I recently read The Alchemist, a novel by Paulo Coelho, published in 1988. The plot follows a young shepherd as he travels from Spain to Egypt to find buried treasure. But the book is really about finding one’s “Personal Legend”—your calling, your destiny.
And I couldn’t help but relate the book’s ideas back to the search for artistic style.
In the book, the main character meets a fortune teller. When he asks how she predicts the future, she replies:
“How do I guess at the future? Based on the omens of the present. The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better. Forget about the future, and live each day according to the teachings.”
This idea is core to my philosophy of art. We improve our art in the future by paying attention to our art today. We have to clear our heads of our worries and expectations of the future, so we can see the hidden treasure peeking through the art we’re making right now.
If we remain fixated on the mistakes we made in our art yesterday or the ambitions for our art tomorrow, we’ll never see the drawing (and what it can teach us) that’s right in front of us today.