Art Is A Discipline, Not A Punishment

Art is not the default career for anyone I’ve ever met. I think that’s because artistic success is so intangible, even for artists who make a lot of money or gain recognition.

But if the path was chosen by us and the standard for success is uniquely self-defined, why do we repeatedly empty our religion and submit to the same kinds of boring rules and rituals that we are supposed to subvert?

The compulsion to improve the portfolio, network with the right people, update the blog and fill up the sketchbook can get wearisome if not devastatingly guilt-ridden.

Try some new approach to making your mark, find the creative angle and start playing again so you’ll remind yourself of why you picked up the pencil in the first place.

We have the rare privilege of working in a medium that is inherently fun, regardless of a day’s particular struggle.

Art is indeed a discipline but the word “discipline” is NOT a synonym for “punishment.”

Subscribe & Get My FREE Digital Painting Kit!

[ I will never spam you or share your information ]

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott Wiser



Lauren Chaikin




Tortured by another dream unmet! And so the artist drops the brush, and yet… the canvas waits like stalking death. Oh, still life on the table, go in peace, peeled and quartered by the starving owner without payment for his masterpiece. So much the better as clay from bedded river tastes not as sweet. 😉



I love this so, so, so much. Keep being awesome.


Michael Dambold

This is so true! Discipline is the key to dreams fulfilled.


Brandt Hardin

I couldn’t agree more. By not relying on my art for a living, it’s my enjoyment at the end of the day- my time, which makes my work freer to not be tied down by convention. Nice post Chris!


Chris Oatley

Nice. Thanks, Brandt!


Teresa Murphy

This is something I’ve been struggling with for a while. I’ve realized that just because you CAN do a particular style doesn’t mean you HAVE to. When I first picked up the pencil, I was doing something way different than I am now. It’s almost scary to think how many directions I went because I actually felt guilty about what I wanted to really be doing.



Man, what a wake-up call. I was doing all the guilt-ridden portfolio and networking stuff, and forgot that making art can actually be FUN. Man oh man.


Warrington Carter

When narcissistic, self indulgent noise intrudes upon me, I try to ignore it. This noise, however, was a little too shrill to ignore.

‘Artistic success’ is the ability to make a living off doing what you want to do, and not having to hold down a 9 to 5 drone job. And there’s nothing wrong with that; in fact it’s an admirable goal. But it’s not about the art. Never has been. Pretend to the masses if you must, but let’s not lie amongst yourselves. ‘Art’ has nothing to do with it.



I tend to agree with Chris’s notion that ‘artistic success’ is uniquely self-defined. My personal belief is that you achieve that success when you achieve goals you set for yourself.

It also depends on the context of the definition. I think if an artist makes a living from his art and doesn’t have to rely on a “normal” job, then he or she is successful in my mind.

On the other hand, is the Mona Lisa an artistic success? I like to think so, even if Da Vinci worked at Wal-Mart when he painted it.


Joey McInnis

For a change of pace I tried designing medieval torture devices as if Mary Blair had made them for Cinderella. It was a fun change from my usual style.



I wish there was a way of seeing where I’d be in skills 3 years from now. It’s so hard to stay motivated when you can’t tell if you’ll improve.



Amen to this Mr. Chris. Most of the time this happens to me, thinking that I “have” to do this kind of subject or artwork because I need this to improve my portfolio etc. which is why I sometimes don’t get to do the works that I “want” to actually do. This is a great slap to the face that art should be fun. Man, I almost forgot that.


Steph M R Raghavan

Possibly one of my favourite posts of yours, Chris. Thanks for the inspiration once again! 😀


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: