No matter what our age or skill level, there is one thing fundamental to artistic growth: keeping a teachable attitude. I love gaining insight and learning tricks of the trade from other artists to make my own art better. Because I am a “self-taught” artist there was a lot I didn’t know and some of what I’ve learned was simply about how to save time! For example, while making my first quilt (shown below), I cut all the strips of material individually with scissors. Then I put together several blocks one at a time, but still had at least thirty to go. Talking to a friend about how time consuming it was, she stopped me in my tracks and explained how I should piece several blocks together at the same time and then she showed me how to do it. In this case, having a teachable attitude resulted in hours of saved time and the process became much more enjoyable. She also told me what tools I needed to buy before starting my next quilt. Having the right tools for the project is a subject for a different blog, but learning this has made the cutting so much easier and faster for the quilts I’ve made since.
My writing is another area where a teachable attitude has helped immensely. My editor doesn’t just fix my writing, but teaches me grammar. I’m not too proud to admit my weakness in this area. I’m not a college graduate and growing up I was a very poor reader and even worse at English. When I was in sixth grade, I got sent out of my favorite class to go to special reading classes. At the time I was so embarrassed to be separated from my classmates, especially when some of them called me names, that I didn’t even try to learn. What a foolish mistake, but then I was only eleven.
A few years ago I ran into my sixth grade teacher and during our conversation I told him I had a written a book and had it published. The look on his face was not only one of surprise, but disbelief. As we talked he saw someone who became teachable, someone willing to learn and push past difficulties and a poor beginning.
“When you lose the desire to learn, you’ve lost the desire to grow.” – Ron Jennings
So here’s my advice: if something doesn’t come easy or if you want to take your art (or whatever it is you want to do) in a new direction, the best thing you can do is surround yourself with people proficient in that area of expertise and be willing to learn from them. “How To” books, videos and on-line resources are available if a teacher is not accessible. It’s a lot easier to achieve goals when you’ve been taught how to do it right. It’s also advantageous to glean from the years of experience of others because they have learned ways to quicken the process without lessening the quality of their work.
You might feel you are too busy to learn new things, but sometimes when knowledge is gained, a fresh desire to participate emerges. If I hadn’t learned those quilting shortcuts, I doubt my beautiful quilt would have ever been completed. I’m so thankful someone showed me a better way.
Continue to apply knowledge to your life. You will be amazed by what you can accomplish with a positive and teachable attitude.
Arleen Jennings is the author of:
Created to be Creative
to purchase my book Click Here