even more like meditation, in a way. Let yourself be in the present. Enjoy the actual process. Scribble, doodle, try to draw a memory, a thought, whatever, with no specific agenda, only a general one. It really does not matter! Keep these to yourself and private!

You will eventually like particular ideas over others; it is only natural. You will go back to these and do variations on them more often. You have to give your art time to grow on its own schedule, but keep coming back to it; keep watering the garden. This way these ideas will develop naturally, and they will be yours. Some will give seed and develop entire generations of ideas. However, always stay loose, and do not worry about details. Initial ideas always come out generic, and only develop details as you get to know them.

When you begin to paint do the same things, and above all, like what you are doing. In this way, you will, and only you will, know what is happening. When it comes to this work, keep it for yourself, so you can keep your mind clear. Give yourself and your art time. Give yourself time!

Learning to like your own lines and marks is like learning to like you: It is best to stay real and not to dwell on abstract ideas, observations, and criticisms usually provided by others. Guard your art from others. It is private. It is nobody else’s business. Making art is not about learning; it is about making. These are not going to be school assignments, so tell the art professors to get lost in your mind’s eye, and start to grow your own garden. However, do not stop learning or liking the other art you have liked, it is just that you do not even know what your own is like yet. Yours will be something you have never seen before. It is very fragile when you begin, like a sprout. Give it a chance to grow and blossom. Do not allow other artists, not even me, to trample through your garden. Make your art your own. (``If you can talk about it, why paint it?'' -Francis Bacon)

Above all, do not talk about it. It is like holy sex. Anything you say only cheapens the spell. Love the simplicity of what you are doing. Stay real.

Much later, your art will be strong. Whatever people will say about your work, you will be smiling inside with the knowledge of how good it was for you. Then kiss your painting goodbye, like your children, lovingly, and send them off into the world. Some will find love. Some will be abused. What can you do? You hope for the best. For the artist, the joy is in the making. Allow yourself to fall in love with the process of living.

This is the way to become a real visual artist. It is wonderful! I said it would be easy, I never said it would be quick. Whatever, it is very rewarding, so do it. Start today. Give your art a little time right now. Go doodle. Have fun.

I hope this can be my gift to your life, because it is so great, but you have to pick this gift up and allow it to be yours.

All the best, Al Van Mil