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Why Should You Have Mentors

Denise has been studying and teaching art and painting for 40+ years. She has won numerous prestigious awards for her art and design.

Pool Party Collage

Pool Party Collage

The 10,000 Hours Rule

Have you heard of it before? I was recently reminded of the 10,000 hours rule which basically says that you cannot hope for excellence or professionalism until you have put 10,000 hours into your chosen craft, whether that be writing, art, or music. As a very young artist, I was disturbed by this news. I felt at 20 I had arrived as an artist, but now at 66 I know I still haven’t. I’m sure I’ve put in the 10,000 hours necessary to call myself a professional but there is more to becoming an artist than that.

If you worked your craft 8 hours every day for 3.5 years you would have 10,220 hours in. However, few people can put in that kind of time without being independently wealthy. So say, if you put in 4 hours every day, Sunday and holidays included, you would have the 10,220 hours in seven years.

I believe that the 10,000 hours of practice is probably very accurate, at least in my case it holds true. I get better and better the more I practice and work at my craft. But what about those “one-hit wonders?” How do you explain Harper Lee who only spent 6 months writing To Kill a Mockingbird, which became an instant success and still is a classic? How do you explain people like Vincent Van Gogh, who only began to get close to the 10,000 hours when he died? Those can only be explained by exceptional genius. The rest of us must work at it.


There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.

— Sophia Loren

Sandcastles Collage

Sandcastles Collage

Something More

Along with those 10,000 hours, you need something more to become exceptional. You need a style, a unique voice, a fingerprint that no one else can duplicate. But where does that come from?

I believe you must build and hone your voice by studying other artists whom you admire. I practice every day but I also research other artists and see how they handled disappointment, challenges, and the art medium. I pick mentors I believe will enhance my craft and my voice. Why do writers need to read? Why do artists need to visit galleries? Why should musicians listen to other musicians play? The following is my reason why we should all do this.

Why Do We Need Mentors?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a mentor is a trusted counselor or guide. However, these days, they can be so much more than that. Most mentors are people who are in close contact to see or interact with you on a regular basis. Nevertheless, I’m stretching the meaning to include people you may never have met but have made a huge impact on your work, your life, or your thinking just by your studying their life and work. For example, I find the work and life of Bev Doolittle to be inspiring and motivating. I have never met her but she has several published books of her art and her life that have been a type of guide for me. She is one of many I would call a mentor.

Mary Delany's Rose Collage

Mary Delany's Rose Collage

Why Would We Want a Mentor?

With the lives of so many going before us who have paved the way and showed us what is possible, why would you want to ignore all that and flounder around in the dark searching for the right path? We are privileged to stand on the shoulders of some giants that should be our guides and inspiration. Of course, the future is uncertain and scary, but others have made it this far, why not follow their lead?

While I work on my collages, I find there are other artists who did amazing collage work before me. Mary Delany is one such artist from the 1800s. She created collages using watercolor paper and cutting them into perfect replicas of botanical flowers and herbs from her garden. Eric Carle is another collage artist who should be familiar to you. He created the illustrations for his book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar using cut pieces of paper he water-colored himself. He sold millions of books and in many languages and his legacy will live on beyond him. He will be sorely missed.

If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.

— Vincent Van Gogh

What Do You Get From a Mentor?

I get encouragement from the Mentors I have chosen. From Bev Doolittle’s biography­­­­­, I realized that the style she is so famous for didn’t come overnight. Basically, she stumbled upon it through a series of events she had little control over. I have loved the way she hides pictures in her pictures. From Mary Delany’s story, I found that her fame didn’t come until she was much older and had been honing her craft for decades. From Eric Carle, I have felt the freedom to collage with anything I want to because it is all art. Beatrix Potter is another illustrator of children’s books whom I admire. Her watercolor work is fabulous and she didn’t let the standard conventions of the day deter her from publishing her stories in the style and size she wanted for “little rabbit’s hands.” From Derek Gores, I have the freedom to choose my own subject matter and keep developing how I display it on paper. When I saw his artwork, I was inspired to do my first collages. From Holly Exley, I see how she deals with the freelance art community, billing, painting, getting commissions, and illustration work. She is a wealth of information and inspiration.

Where To Find a Mentor

Mentors are everywhere. You merely have to choose those you feel most drawn to. I have an artist friend, Holly Exley, who browses YouTube regularly to find new artists to follow and admire. She even promotes them on her social media channel. Some of them have styles and techniques completely different from hers and she admires them even more for it. I chose many of my favorites by browsing the art shelves of the local public library. Wherever you go for your mentors, do it consistently, once a week or once a month. There are always new artists popping up to inspire and amaze you. Don’t miss out on them.

