A man can be an artist in anything. Food! Whatever! It depends on how good he is at it. Creasy’s art is death. He’s about to paint his masterpiece.Paul Rayburn, “Man on Fire”
One of my favorite movies is “Man on Fire” with Denzel Washington, Christopher Walken, and Dakota Fanning. In this scene, Christopher Walken’s character, Paul Rayburn, is talking to Mexican Police Detective Miguel Manzano, played by Giancarlo Giannini.
Paul Rayburn and John Creasy, Denzel Washington, are former CIA operatives, and Pita Ramos, Fanning, is a young girl who has recently been killed in a kidnapping attempt. Creasy was her bodyguard and is now out for revenge against the killers.
Manzano, knowing Creasy is set on revenge, is talking to Rayburn, trying to understand who Creasy is and what he will do when Rayburn drops one of my favorite movie lines. Fast forward in about 1:02.
“A man can be an artist in anything!” Wow this line got my attention. I believe it’s true!
What is an artist?
When we think about artists we think about musicians, painters, sculptors, songwriters, novelists, and/or singers. But what about landscapers, hair stylists, chefs, teachers or even leaders? I’d argue some athletes are artists.
I looked “artist” up in the dictionary and one of the definitions is, “a person skilled at a particular task or occupation”. That’s pretty broad, right?
So how do we become an artist in our task or occupation? Let’s dive a little deeper.
When I think about artists Leonardo da Vinci is always top of mind. Walter Isaacson wrote a biography of da Vinci that was published in 2017. In his book Isaacson said that what made da Vinci a creative genius was his desire to know everything that was known about every subject that was knowable.
Leonardo da Vinci had the same curiosity as a 10 year old that we all have, but the difference is he never got over it! He spent his life learning about the things that made him curious! Many of us believe that once we graduate high school or college our learning is over, when in fact, your learning has just begun.
The good news for us is we live in the age of the Internet. There is more information available than at any other time in human history, and a huge portion of it is free. We can get books in hard copy or digitally; there are online courses at sites like udemy.com; podcasts; webinars; and of course YouTube. And all of the things I just mentioned are literally at the tips of our fingers.
If you want to be an artist, become a continuous learner and learn as much as you can about your craft.
Find a Mentor
I used to think that artists were just naturally gifted, and some are. I know a guy who picked up a guitar one day and he could just play. No lessons, no teachers, nothing!
But most have teachers, coaches, and/or mentors. I bet you didn’t know that even the great master Leonardo had a mentor. I’m not saying that he didn’t have natural talent or things that made him unique. We already talked about his curiosity and desire for learning, traits that I don’t believe are taught, but he did have a mentor.
Andrea del Verrocchio was the master of a workshop in Florence. Verrocchio was a painter, goldsmith, and sculptor, and he mentored a number of important painters from the time including da Vinci.
Again, the internet gives us an advantage. We can find in person mentors (I could write a whole article on that), but mentors can also be people that we follow online. Some of my mentors are Mark Divine, Jocko Willink, Chad Wright, and Aaron Walker among others. Although I have met some in person they mentor me through their books, podcasts, and online courses.
If you want to be an artist, find a mentor.
Right after I started training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Clark Gracie, multi-time World Champion and member of the Gracie family, came to my school to give a seminar. At the end of the seminar Clark told us that we would learn from the teachers at our school, our training partners, and teachers like him who come in and do seminars. He told us that as we learned from different teachers we would take a little knowledge from each and begin to create our own style. “That’s what makes us martial artists”, he said!
That was another “A-HA” moment in my life. I had heard the term “martial artist” many times but now it made sense to me. And I saw how Clark’s wisdom could be applied in other areas.
For example, if leadership is my art, as I learn about leadership through books, podcasts, courses, and as I listen to my mentors on the subject, I begin to take little pieces of knowledge from each and create my own leadership style.
If you want to be an artist, create your own style.
Put It Into Practice
I’ve written a lot so far about learning, but we must practice our art! Learning is no good until we put it into action. Take MASSIVE action and implement what you are learning. You’ll make mistakes! There are times when you are likely to fail! Failure is part of the process and teaches us valuable lessons. If we fail, we try something different after we have evaluated the reason we failed and the process repeats.
It’s hard to argue Steve Jobs was not an artist. If you remember Jobs was fired from Apple before he eventually came back and created his greatest masterpieces. What if the fear of failure would have prevented Jobs trying again? We likely wouldn’t have iPhone, iPad, and some of the other Apple creations that have changed our world.
We can also make small changes along the way if something we try doesn’t work out quite the way we want it to. One of the most interesting paintings attributed to Leonardo da Vinci is the “Salvator Mundi”. This painting was lost to history apart from copies that had survived through the years.
Then in the late 2000’s an artist was restoring what she believed to be a copy of the painting when she discovered the thumb of Christ’s right hand had been moved from its original position, a small tweak that would have only been made by the original artist! The Lost Leonardo had been discovered.
If you want to be an artist put what you’ve learned into practice.
So if you want to be an artist shift your mindset. Any task or occupation can become an art. Be a continuous learner, find some mentors, create your own style, and practice. You’ll be the Leonardo da Vinci of your trade.
I’m interested to hear what your art is! I hope it’s not death!
Leave your comments below or feel free to contact me directly.