There’s No Rushing Art—or Life: It Takes 10,000 Hours

There’s No Rushing Art—or Life: It Takes 10,000 Hours June 25, 2021
There’s no rushing art. It takes time to develop drawings and paintings. You can see the process photos below. Artwork by Susan E. Brooks

Rockwell’s words of comfort below are an encouragement to me as an artist. I always want to rush and not struggle, but I find there’s no rushing art. I just have to show up at the easel day after day and hope eventually the inspiration will come. With time, it usually does. I think this principle applies to other areas of life and ministry as well.

“There must be some easier way than painting pictures like this, but I dunno what it is. I’m always comforted with the idea that these ones that I have the most trouble with are always my best pictures…. I have all these comforting thoughts, trying to explain why I have to struggle like this.”

Norman Rockwell (excerpt from the Dictaphone tapes.)

Boy and his donkey in process
Boy and his donkey in process, by Susan E. Brooks.

Jesus Didn’t Rush

Remember the story of Lazarus in John 11? His sisters sent word that he was sick and Jesus should hurry. But Jesus didn’t rush, and by the time he arrived, Lazarus had died. Jesus knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead and that waiting would bring about greater glory. Mary and Martha had a terrible struggle while waiting though, not to mention Lazarus. The heart of Jesus was also broken. He wept, seeing the pain his friends endured, but he trusted God’s plan and did not try to rush in and do his own thing.

Success in Art and Life Cannot Be Rushed

In Malcom Gladwell’s book, “Outliers,” he writes about the 10,000 hour rule. In a series of studies of extremely successful people in any area, whether artists, athletes, business people or others, researchers found that only those who spent 10,000 hours practicing became world class experts. They found no exceptions. The most talented people did not make it until they had put in the hours. Even Norman Rockwell struggled, and I believe you’ll find hard work and practice is the rule for most high achievers.

In the first stages of a drawing or painting, I can’t see all I need to see. It takes time. Early stage drawing by Susan E. Brooks.

You Can’t Rush Seeing

I find this to be true in my art. So much of drawing and painting is not about skill in the hands but about seeing more than the average person sees. Sometimes I feel that with portraits, birds, landscapes, nearly any complex subject in nature, the more time I spend looking at it, the more I see. Why can’t I see all of the different patterns of light and dark in a person’s skin in the first hour of painting? I don’t know, but it takes time. Sometimes I have to take a break from my art before I can see what it needs. I have to take time away from it.

Life can be like this too. It takes time to build deep, beautiful relationships. There’s no rushing character building. Over time, we struggle and learn to love, to be patient, to trust God and others. Jesus knew how to trust God with all of the outcomes. Sometimes he prayed all night. Why? It seemed like he could have snapped his fingers and sorted everything out with miracle, but instead, he took time to pray. He never seemed to be in a rush. Deadlines loom and clocks tick away, but true mastery and true character cannot be rushed. As Jesus was content to wait on God’s timing, we also need to be patient, waiting on God’s time. While we wait, we work and learn and grow. There’s no rushing art—or life.

How can we learn to be patient and put in the time? Any good examples of how to avoid the eternal rush? I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments.

I’m an artist who loves to write. If you’d like to get to know me better, please follow me on social media.

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