» Child Prodigy of Painting, Photography, or Mastering Composition

Child Prodigy of Painting, Photography, or Mastering Composition


If a child prodigy starts seriously training on the piano at the age of 4 (think Mozart) and he trains one hour per day for the next 13 years, weekends included, by the time he is 17 he will be pretty damn good…right? He will likely be making a living off of all of his hard work by then. As long as he continues training and learning new skills from new musical masters. Of course this can be applied to our painting or photography, or mastering composition. This can be true for any craft for that matter. The more we study and apply our skills, the greater we will become. That’s the obvious part. Though, not all of us were fortunate enough to start so young and some of us are just finding ourselves. So how do we catch up?

Math Can Solve Anything…Even for Artists

Well, they say math can solve anything, so let’s crunch some numbers. If Mozart did in fact practice for only one hour a day for 13 years, he would have accumulated 4,745 hours (365hrs x 13yrs = 4745hrs). I’m sure he did plenty more to master composition (a different type of composition), but for this example we’ll go with these numbers. So, back to our question, how do we catch up?? Easy, we work on our art for more hours during the day than he did. Work on your painting or photography four hours per day and you will catch up to him in 3.25 years (4,745 hrs ÷ 4 hrs=1,186 hrs, 1,186 hrs ÷365 days =3.25 yrs). If you are lucky enough to work on your art 8hrs a day every year, then you will catch up to him in 1.5 years!

Not sold on this idea to master composition, photography, or painting? Well, I certainly think it will improve your art dramatically…it has to! Aren’t we smarter than a 6 year old? Can’t we learn and understand composition at a quicker rate than a 6 year old or even an 18 year old? The older you get, the more experience and wisdom you gain which can be applied to your painting or photography. You have an advantage over young Mozart…you’re not easily distracted by tinker toys, video games, or cartoons (ok, maybe some of you are). The only disadvantage you have compared to young Mozart is time…but even he was robbed of time (died at age 35). You’re stuck working the factory job instead of living with your parents. You don’t have it easy like that anymore…you know, when mom folds your Superman undies and makes you Hamburger Helper Stroganoff with canned peas (YUM!). But even if you are stuck at your job, and there’s no way to reduce your hours, you can drink a cup of coffee (or two) after your shift, come home and learn composition or create your art. This will take some motivation and discipline on your part, but isn’t your photography worth it? Isn’t your painting worth it?

I Can’t, I Work Fulltime!

Let’s do the math! Say you are stuck at a full time job and only have weekends free. You can work at least one hour after your shift each day, and on the weekends you can work at least 5 hours and still have a social life and take care of chores. That’s 15hrs of week going to your art, which means 780hrs per year (15hrs x 52weeks). So if we use Mozart’s hours of 4,745 as the magic number and divide by 780hrs, we get approximately 6 years. This means you could reach that child prodigy status in roughly 6 years if you put in the time and dedication! Isn’t that something exciting to think about??! You could even reduce your hours by the third year if you wanted, then work even more on your art. How? Well, you’ll be good enough to teach your skill to others. Or you’ll be good enough to sell your art. Or you’ll be good enough to make money off of your art in some other way. Reduce your bills/debt within these 6 years and you can work even less at that mind numbing factory/corporate job!

My Artistic Goals

I did the math and figured I could dedicate at least 3hrs per weekday for drawing (something I want to dramatically improve on), then 1hr per weekend which equals 17hrs per week. This means in about 5yrs I should be very proficient with drawing if I stay dedicated and focused. I can probably increase my hours if I phase out street photography/editing/processing, but for now it brings too much joy in my life. Still weighing my options of what’s more important for my happiness. What makes you happiest? Is it photography, mastering composition, drawing, sculpting, painting?


Painting of “The Potato Eaters” by Vincent Van Gogh, 1885. His first major work.

Vincent Van Gogh created 2,100 works of art which include about 900 oil paintings. But get this, he did most of this work in a decade. That’s right! In 1866 ,when he was 13, he went to art school, but he didn’t really apply his skills until his late twenties. In 1885, before he knew how to fully master his compositions, he created his first major work called “The Potato Eaters.” Five years later he died! You see? It doesn’t take much time to create a remarkable body of work (5 years is my goal to be proficient at drawing, then maybe another 5 for painting…who knows). Just because art was in his family when he was growing up is not an excuse. You can’t keep making excuses for yourself or your art. “I wish I started that young,” or “That spoiled brat was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and hasn’t worked a day in his life.” Stop the hating, and get to working! Start today. Make a plan, crunch the numbers, stay dedicated, and learn the skills to create the remarkable art you were put on this earth for! Thanks for reading everyone, see you next time!

  • Jim

    This is a great article. I posted some comments on your Facebook page. Well done.

  • tavis

    Thanks Jim! Hope all is well, I’ll have to swing by your site soon and see what you’ve been up to. I’ll check my Facebook page, keep in touch!

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