We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we’ve established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.

— Earl Nightingale

Final Thoughts

Do you have mentors you admire in your chosen field of expertise? Do you read their work or view their talents often? If you don’t have any you admire right now, will you investigate getting some soon? I’d love to read your thoughts and advice in the comments below.

Artists Who Started Late in Life: Mary Delany

Artists Who Started Late in Life: Beatrix Potter

Comments

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 26, 2021:

Devika Primić,

By choosing who you will learn from, your education is unique to you and what you need. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 26, 2021:

Chitrangada Sharan,

I've always thought when we stop learning, we stop living. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 26, 2021:

Audrey Hunt,

Yes, I believe I have grown as well. Good point. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 26, 2021:

Mary Norton,

We can see further and reach new heights with so many helpful shoulders to stand on, can't we? Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 26, 2021:

Linda Lum,

Oh my, I think you said it better and more succinctly than I did. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 26, 2021:

Umesh Chandra Bhatt,

I'm glad you found it so. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 26, 2021:

Dora Weithers,

Yes, so many in my life have earned the title even if I didn't call them so in the past. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 26, 2021:

Rosina S Khan,

I'm glad you found so many mentors along the way. I didn't really appreciate how much my mother was my mentor until I left home. Now I find myself doing things and saying things the way she would. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 26, 2021:

Peggy Woods,

Oh yes, Bob Ross is a good example. He inspired so many to give it a try who may have been afraid before. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 26, 2021:

Bill Holland,

Bill, I have to say you are one of my writing mentors. I admire your accomplishments and love your writing style. Every book I have purchased is a jewel. Thanks for always commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 26, 2021:

Pamela Oglesby,

I appreciate you saying that. My daughter used to look at the word "mentor" as "watch dog" but I see them as someone to learn from not to slap my hand if I do something wrong. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on June 26, 2021:

Everything one wants to be good at requires practice A mentor is a great idea guide one to make that effort real. I follow what I know is best for me. Valuable points and useful thoughts.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on June 26, 2021:

An interesting article, with valuable thoughts.

I hadn’t heard about the 10,000 hours rule, but I do believe in the phrase that, ‘Practice makes a man perfect.’

While I didn’t have mentors, in the literal sense, but having mentors in specific fields is helpful indeed. I have always been a learner and keen observer, and that has helped me, for sure. I have learnt from my parents, my teachers, friends, relatives, and even my children.

Thank you for sharing this insightful article. It was an enjoyable read.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on June 25, 2021:

The mentors in my life have been a blessing. It is from my association with them that I grow.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on June 25, 2021:

There's so much to learn, and we find this out later when experience has taught us. I have so many mentors in my life, and because of them, I have attained a much more fulfilled life.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on June 25, 2021:

Denise, what a lovely reminder that (1) none of us know it all, (2) there is more than one way to do something, (3) God placed us here on Earth to help and support and love one another.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on June 24, 2021:

Very interesting article. Thanks.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on June 24, 2021:

I guess that I have had mentors without calling them so. I've interacted with teachers whom I a admire and certainly learned from. The same with writers. So I guess that I just need to confer the title.

Thanks for sharing your insights on the topic. I agree that we need mentors!

Rosina S Khan on June 24, 2021:

My father was my mentor all throughout my life until into the third year in the university when he passed away. After that my close friends were my mentors and we helped each other.

When I went to Germany for a master's degree, an old male friend in a distant city was my mentor. After that I resumed work as a faculty member in my university at home and I don't think I had any mentors then.

After coming to HP and taking my writing as a pastime, I think a couple of fellow writers who are established here are my mentors.

Yes, I agree, Denise having mentors is really helpful and pays off. Thank you for such an exquisite article.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 24, 2021:

We continue to learn throughout our lives if we only try. As you wrote, mentors can be people we know or others from which we can learn. Just think of the people that the televised artist Bob Ross has inspired to paint canvasses. You have obviously chosen your mentors well.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 24, 2021:

I have had mentors in the past. I can't really say I have one now. I'll have to give that some thought, but my initial reaction is no, I don't have one. Having said that, I completely agree with the 10,000 hour rule, and I completely agree with the points made in this fine article.

Blessings always, my friend!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 24, 2021:

As an RN I had mentors that taught me so many things I did not learn in college. I never heard of the 10,000 rule. This is a very interesting article, Denise. Being an artist is such a special calling, and I understand why you would admire some of those other artists

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