Setting Goals As An Artist

Whether it’s planning my next series of paintings or trying to grow as an artist, I always try to keep a firm goal set in my mind.

For example, my earlier painting goals were to show my subject realistically with fine detail. I relied too much on what the camera captured and spent hours and hours finishing a single painting. But then I made a conscious decision to experiment with different styles and philosophies. Over time, my style has loosened up and now I focus more on showing my energy through brushwork. I want my paintings to show how I see the world, not how a camera would. As a young artist, I needed to take the time to address how I wanted my career to progress.

My first painting! (not counting my childhood doodles) I made this oil in Florence - my introduction to the medium. 

My first painting! (not counting my childhood doodles) I made this oil in Florence - my introduction to the medium. 

When I first started painting a few years ago, I worked a lot slower than I do now. I completed about 1 painting per month, sometimes taking even longer. Something wasn’t right. I didn’t feel like an artist, and I would finish a work and then ask myself “what’s the point?” I was making very slow progress with my skill level, and I just didn’t understand. Honestly, I felt like I was wasting my time and energy. I needed a different goal.

My first real foray into watercolor painting with a more impressionistic style. A simple cityscape, but this helped changed the way I work.

My first real foray into watercolor painting with a more impressionistic style. A simple cityscape, but this helped changed the way I work.

I told myself I needed to paint more often. I wanted to complete a new painting every week. I didn’t know how this came to me, and didn’t know if this would even work. But after several weeks of painting almost every day, something changed. I suddenly felt more confident and my work was improving and people started to notice. It became obvious: painting is like everything else - the more you do it, the better you get. Watercolor helped me paint more quickly and more often, since paintings dry fast and the setup is minimal.

My next goal was to make talking about my art more interesting. It felt weird describing my work to people. Visual artists don’t tend to love speaking about themselves and their work - since most of their time is spent actually creating it. I wanted others to see my work and understand it, so I learned that successful artists usually have a blog. I set mine up and then stared blankly at the screen for days (slight exaggeration). Being an English major, I figured I could just crank out some blog posts and people would flock to my website. Completely wrong. After blindly poking through the first few posts, I started to get more ideas of what to write about and things became a little easier. But it still takes effort to sit my butt down and write words that make some sort of sense. This, my friend, is an ongoing goal.

"Windy Sun at Liberty State Park" 2016 - this watercolor shows more of my loose, energetic style.

"Windy Sun at Liberty State Park" 2016 - this watercolor shows more of my loose, energetic style.

"Untitled" 2016, one of my more recent paintings, this resulted from a nice walk along the water on a grey day.

"Untitled" 2016, one of my more recent paintings, this resulted from a nice walk along the water on a grey day.

Nowadays, one of my more important goals is to get out and about - to pick up different sources of inspiration. I hunt the streets of New York and Jersey City to sketch and take pictures to use later on. I actively seek out material for my work and this, I believe, makes me a better artist.

Of course, I’d love to bounce off to Europe and backpack for the next 3 months to build up years worth of painting material. Perhaps this will be my next goal ;)

Another early painting - uptown Hoboken.

Another early painting - uptown Hoboken.

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