Thursday, June 11, 2009

Paradigm Shift Required

In Malcolm Gladwell's new book "Outliers" he examines the difference between talented piano players and merely competent students. The explanation is extraordinary players are not in fact "gifted" but have practiced much more. He asserts, 10,000 hours of polishing is required to shine in your chosen field. He gives several more examples of people who've spent 10k honing their skills. You can probably think of some as well, like Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky, Paul McCartney....

10,000 hours is Wow!!! That's 3 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 10 years!

My question is, does a balanced lifestyle including, career, exercise, walking the dogs, charity, gardening, friends, family, and most importantly spending time with my wife, mean i can never be more than a jack of all trades concerning my passions of real estate investing, photography, and painting?

If the hours in the day that remain after the balanced lifestyle is my spare time, are there 9 hours a day to devote to 3 hobbies? Maybe if i don't sleep.

If i want to keep all three hobbies, I'm going to have to compromise on the hours in the day devoted to each field. This is the frustrating conclusion. It's frustrating because i know i'd be much better at any of the three things if i wasn't spending time on the other two.

Lately i've been spending more time painting. The reason is to replace works that are selling in the silent auction to raise money for the Alberta Cancer Foundation. Since i've been painting more, it's obvious my skill is improving. I'm over the moon that my painting is better. It's tremendously rewarding, and yet the exciting part is i haven't even made a dent in 10,000 hours of painting. I can't imagine what my artwork will look like in 10 years.

But of course, because i've been painting more, i've been shooting less. That means my photography portfolio isn't growing, and that income stream isn't growing. Income aside, as a photographer, i'm also stagnating. New lighting techniques, compositions, equipment and special effects aren't being mastered. A growing, yet neglected list of people who want to be shot is frustrating.

What If i spent more time looking for great real estate deals? What would that mean? Probably i'd find more sweetheart deals. Looking for and analyzing deals is something i really enjoy, and besides the fun aspect, there are pretty big kickbacks that are hard to ignore.

One creative option, might be to focus exclusively on buying real estate and retire early, and thereafter shoot and paint to my hearts content. If gardening and watching hockey are sacrificed now, the timeline to retire could be even shorter. If i stopped wasting time walking to work and stayed awake longer drinking espresso coffee every night, who knows how short i could make that timeline to retire and start painting? On the other hand, maybe after 10 years of no gardening, no hockey, no walking and staying up late drinking espresso, i won't feel like painting. Maybe i'll just feel like sleeping?

Currently i'm prioritizing the balanced life, and all three pastimes. It may be impossible to achieve 10,000 hours in 10 years for any hobby by keeping all three, but hopefully i can find happiness long before shining in my field. Perhaps all i really need, instead of an extra 6 hours in the day, is a paradigm shift. To focus attention on the joy i've found in the first few hundred hours investing, shooting and painting, and not how very far i am from being 10 years older.

Monday, June 8, 2009


I feel like i had a pretty productive weekend, painting-wise. The weather was crap, so it's an easy decision to stay indoors. And we didn't have any pressing business to take care of, so painting was at the top of the agenda.

I'm feeling more and more confident with my ability to control the paint and my results. I used to be under the impression that if something initially didn't look just right, it was a lost cause and overworking the paper and paint made just an ugly mess. Now i'm realizing how malleable the medium really is. I think making the concertive effort to paint is paying dividends.

Malcolm Gladwell asserts in his new book "Outliers" that mastery of a skill takes about 10,000 hours. He used an example of young piano players and differentiating between the ones who appeared to be truly gifted and those that were merely proficient. People assumed that a few players had a gift or genetic advantage over the proficient piano players, but further investigation reveals the "gifted" players had practiced much more than the others, at least 10,000 hours says Gladwell.

Jackie Chan asked me why i'd been making so many little paintings lately. I wanted some little ones in case people were starting their search at with lower prices, and if i had offerings at those prices, it would at least get them into my shop and some exposure to the bigger higher priced paintings. The big painting alone in the shop wasn't getting any viewings. I also wanted to use the smaller ones to practice and quickly experiment with less paper expense.

Sunday i decided to make a big one because making larger paintings is quite different than how quickly little ones are done and i should also practice making the big ones.

I started by taping a 20 x 24 sheet of 140 lb Strathmore paper to my clip board. I used the brown gummed tape rather than the green painters tape because i tried to stretch the little sheets last week and they still buckled and waved when wet and later dried buckled when i used the green painters tape to stretch the paper. The little sheets were of only 90 lb paper stock so being lighter weight might have also limited the ability to resist waving. This big painting on 140 lb Stratmore paper didn't wave, so i'll have to try the brown gummed tape on the lighter paper to see if it's the paper or the tape that matters.
I made a rough sketch referring to a photo i took at the beginning of March of a carabao in the Philippines. I dived right in painting all the negative areas with black paint. My new confidence that i could re-shape it later no matter if i started with the light areas or the darks took the painting quickly to the tone i wanted it to be.

When i got to this point it was starting to become clear that i'd never be satisfied with a photo realistic "Robert Bateman" kinda painting, and that spending the hours necessary to paint each and every plant leaf wasn't how i wanted to paint either.

I used the cellophane film AGAIN, yes. But this time i think it was really appropriate because lying the film in the wet paint and then shaping the wrinkles to curve the way i want really resulted in a natural plant like impression.

It looks pretty much done to me, although i might thin the girl's snout and perhaps make the foreground rise again on the right? And sign it.