Learn to draw. Learn to paint. But have you found what you’re looking for?

Well, it’s not easy. Do you know who really bugs me? – it’s that guy on the television with his “easy as pie, learn to paint in 25 minutes” routines. It’s all tricks – it’s not art, it’s totally misleading. And then I have these poor unfortunates in my art class, thinking that they should be able to produce the same results, in 25 minutes, it’s not right. It’s very disheartening for people. Art takes time.

But, let’s think for a minute about what you’re looking for – and why you want to learn to paint or draw. Are you one of those people who think that it’ll be relaxing? Urg – it’s not relaxing, I’m sorry to break it to you. You could be imagining that it’s lovely for artists to be able to spend all their time doing something they love, doing their hobby and getting paid for it too? Oh dear, where did that one come from? Now, it’s not all bad news. For instance if somebody asks me: will you draw us a horse’s head, mister? – well, I can do that and it’s sorta satisfying (see Toby below) but would you believe that artists spend most of their time worrying? Tearing their hair out? Reproaching themselves? You don’t want that, let me tell you. But I reckon that you find art inspiring and you love reading about it and thinking about it. Amn’t I right?

drawing of horse by Eoin Mac Lochlainn


Now, this might be off the wall but – why not leave it at that? Visit the museums, view the art, read about it, think about it, maybe even write about it. Because… art needs people like you. The world needs people like you! people who notice and appreciate art, people who understand that life is not just about work and the economy, people who think about life and the universe…

Ok, if you do all that and you still want to learn the techniques… all I can say is that it takes TIME. The longer you spend at it, the better you’ll become. Don’t be comparing yourself to Rembrandt or Monet. I reckon they spent more time at it than you did. Am I right?

By the way, here’s a link to a website that I found really inspiring about art –





  1. Art is indeed quite time consuming, and in my opinion anything but relaxing haha. One needs the right drive and passion to truly grasp what art can hold, and unfortunately for some, they’re stuck on wanting to see quick results.

    Nonetheless, a world without art is quite mundane, and we will always need artists willing to devote their passions to making it more beautiful 🙂


  2. Excellent post, totally agree. I wrote something along similar lines several years ago about how hard the creative process can be sometimes. Here is the link, and the follow-up . https://artcalling.wordpress.com/2010/05/18/does-creativity-have-to-hurt/ https://artcalling.wordpress.com/2010/05/27/1046/

    I think it is a great recommendation to the now-and-then kind of artists who want quick results without sacrificing anything to stick to more satisfying endeavours. For awhile I was teaching calligraphy here in Holland, and had some people as long as 8 years in class. But times changed, I eventually stopped teaching hobby calligraphy classes because of the lack of commitment and shorter attention spans. I’d go through several seasons with someone and see progress, then they’d would drop out because they ‘wanted to try something else’. I still would love to resume teaching my drawing class, for example, but it breaks my heart everytime someone has made great strides and then casually gets involved in another hobby after a year or so. I don’t think students realise what an investment a teacher makes teaching the basics over and over again and helps people to overcome theri obstacles and advance. One lady decided she would rather learn real estate!!!! Obvously she thought she could earn big money with her several months of basic calligraphy skills (my calligraphy master said it takes about 10 years to really become good.) And maybe she realised how this veteran calligrapher of years wasn’t exactly a millionaire.

    The Nicholas Wilton work blew me away. I’m not often moved by contemporary art, but this one knocked my socks off. I always know because there is a kind of keening longing to capture the same kind of magic in my own work. Not copying another artist’s form (though in Nicholas’s case it is tempting) but some other elusive element. Someone once gave me a great compliment which kind of captures the essence of this-‘Your art feels like it came from my soul’. thanks Eoin, Sarah


    • Thanks Sarah. I put a link to Nicholas Wilton because he writes very well about the creative process and it really is a help, I find.

