Move toward clarity and away from interruptions

AVENDANO-LLC-studio-3I do some of my best work at night because there are fewer interruptions. I can focus
better. There’s a stillness in nature at night. The neighbors are asleep. I’ll put on some of my favorite music, smoke a cigar, and contemplate the painting I have in front of me. Interruptions are the thing that destroys the rhythm in a painting. It takes a lot of fortitude to get through the interruption and back to the rhythm of the work. Once you learn how to do that, you’ll find it gets easier each time. Being able to find your way back to a state of mind is essential. There are other times I can paint while someone is talking to me, but that’s a whole different type of concentration than what the solitude of night offers. I’m a visual person, so everything around me can become a distraction. The darkness of night just crystallizes my vision. It makes what I’m working on clearer and simpler. Edges become smoother, and there’s no weird refracted lighting coming in the window. There are no distracting shadows on the canvas. The studio becomes a place where I can follow a particular vision where it leads me. Without distractions, creating is a simpler, more straightforward process. It’s a true pleasure to be able to create late at night.

Finding ways to keep working

"Walking Away" by John Andro AvendañoWhen you’re young and starting out as an artist, you don’t fully understand the choices you have. It’s as if your mind is trapped in an invisible box. The box is preventing you from gaining more understanding about yourself. Part of the box is made by society, and part of it in your own making. Sometimes you just go in circles thinking about what you can’t do, or presume you can’t do. You don’t know there’s a way out. You have to figure out ways to keep working. A large part of the work is gaining more understanding within yourself, and knowing you already possess the traits that you need to do the work. You just have to learn to apply them. Getting better as an artist is a combination of searching, asking, learning, and working. And the younger you can develop those habits, the better. When I meet with young artists, what I do is share my story. Over time, I’ve discovered all this information. I’m talking about information that’s been around for thousands of years. In the best case scenario, I help people find things they didn’t even know they were looking for. Maybe I can guide them to something that will be just the right thing for them to hear. The key to what will open their particular door. When you see a light turn on in someone’s eyes, and they have an ah-ha moment, it feels good. It’s like when you talk to people involved in the business world. They want to know what the secret of being successful in business is. Business is buying something for two dollars and selling it for three. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon or have a degree in business. You have to possess the desire to be good at it. Being successful is about learning how to speak with people, share yourself with people, and motivate people to get involved with your process.

Sticking with it

AVENDANO-LLC-studio-3To create the type of art you want to create, it takes time and focus. You have to stick with it over time. Sticking with is all about faith. You have faith in yourself that you made the right decision. You have to take a really hard look at yourself. See if you’re doing everything you possibly can. Not just in creating art, but in getting your art out there. Doing what you have to do to share it with people. That’s what gets you going as far as continuing. Having faith in those principles. You have to develop principles that you apply to what you’re creating, and how you’re going about selling your art. It has to be true. It’s not about settling on tricks to get someone to buy a painting. It’s about staying true to all you’ve accomplished, and all you’re going to accomplish. With each stroke in every painting you have to be true to yourself. Once you do the work, once you do that type of analyzing, that where the faith in yourself takes over and your confidence evolves. You truly reach a place where you get to the place where all your hard work shows. Your creations show it. You become what you set out to be, and you can’t lose that. But it all starts with doing the work. There aren’t any shortcuts. Doing the work is what sustains you, and what takes you to the next level that you want to reach.

Making timeless art

"Reclining Nude" by John Andro AvendañoI think if an artist has actually done the work and knows themselves, then they can make something that is real. They are ready to begin making art that reaches for timelessness. They may not get there every time, but they can reach for it. They are involved enough in their own process to sidestep using trickery. They are ready to make art that will truly connect with people on a deeper level. It all comes back to being real with your vision and your emotions. And that’s hard. It is an important part of the difficult work of being an artist. For example, you can look at Picasso’s Blue Period, and say it now looks dated. With Cubism, he left it early, since there was nothing left for him to do in that form. It was a plastic concept. He knew when he’d reached the end of it. Once he started to really relax, and drew and painted his kids and his immediate friends, those pieces are timeless works. You want to keep developing that natural and childlike connection with what you’re trying to create. In no matter what time period you’re living in. Develop the work habits that get your own ideas and emotions into the work. Don’t paint in your head. Paint on the canvas, or whatever medium you choose. Paint every day. As you work, your soul starts whispering to you. And you need to listen to it. That’s where timeless art comes from. The connection to your own life force, and reacting to the universe we live in.

