Originally Posted by crafor
work to remember that the masters were massively talented to start, and attained that designation after years of apprenticeship and study, that MANY people who use this forum are terrifically talented, have been drawing and painting for years, many with good to great teachers, with hundreds—nay--thousands of hours of work, reading, studying, relearning, applying, and it just gets overwhelming. Over the last months I learned a few things. I'm beginning to remember them and apply them even if sporadically. I post some of my work in various fora because I can see a little better what really needs work. (FWIW, that's everything) I do see a bit of progress at times.
To cheer you up, there is a somewhat boring economics professor's book on art called Conceptual Revolutions in Twentieth-Century Art by David W. Galenson. If you have a chance to read it, do. It will allieviate your fears about not getting far enough fast enough, or also the whole erroneous concept that masters were geniuses at the get go and all sorts of things.
Galenson pinpoints 2 types of artists, the young genius type, and the lifelong tinkerer type. "Masters" actually fall into both categories. Many of the young genus type usually do their best work before age 29, and then fall off the map. The artists who have the most staying power are those like Georgia O'keefe, and Monet-- old geezers like myself.
Artists who get the most air time among art historians seem to be prodigious in youth, and often burn out quickly-- degenerating to self parody later in life based on one "concept" usually out of date by the time they are in their fifties.
The other kind slogs through, often giving up more lucrative "middle class" futures in order to play the game of art. Please get a more realistic view of what "all artists are like," because they are not really like each other at all, and not one "type" typifies or personifies all artists.
If by "old masters," you mean those who lived during ages of guilds, apprenticeships, and Papel commissions, please be aware that art has gone through multiple re-structurings and paradigm shifts since those ages. Galenson in his brilliant book also goes through this. Art and Galleries are very much linked but only post "Refueses" era, and even then, things were done differently. The gallery owner actually purchased works, usually at a bargain basement price from people like Van Gough (killing them, essentially, or driving them mad, and forcing them to live in poverty). The man who created modern galleries was Picasso. Those kinds of galleries are pretty rare today as well due to the internet. Art is a bit of a free for all now, with some people going traditional ways and others going with the internet sales and other ways. The art sales world continues to transition and morph. Various things are still relevant-- one is that you must continue to produce work, whether it is privately or for sale.
Do not despair. Another book I would recommend is Nassim Nicholas Taleb's "Black Swan." This is another economy book. The reason I think you should read it is to become aware that there are certain "jobs" where there is a long, hard plodding journey ahead, lots of pitfalls and dead ends, and only a few people actually come out "super successful." Taleb identifies various Black Swan type industries, and one of them is Art.
In conclusion: Continue to move forward and experiment. Like many have said, it is a path and commitment. To some it is less than to others. Age does not matter, the work matters. True success in the arts has to do with the influence you have over other artists-- whether your work is looked upon favorably, and you are seen as a role model and predecessor.
One thing I have learned through time, is that an artist should know that not everything will work out. There is a lot of disappointment. Learning how to identify the thing that is not perfect, does not fit, is part of the artistic process.