The one-millimetre rule

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Dear Artist,

Not long ago, while in the middle of a private easel disaster, the phone rang. “Did you know that Tony Robbins recently took up golf?” asked a friend. She was calling from a new-age encounter session somewhere in the bowels of an inner city Marriott. “Apparently you can improve the accuracy of your swing by altering the angle of your club face by a millimetre or two.” I put down my brush in a previous resolve to scrape and re-mix. Things had gone from bad to worse in the space of a couple of millimetres. “I gotta go,” I said.”I have to make a small change.”

072514_vincent-van-gogh

Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles, at Night
oil on canvas, 1888
by Vincent van Gogh

Art, and making it a career, is one of those ever-evolving life works — always in motion, growing wild or dying on the vine — a work in constant need of pruning and care. “In business, you’re either growing or slipping,” said a dealer, once, just before he went into frozen yogurt. Here in the studio are brushes to clean, books to keep, galleries to care for. Habits clamour to be improved, and ideas lie waiting to be originated and cultivated, then executed with uniqueness and excellence.

Often, artists entertain bold moves as a solution to floundering inspiration, disappointing work, or a lackluster bank balance.”Insanity,” said Albert Einstein, “is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Maybe a softer, gentler way can improve outcome. Before a drastic act, might we merely nudge a millimetre or two in the direction of quality? Here are a few ideas:

What is uniquely yours and embodied in your work? It’s priceless.

What is the most lust-worthy quality in your work? Make it obvious.

Is there an area in your work where you’re cutting corners? Identify it.

Do you have a favourite brush size? Go bigger.

Do you have a preferred process? Do it in reverse.

Do you overwork your paintings? Finish 10% underworked, rather than 1% overcooked.

In the final presentation, is there an extra millimetre to give? Give it.

Sincerely,

Sara

PS:”Quality is not an act, it is a habit.” (Aristotle)

“Quality is always in style.” (Robert Genn)

Esoterica: “Great things,” said Vincent Van Gogh, “are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” Motivational speaker and self-help author Tony Robbins was born Anthony J. Mahavorick in North Hollywood, California in 1960. A self-described weakling, in pimples and poverty, Tony started selling seminars and embodying his own incantations. “Any time you sincerely want to make a change,” he says, “the first thing you must do is to raise your standards.”

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The next workshop will be held on Hornby Island in British Columbia from September 22nd to September 25th, 2014.

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