Creating work that has a sense of timelessness

"Evening Out" by John Andro AvendañoTo keep myself engaged in the process every day – I switch mediums – from painting to drawing, to sculpting in wood or metal, to woodcuts – using anything I can to make something that I like. The whole idea of creating is to make something I like to look at. And I feel that once someone buys a piece, it keeps giving back. Every time you look at it, it gives the viewer something different, something new It’s like rereading a great book you fell in love with. Once you get past the first read, you can unpeel layers and layers. Every time you read it again, see it again, you discover new pieces in a novel or a painting. That what artists and writers are doing – creating works that are timeless. I’m not interested in creating a shocking piece of art, you know, a tinfoil formaldehyde shark, or large duplicates of medical pills, or images of dead heads wrapped in plastic with eyes bugging out. That’s not for me, not what I’m after. There may be a market for that, but I leave that for other artists to do. Through my searches – I’m striving to create beauty, and make something that’s everlasting, I want to create something you’d put up in your house, and every time you look at it you discover something new. That’s what I like to think about, like to do, like to share. Living in the world now, people don’t want to look at art that feels like it’s stuck in the 1970s. They want a feeling of timelessness and expansiveness. People want a piece that remains fresh – time after time.

Finding Titles for Artwork

"The Brothel" by John Andro AvendañoI used to name my paintings if I had an emotional connection to them. While making a painting or drawing, the name would just come to me. Those are the best types of titles – when they just come out of the air. Now I call a piece ‘Untitled’ until I find a name, or it becomes an untitled series. For me, it’s much more about the process and doing the work than trying to figure out titles. I’d rather move on to the next creation. There are certain types of collectors who want to know titles of pieces. It helps to draw them into a painting, or helps them relate to it more. It may also help people investigate a painting on a deeper level. A name says something about a piece to the viewer, and they get specific ideas about the work.

Curiosity plays a vital role in making art

Alagria-5Curiosity is vitally important. You can’t make art without being curious. Become interested. Get motivated. Ask questions. Go online. Read about artists you’ve heard about. It’s impossible to be creative without it. You have to want to turn the page to see what’s next. Do the research you have to do to discover the type of art you want to make. Curiosity and the creative life go hand in hand. If you get stuck somehow, and you feel a lack of curiosity about the world, you have to stop and ask yourself why. Find your own reasons why. My reasons won’t be yours. The great thing about curiosity is that it’s a renewable resource. You can always learn, implement, and build on your curiosity. One topic, one artist, one obsession leads to another. If you explore, read, discover, and are still stuck, then talk to someone. Ideas come from trying new things. Get a cheap camera and mess around with it. It’ll show you the world from a different perspective. Learn about the artists who came before, and stay current with artists living in the world now. Read the stories of different artists and see who resonates with you. Decide who you want to be influenced by, or who just doesn’t do it for you. There’s a whole history of people who made art to be explored. You have to be curious. About art, life, people. There’s just no way around it.

Always find better ideas as you go along

"Colorful Woman" by John Andro AvendañoWhen I travel, I’ll meet people I’d never meet otherwise. Sometimes these connections will help ideas and images to come together. But what I create while traveling is usually very different from when I’m in my studio at home. While traveling, there are two types of art I work on. One is a historical scene of a landscape I see, or I could be sitting in a café and drawing or painting a street scene. These are historical, factual type of pieces. It’s just one aspect of what I do. Back in my studio, I return to my habit of starting with an idea. Then, the original idea gets dropped when I get deeper into the work and find better ones. Travel is good, but honestly, I’d rather just be in my studio working. If I could fold space, I’d be happy. It would be fun to just jump from one side of the planet to another. I’m the type of person that gets energy from working in solitude, and sometimes it takes a lot out of me to leave my sanctuary and get out and travel. But I found out that connecting is a part of the process. You’ll find out how other people react to your work, and see new things that will feed back into the creations you make.

Get into the habit of making art

"Mont Saite-Victoire" by John Andro AvendanoCreating art has to become a habit. I’m not a political artist, and I not an activist artist. I’m really dealing with my own sensibilities. My life doesn’t have a lot of grief. I’m not very susceptible to outside drama. Which is good. You have to stay steady and true to yourself to stay on track creatively. When I can help people, I’m there. But people have to take responsibility for their own choices and their own unique direction. Ultimately, each person has to do it for themselves. Figure out what you want to create, and start creating it. At this point in time, making art is about habits, and creating positive habits and sticking to them. It’s something I work on every day. For me there are only two real emotions. You’re either happy or you’re sad. If you’re sad, figure out what’s causing it, and start changing your situation. If you’re happy, keep on doing what you’re doing. Do even more of it. It’s easier to focus and do good work when you’re energized. Stay focused and develop the working habits that allow you to create new art, or finish artwork you’ve started. People get distracted by negative emotions. They get stuck in being angry or jealous, or something. The main thing is to stay with the basics. Figure out if you’re feeling happy or sad, and use those emotions to get into your work.

