Today in class while giving a student a critique I mentioned to her how far she still needed to go on her figure painting in order for her to accomplish something more than she has in previous exercises. She defended her efforts being very proud of what she had accomplished up to that point. Well, she was right in a way. She has a great start on her painting. But she has proven in the past that she's more than capable of good starts. What she hasn't done yet is finish a great figure. What she had forgotten was what the standards are in Academic study. Good is easy, great is normal, brilliance is possible. There are so many good students at various academies right now and doing good work just isn't enough. Brilliance in academic student work is too common now and it just isn't acceptable to accept anything less. I have found it to be true that when we raise our standards, our work becomes immediately better. When we expect more of ourselves, we most often prove that we are capable of achieving more. We can be as good as we demand that we be. But this requires that we constantly update our context and have a constantly evolving set of standards. It is easy to get caught up in our immediate surroundings, and for many of us we are not surrounded by large numbers of great artists or museums. So it's easy to become complacent. It's easy to feel overly confident about your work. But it is important that we remind ourselves that what we are aiming for is the highest of standards, the very best in art. And that gives us a more clear context for where we stand, how far we still need to go and how to get there.
The great thing about this students attitude is that she finds joy in
her learning; that she gains confidence in each step she takes forward.
We all need to do this. But overconfidence can be as damaging as a
lack of confidence. Both can blind us. We must always remind ourselves
of the standards in art, and as we do so, we will develop a greater
discipline and a more streamlined focus. As we raise our standards, so
will our achievements follow.