I just returned from a 3 day conference that focused on entrepreneurs and people starting small business. While there I had several realizations that are proving to be major game changers for my art practice, and now I’d like to share them with you.
Watch the video to see what I learned, and let me know what you think. What realizations or revelations have you had about your art practice?
And it doesn’t feel so good. The real problem, however, is that this discontent sometimes never goes away. If we are not careful it can follow us around. It sits just out of sight with us in the studio when we are making our art and it even can follow us home if we let it.
Never feeling good enough is pervasive. Lots of people have this feeling.
It takes time to change this habitual way of thinking. But it is worth it if it even partially brings back the joy, and the ease of making your art again. If we can, then there exists the real possibility of bringing amazing, personal artwork into the world. This issue, this feeling of not being happy with where we are presently, needs some attention.
Here is how I like to reframe the narrative so that I can feel more content with where I am…
There is a very, very long road. It starts at the bottom of a valley and gradually winds its way up hills and then, eventually, it goes all the way to the very tip top of the mountain.
This pathway or road represents the entire creative journey you may take in your life. When you start exploring the possibility of making art you are in the very beginning. As one climbs this pathway the view becomes greater. The experience is heightened because it is more expansive in beauty and vistas the higher you go. You can see more and more. It can take years, decades, a lifetime even to climb this road.
The most fantastic thing is to be on the road. It doesn’t matter where you are on the road, only that you are on it. Some people are further up the road and others are further down the road. Your place on the road has more to do with time spent walking, not talent. Even though the road slowly gets better the further along the road you go, you don’t want to short change yourself by magically appearing someplace further up the road than where you are right now.
Each and every step forward is to be savored, because you will never get to move through this part of the road again. You get to do each part only once in your lifetime. You never get to go backwards. Only forward.
Here are just a few of the first steps possibly encountered along this path:
The first time you realize you can make art, the first time someone that matters loves what you have made, the first time it feels hard then incredibly easy, the first time you have a show or you give something you made away as a gift, the first time you teach someone something you have learned, the first time you get interviewed, your first solo show, and especially the unforgettable moment when for the first time, you know in your heart of hearts, that you are an artist
There are of course infinite steps you get to take but the most important thing to remember is that you don’t want to miss any of them.
The value of the next step you are about to take or discover is in part determined by the prior step.
So in this scenario, if you can imagine wherever you are on the road right now, then why would you feel you want to be anywhere else? The reason you are not at mile 50 is because you are only at mile 25. It has nothing to do with talent, lucky breaks, tailwinds, money etc.
What has helped me is to take all my dissatisfaction, my impatience and all the limiting negative thoughts about where I think I ought to be and re focus back to what I am making and where I am right now. Not surprisingly, this frees up a lot of energy, which now can be channeled back into your art.
So if you feel that sinking feeling of judgment or dissatisfaction creeping back in, take a breath and re look at what you are making right now. Take a chance, re commit to making it the best thing you have ever made so far. Savor this moment, this opportunity because it actually will never be here again in this certain way.
Do you sometimes feel dissatisfied too? What do you do about it?
In my efforts to become a better teacher, I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading on how people learn. What I’ve discovered is that there are basically 4 stages of learning, each of which presents their own challenges and opportunities.
Which stage are you at? Watch the video and let me know!
I’ve recently had a change in how I think about my work when it is not going as well as I want it to. This change has helped me regain control of my creative process and has made it so much easier to paint.
Take a moment to watch the video, and let me know how you stay in control of your work.
As artists, there are always distractions; maybe your work is not progressing how you would like it to, or perhaps your show didn’t go as well as you expected – what is important to remember is that in the end it all comes down to your work. As long as you are producing and developing your art practice, you will get to where you want to go.
In life, it is important that we remain open to different experiences, just like in art. And as we absorb those new experiences we grow as people, and in turn so does our art. The two are inextricably connected.
In keeping with this theme, I have put together a list of differences into a free downloadable PDF; I keep this list close by when I am painting and often look to it for inspiration. Hopefully it will help you along in your artistic practice as well. Just click the link below to get your free downloadable PDF.
The answer to this question, for me, has never been entirely clear. I made art as a child because I loved getting lost in my imagination. As I grew older, as fewer and fewer of my friends continued with art, I know I liked the attention. It made me feel different from everyone else. I felt valued which, when you are growing up, is especially important.
But as one matures and grows older these reasons become less sustaining. If you happen to find yourself still making art some 15-25 years later, eventually one does have to ask and ponder the simple question why?
The answer to this question seems to become more nuanced over time I still am not entirely sure why I love to make art, however it is becoming clearer the more art I make. So maybe this question is answered by the progression of one’s art making. Maybe, if we understood the “why” from the very beginning it would not be such a seductive inquiry.
It is difficult to always know our “why”. However, there are clues. Practically every decision in your art making is made by a simple yes or no. Often these are intuitive. A choice between a color, a shape or a direction in your art that can be made just on the basis perhaps of what feels right to you.
The sum total of all these yes’s, in the end, culminates with your finished artwork. It is also the reason that your artwork becomes more and more unique. The somewhat repeating pattern of yes’s and no’s is what gives artists that much sought after “style” or individual distinction.
As the work becomes more clarified, I believe the answer, the “why,” becomes clarified too. We just have to trust that even though the answer is not evident now, in time, by the making of our art, it will be.
What is your Why?
When I’m at the beginning stages of a painting and deciding where to go next, I first try to figure out what I like about the piece. I then do the opposite of what I like about that piece – it’s a great way to move forward when you’re looking for a little inspiration.
What do you do when you’re stuck?
I’ve found that I tend to paint in increments of 4 to 6 hours at a time. With my newest body of work, however, I decided to do something different: I started to limit myself to 2 to 3 hours per day. I discovered that this focused me, and allowed me to push my work in some exciting new directions.
Do you like to work in short or long bursts? Or do you find it changes? I’d love to know.
Have you ever noticed that when you are making your art and it is all working out that it is almost as if you are not entirely there? You are driving the bus but it seems like you do not have to try very hard. Almost like it is driving itself. Art making sometimes can feel that easy.
I love it when that happens but it rarely stays that way for long. If I overthink and concentrate too much I lose that ability to just let the art unfold naturally. Instead it feels hard and somewhat forced.
I realize I tend to tighten up when I am over focusing on a new technique or, perhaps, trying something I haven’t before. It seems like the making of the art just goes slower. It becomes more effortful.
However once I have learned that new something, once I have done it a few times it starts to become second nature again. I think it just takes time to integrate new information. And then I start to get those days that art making feels super easy again. It is like I am not even trying.
It reminds me of how I did things as a child. I remember just naturally getting involved in something, following my curiosity wherever it wanted to lead me. There was no agenda. No particular reason to do anything except for the simple joy of doing it. Everything was approached that way.
This is actually how I wandered into art in the first place. It was simply enjoyable.
I found this quote the other day by Pablo Picasso “It takes a long time to become young”
Which got me to thinking.
Maybe that is why it feels so refreshing to occasionally get totally in sync with our creativity. When our art just flows. It feels good, especially now, as busy adults with a world of concerns and long to do lists following us around. Maybe when we fall into that easy place where art making is simply effortless it is a reminder of what is still possible. The way it is supposed to be. Or rather the way it all started out being in the first place when curiosity and joy were simply enough.