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What my art teacher taught me about success

Every new year people set out with new goals, new ambitions and commitments and a lot us start out with the best intentions, to only months, maybe weeks later, abandon them. How are your new year’s resolutions holding up so far?

I think it’s safe to say that every single person has encountered situations or times in your life when you try and feel like giving up, when you don’t at first, see instant results or it just gets too hard. Sound familiar?

I’ve been guilty of it myself. When I was a wee lad, my mom joined me up to the local soccer club, swimming, and skating, amongst other things. I loved soccer. Err… for about 2 years. I did love soccer, just wasn’t a fan of all the drills (basically all the work), I just wanted to play. Swimming lasted about 2, then got bored. Skating lessons were a short run and then I quit. I was enrolled in a whole bunch of other things that also never seemed to stick. I just got bored and moved onto something else. Or maybe the real reason, is I didn’t think I was all that good at them.

Now, it wasn’t really that I wasn’t really good. Success comes with practice. I just didn’t give it enough time. And whenever I get into those situations of frustration, I’m reminded of something my high school art teacher once told me.

You did it once, you can do it again

One of my first weeks in high school, my art teacher and a renowned local artist, assigned us one of our first projects to replicate this black and white photograph he had photocopied for everyone. He actually threw a whole whack of drawing projects at us to see who was really in it for real. But from what I can remember of this drawing it was of an old wooden dock set against a backdrop of rocky waters. We had to hand in our pencil sketches the next day.

The next day came and he walked past each aisle observing everyone’s drawing, gesturing a few “good”s, but mostly shaking his head. He even walked by mine, pointed to the water and smirked. Said I was missing the point, all the nuances of the light reflecting off the waves. As he approached the class he lectured us on how to draw water properly, before he said: “your next assignment for tomorrow IS TO REDO the assignment. We’re going to keep doing this until you get this right”.

The next day, the same thing. He walked through each aisle, but this time he had a bigger smirk and a slight kick in his step. Still a lot of shaking his head, but a few “Ahs”. Much happier he seemed. As he approached my desk, he patted me on the back, blurted out my last name, said “there you go, f*cken beautiful.” Told the class that he was still unimpressed with a lot of theirs, but some are getting better. Then he ran back and took my drawing. He held it up and showed the class, “this is what I want to see” and then literally began to rip the drawing right in half and said Anthony, “if you did it once, you can do it again.” Yeah, you can imagine all the heads turning around with a big WTF written on them. He walked past a few more and then did the same thing. And then he asked the rest to do the same to theirs. After some grumbling, and although a few managed to sneak away from their drawings in their desks, most obliged.

And he was right

Everyone turned out the next day, with vastly better drawings. Well, it seemed everyone, except the ones that snuck away from their drawings. I guess they got so attached, they never really got the lesson.

So attach whatever moral you want to this, but the point I took from it, is (I later would come to realize that) people are continually going be ripping up your work (although maybe not quite as literally), so get used to it. But never give up, to repeat him again “if you did it once, you can do it again.” If it’s something you really want, you will try anything you can to get there. Persevere and you will succeed.

Working as a designer, where every client thinks they’re an artist, (I’m sure everyone in a creative field can relate), aside from drawing pretty pictures, it’s full of daily critiques. You get bad feedback, sometimes brutal, but you move on and pitch another idea. And oftentimes, it’s the littlest tweaks that can turn an “I hate this” into an “I love this”.

In many ways, dealing with your finances has many similarities. And as much as it’s important to set your goals, it’s even more important to stick to them. Yes, there are times where you create a budget, go at it for a couple of months, then some event happens or you start to get comfortable and you fall off track. Sounds almost like that dusty gym membership you just signed up for. And that’s perfectly okay, everyone has those months/moments. I do too. The important thing is that you get back on track and finish the job you started. Look for whatever is going to keep you going. Find your source of motivation.

I think I found mine, what’s yours?

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