the artist's notebook










the creative life

creative issues

learn to paint

inspirational artists




the secret to becoming an exceptional artist

This weekend, I had a discussion with my brother George about what it takes become competent in creative work.

George, who uses his award-winning writing skills in his executive job, mentioned the "10,000 hour rule." This idea, made popular by Malcolm Gladwell in his book "Outliers," is based on the research of psychologist Anders Ericsson of Florida State University. Studying musicians at Berlin's Academy of Music, Ericsson found that the elite performers put in 10,000 hours of practice each, while the lesser accomplished students totaled 8,000 hours or less. While not a magic formula, because individuals will vary, the basic idea is that the more time you dedicate to any endeavor, the better you become.

My opinion has always been that a creative individual needs to think of his career like that of any professional. For example, an accountant or a dentist will spend many years in higher education before going professional. Financial survival during those years is often accomplished with an assortment of loans, part-time jobs, and family assistance. Gaining artistic skills and knowledge is no different. An creative needs to diligently work on his/her art for many years before mastering it. And, yes, we often find creative ways to pay the bills during those years. Isn't it interesting that if you spent 40 hours a week at your art for five years, you have practiced for 10,000 hours?

The secret is really not so mysterious. Now, get back to your work!