It’s all the daily choices you make that make the difference

"Poe (Pearl)" by John Andro AvendañoWhether one is young or old, people are raised a certain way. For example, in our culture, many people think there’s still a thing called job security. There really isn’t. Security comes from within, not without. It’s all centered around the fear of not knowing if you can make a living – buy cars, clothes, get married – all the things people want in their lives. You have to realize, no matter what field you choose, you have to be able to pay the price of your choices. Since not matter what, no one else will ultimately bear that burden but you. It’s difficult to make the choice to be an artist when you’re married or have kids. Even so, if you’re going to be true to yourself, you’ll eventually get to the point where everyone’s pissed off at you. People close to you might call you selfish, or self-centered, egotistical, or self-righteous. A lot of people don’t like that type of pressure. You may not like it. It might not be the most pleasant thing to deal with. But no matter what, you’re going to have to be OK with it. You have to stay focused and move on. Because to live your life’s path is more important than anything. If you instill the idea in your kids that money is a security blanket, and you’ve given up a part of yourself to make a living, kids see that. If you’re tied up in a knot, and not living the way your true self speaks to you, they’ll follow the same path you’re teaching them. So there’s a lot at stake with learning how to live your life’s path. There’ll be a lot of pain, torment, indecision, and grief. But if you get past that, and you’re convinced, and you’ve convinced your loved ones there’s no other way, it becomes easier. I don’t do yard work, I don’t fix cars, I don’t really have any honey-dos. I create. That’s what I do. Seven days a week. If you put less than four hours a day into whatever creative pursuit you’re doing, whether it’s writing, acting, painting, or being a musician, chances are it’s not going to happen. It’s only when you’re so tired that you’re falling asleep creating because you can’t do anymore that day, then you know you’re on the right track. And when you make some money from selling your art, you buy materials. It’s the daily choices you make that will make the difference.

Being an artist in the digital age

"Cogitate #31" by John Andro AvendañoThe online and mobile direction the world has gone in has helped artists. It gives artists an immediate way to get their work in front of people. Artists now know they can be seen, be heard, and get comments in a way they never could before. It can be a great encouragement, but you have to have faith in yourself, and be willing to put yourself out there. Since anyone can say anything they want to online, it helps you to develop your core sensibilities. And a thicker skin when it comes to criticism. Maybe a comment will help you figure out what you’re trying to do, or it might have the opposite effect. Either way, you’re no longer working in a vacuum. As an artist, you must develop a clear and strong sense of self. You have to figure out your own direction, and find a rudder to steer yourself with. Because ultimately, you want to go in the direction you want to, and be less influenced by outside forces. It’s a learning process to stay true to your own vision. A great many people don’t put their work out there, for any number of reasons. Eventually, they have to, if they want to know who they are and what they can do as an artist. Once you reach a certain level, it helps rather than hurts to put yourself out to as a wide an audience as possible. Get your work out there. Share it. Ask for questions or comments. This is one of the major ways the digital revolution has helped artists. And if there’s an artist out there who feels like they can be helped by you, help them. Tell them what you’ve learned, or find someone who works closer to what they are making and connect the two of them. If possible, always help other people who are struggling.

Don’t make excuses. Make art. Every day.

a-work-in-progressMaking art comes down to routine and habit. And that gets formed over many years. You have to get in the habit of getting up in the morning and starting. After you take care of  your emails or phone calls that you have to do, you have a cup of coffee, and then stand in front of your easel or sit at your table and start creating something. It doesn’t really matter what. Once you begin the process it takes off on its own. I get up around 7:00 a.m., have coffee, respond to emails, and start work about 9:00 a.m. I’ll stop at 1:00 p.m. and have lunch, then take care of more business. I’m back working in my studio by 4:00 p.m. And I’ll work until 3:00 a.m. There’s a dinner in there somewhere, but it’s not necessarily at the same time. There’s no mystery to it. If you want to create art, you have to work; you develop the habit. It’s about creating every day. Persistence matters. Not giving up matters. If you’re sick, you grab a piece of paper and do some drawing in bed. If you’re sick and throwing up, you grab some paper and draw in between times of being sick. If your leg is going to be amputated, get it amputated and then go back and make good art. There is no excuse, if you’re healthy and want to make art. There have been artists who were going blind and kept making art. Artists with no hands who painted with their feet. If they could do it, you can do it. Stop making excuses and make art.