Hey fellow amateurs- how do YOU measure the success of one of your works? Does just getting one finished make you happy? Is it by the praise of your nearest and dearest? Obvious technical improvement? Success in a club show? A sale?
I have a hunch that for most of you (correct me if I am wrong) it is not any of these things, though they can be nice too. Perhaps your idea of success is more of a personal, subjective nature – you either like it or you don’t. Perhaps, like me, you may not even know exactly why.
OK, I am projecting a little bit. But being an amateur means doing something purely for the love of it – and love can be fickle. In fact, all of the objective measures of success (praise, awards, technical advancement, etc.) don’t mean a thing unless you are feeling that inexplicable satisfaction in your work.
For me, a painting is a success if I like to look at it. It really is as simple as that. There are a few things I have painted that I go out of my way several times a day to see. Seeing them never ceases to make me feel pleasure – never dissatisfaction or embarrassment. I just wish I could put my finger on the “formula” of what makes a good painting for me. For now I have neither the skill nor the control to improve my ratios of “good painting” to “bin-it painting.”
Below is the first painting I ever felt this way about. Never mind that it is not my own composition – or that its wonderfulness has much more to do with the genius of Lawren Harris than anything else. I never get tired of looking at it – it has something to do with intense contrast of shadowed foreground to brilliantly lit background and my miraculous ability in this instance to keep the brushstrokes relatively precise (not spastic and sloppy). In fact, I loved it so much I gifted it to my sister (another first). Oh, and she actually hung it up instead of hiding it in her basement – so there is a little objective success as well.