      About teaching, I hear what you’re saying about the personal investment you put into your teaching but I got an email from my brother today taking issue with my points about art classes. He told me that for years he didn’t feel that he was good enough to take part in an art class (I was shocked) and that it was only when he saw one of these ‘easy as pie’ art tutors on TV that he found the courage to give it a try! So there you go. I think that encouragement is the most important thing you can give, as a teacher but you’re right – it takes a lot of energy.


      • Yes, I liked the combination of his writing and his art very much.

        Hmm, I can imagine your brother’s point and experience. On the one hand I wish that the arts were more approachable to someone who genuinely wants to learn. And that people understand that once basic skills are acquired, there is mastery, plus a whole lot of right brain stuff needed, including imagination, a little magic, some luck, and then only then might you have a work of art.

        Yes, encouragement is very important in teaching.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. You are right Eoin, about the unique qualities of art and how it can enable us to think, question and feel life more deeply in a way that takes us beyond the everyday.


  4. I’ve heard somewhere that it takes 10 thousand hours to learn some skill. That’s a solid 417 days of hard work. More than one year, right? So… do you know many people who’d be willing to invest so much time? Only someone who has that true desire to paint or draw can decide to spend their life looking for perfection. And as for your brother, he might have found encouragement, but who can guarantee that he won’t be disappointed with his 25 minute routines’ results and then drop everything and never try painting ever again? K.


    • Hi Kristina, maybe I have my head stuck in an ivory tower and I forget sometimes that not everyone has the same reasons for painting that I have… Thank you for your comment, and all the comments, I didn’t realise that I was opening a can of worms 🙂 Generally speaking, I just like to talk about art – and I usually talk before I think!


      • Oh, I hope I didn’t come across as someone who is defending my opinion harshly? I just wanted to share some of my thoughts, but I guess my text could have been interpreted as something said too strongly. I’ll add some smiley faces next time 🙂 as in real life I’m a very calm person.

        I do agree with Sarah that you have started a discussion, which is brilliant. This is another good way to learn something new. K.


    • Hi Kristina,you are so right about the degree of dedication needed to go through the 10,000 hours to master a craft.
      You reminded me of a story about the desire to achieve or realise our dreams. I think it might have been in one of Julia Cameron’s books and it was a huge eye opener for me.
      Someone said to a professional jazz musician,’Oh my whole life I’ve wanted to play the piano like you’. And the musician said, ‘Then why didn’t you?’. The point was, if you really really wanted to do it, you would have committed to it, practised, and done it. Maybe not to the level of a professional, but to your own level.

      Whenever I say to myself, ‘I’ve always wanted to do this or that’, I now think, if that were true, I would have done it already. Instead of thinking up excuses for not at least starting it.

      Another little bit from Cameron in the Artist’s Way’-
      Mother to daughter: I’ve always wanted to play the piano’.
      Daughter,’Why don’t you start?’
      Mother: Do you realise how old I’d be by the time I learned how to play?’
      Daughter: ‘The same age you’d be if you didn’t start!!’

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for the lovely stories, Sarah. I’ll keep them in mind and try to remember these wise words every time I want to say that I’d like to be able to… play the guitar, speak Spanish, knit colourful jumpers etc. It’s all about learning to use time wisely, forgetting excuses and being really brave and stubborn. Practice makes perfect, right?

        I’ll leave you with a brilliant quote I came across the other day: “Life requires more doing than dreaming of doing to make a dream reality.” Richelle E. Goodrich


      • You’re welcome K. And the Goodrich one is equally powerful.

        I just found the other quote in full, it was in ‘The Element, how finding your passion changes everything’, by Sir Ken Robinson:

        Robinson actually was the one who approached a fantastic keyboard player and said,’I’d love to be able to play the keyboards that well. ‘No you wouldn’t’, he responded. Taken aback I insisted I really would.”No, he said,’you like the idea of playing keyboards. If you’d love to play them you’d be doing it.’ He said that to play as well as he did, he practiced every day for 3-4 hours in addition to performing. He’d been doing that since he was seven.

        Suddenly playing keyboards as well as Charles didn’t sound as appealing. I asked him how he kept up that level of discipline. He said, ‘Because I love it.’He couldn’t imagine doing anything else.’


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