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Step into the world of creating art with me in “My first 10,000 hours in art”

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My 10,000 hours 1In his 2008 book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell wrote that anyone could become an expert at something if they spent 10,000 hours doing it.

He said people don’t fully become proficient at something until they spend 5,000 hours, but that 10,000 was the proven number.

It’s an interesting theory and I happen to think natural skill plays a part, as well.

Only because I look at my life and I know I could spend 20,000 hours trying to dunk a basketball or trying to compete in the world’s strongest man competition and I highly doubt I’d do well at either of those things.

However, the overall point Gladwell raises is a good one – that if you want to succeed at anything you have to commit time to making it happen.

Being an arts/entertainment writer, I’ve spoken to a lot of physical artists, I’ve viewed a lot of artwork, and I’ve read a lot of text describing what different artworks mean.

I wouldn’t call myself an expert in it because that would discredit the people who have  an education in studying artwork and/or teaching it and also have spent 30, 40 or 50 years dedicated to it. However, I think it’s safe to say I’ve become proficient at understanding how art works, having put in at least 5,000 hours, if not close to the magical 10,000.

What I haven’t ever done, however, is actually pick up a paintbrush, a pencil, a chisel, or any other type of tool to create artwork myself, until recently.

Last month, I attended several art classes put on by Leah Kohlenberg, an instructor out of Portland, Ore.

Her classes were designed to help reveal a little bit about how to dive into drawing or painting. She also teaches via Skype, which is a bit of an anomaly in that there aren’t a whole lot of other people offering classes online in the way she does.

After some discussion, Leah and I came to an agreement that I would take a year of her classes and write about my experiences. This is the first post in what I’m calling “My first 10,000 hours in art.” The photo you see above is a self-portrait I did in the first class at Paris Gibson Square. It’s not perfect, but it’s got enough promise where I feel like I’m not wasting my time trying this out.

And now, before you think this is all designed as an ego boost where I showcase how great I am getting at doing artwork and how awesome my friends are for showing me how great I can become, let me assure you that’s not the case. My ego is probably already big enough without needing to do this column.

Leah Kohlenberg paints a picture recently in her Roaming Studio in Portland.
Leah Kohlenberg paints a picture recently in her Roaming Studio in Portland.

The real reason I’m doing this is that I see myself as one of many people who might think they understand art, and might have a desire to try it out for yourself, but either are too afraid or unsure about where to start.

The last real art classes I took were way back in high school, and I was never very good at any of it. I’ve spent years telling myself, “I envy these people who are creating these interesting, captivating and thought-provoking pieces because I could never do it myself.”

But, maybe I was cutting myself short.

I also see this whole experience as a bit of an experiment. Can I pick up artwork? Can I become an “artist” who sells pieces and does commissions for hungry fans of my work? Or, will it simply never be in the cards? Let’s find out together, shall we?

My hope is that by writing about my journey, others will take notice and apply my experience with their own.

It’s a real crime against humanity that there is so much amazing art out in the world that can and/or does go unappreciated.
I say this because it’s had a real positive effect on my life in a number of important ways. Maybe you’ll find that it does the same for you. You have to be willing to TRY to understand, however.

OPEN YOUR MIND. Too many people are too closed off to any new idea at all. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you’re done learning things. Just because you don’t consider yourself an artist doesn’t mean you can’t try to understand what art is and why it’s crucial to any society. Just because you think all Jackson Pollock paintings look like something your 6-year-old could have done doesn’t mean you can’t try to look at it from a different point of view.

If you OPEN YOUR MIND just a little bit, it can be liberating. It can open your horizons to a world you never knew existed. Why would you close yourself off to something without giving it a shot first?

Finally, I plan on making this a weekly column posted on Wednesdays. (I posted this one on Tuesday because I already had my first class and I wanted to give people a heads up as to what is coming in the future.) I look forward to this new journey and the path that it will take me on. I hope you do as well.

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