One Thing At A Time

Do you try to infamously “multi-task” or do you have the steely eyed discipline of a Marine on Ritalin?

As a business owner and artist I am constantly running around like a firefighter trying to extinguish a full blaze, a pile of orangey-blue glowing embers or just putting some matches back that have fallen out of the box. Often times, jumping from one to the other. This is a great article by Keith Bond over at with some advice about how approaching your day like this is not only ineffective but can also be exhausting. – Eric Martin Schmidt

Put the Fire Out

by Keith Bond

This article is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

A forest fire was blazing out of control.  Many acres had burned and the fire was continuing to grow.  Firefighters were called in from across the nation to help battle the blaze.  They were spread out around the perimeter of the fire, trying to contain it.  But to no avail.  As hard as they worked, they simply could not make any progress.

Finally, the Fire Chief realized why.  All of these brave men and women were fighting this fire.  But there commission was not to fight it, but rather to put the fire out.  This simple change of focus made all the difference.  And it prompted a change of tactics.

Instead of being spread all around the perimeter, the Fire Chief concentrated the effort to one area at a time.  With much more man-power and a concerted effort in a smaller area, they were soon able to contain that portion of the fire.  They then moved on; working together to contain the next area.  And so on until the entire fire was completely contained.

There is a parallel with your art.

Let’s let the fire represent the areas which need improvement – both with art itself and with your business.  If you are like me, there are plenty of areas in which you need to improve.  It is a lifelong endeavor – that is, if you wish to continue growing as an artist.

Some of the areas might include:  proficiency with your medium, color theory, drawing, composition / design, value relationships, texture, mood, harmony, rhythm, meaning, etc.  Some of the business tasks that need improvement might be:  organization, bookwork, marketing, writing, talking about your art, following-up with clients, managing time, maintaining your website, etc.

Throughout my career I have frequently identified areas which I need to work on.  Much like the firefighters, I concentrate my efforts on one thing at a time – seeing value relationships, for example – until I feel that I have that fundamental “contained.”  I then moved on to something like color theory or composition.  By focusing on one thing at a time, I make quicker progress.  Whenever I attempt containing too many fronts at a time, I struggle and get frustrated.  Little progress is made.

When a fire is contained, it is not extinguished yet.  It is still burning within the containment line.  That line serves as a barrier around the circumference to prevent it from spreading in unwanted directions.  Once it is entirely contained, the fire crews can then work within the containment lines to control the blaze.

Likewise, some level of “containment” in art and business principles does not mean that you have “put the fire out”.  Mastery of all there is to learn – to totally extinguish the fire – takes more than a lifetime.

Although I have reached a certain level of proficiency in several of the principles of art, I find myself returning to them over and over.  There is always more to learn – more work to be done.  I may have contained the fire, now I need to work on controlling it.

And I hope I never put the fire out.

Best Wishes,

Keith Bond
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