Tm Gratkowski: Why Creative Mastery Is More Than the 10,000-Hour Rule [Podcast]
What sets professional artists apart from amateurs? 10,000 hours of practice is the common rule of thumb, popularized by author Malcolm Gladwell in his bestseller Outliers: The Story of Success. Today’s guest, multidisciplinary artist Tm Gratkowski, believes that 10,000 hours is the minimum when it comes to achieving creative mastery.
On today’s podcast episode, host and NOT REAL ART founder Scott “Sourdough” Power sits down with Tm to discuss the Chicago artist’s commitment to mastering multiple creative skill sets within his artistic practice. “I always say that 10,000 hours is for amateurs,” he tells Scott early in the interview. “It’s just the beginning. You've got to multiply that by 10 if you're ever going to get to a level that it’s in your interest to aspire to.”
Working as an architect and art framer, Tm, like many successful contemporary artists, supports himself with a diverse range of services. In his studio practice, he uses paper to create large and small-scale sculptures, collages, and even installations. Tm’s work is chaotic, colorful, and detail-oriented, suggesting a preference for tactile, easily manipulated materials. “I break [an idea] down, make it bend my way,” he says, “and then use that to create.”
In this episode, Tm shares his philosophy on developing a diverse set of skills, embracing discomfort as part of the process, and why he chooses to identify as a creative thinker rather than a multidisciplinary artist. We also discuss the many facets of an artist's DNA, the pressure many artists feel to find a “practical” angle for their creative practice, and how Tm finds time for work-life balance, given his thoughts on the 10,000-hour rule.
Above all, Tm wants artists to recognize the hard work they put in to get where they are. “Snoop Dogg received a big award recently,” he tells Scott. “In his speech, he said, ‘I'd like to thank myself for all the years of struggle and hard work. I did it all myself to get here.’ That is me. Whether or not that's working hard or smart, it takes a lot to do it. You’re wearing many hats.”