Beginning a painting of any kind of artistic expression is always hard. It is like that blank page when nothing has been written yet. The emptiness can be intimidating. It scares me sometimes. Personally, I would prefer to begin with something that has already been started.
Everyone has a way of approaching his or her work, especially when they are just beginning. I would like to share with you how I approach my work, as it might be helpful to your practice. It has not only allowed me to make my work faster, it has also made the work stronger and the overall creative process more enjoyable.
It has to do with the central idea of being Bold in the beginning.
This sounds simple enough, but I have to always remind myself to be expressive in ways that are possibly bigger, more colorful or more different than I ever have before, especially in the beginning.
There are 3 reasons why.
#1 You are not attached
In the beginning you are not attached. Remember you are not getting married at this stage, just dating. Don’t fall in love. If you don’t you can change your work more easily. This flexibility is exactly what is required so that whatever you might have a hunch about making, some new angle or direction, can have a chance to be realized. It is simple: big risks and big changes don’t feel so big if there is not much to lose.
#2 You can be curious
If you find yourself able to be curious by what is happening in front of you, this is a good sign that you are entering a new unseen kind of terrain. This state of being interested and woken up by experiencing something new in your art heralds the first blush of Change. This Change almost always ends up improving your art. It is the gold standard, the highest bar an artist can achieve in their practice.
#3 You cannot go too far
Students have often asked, “ How far can I push my work?” I now believe, from firsthand experience in my own practice, that you almost never can go too far. Instead of driving the car quickly around the curvy mountain road, push yourself so much that you drive the car right off the cliff…then and only then will you know the limits of what is possible. Then – and this is an important point – you can pull back just a little so that the work is stable, but still on the edge of going too far. This is right smack dab where we want our work to be. Powerful work is to the max. There is nothing left unused. Remember that it is way easier to come back slightly than it is to creep tentatively forward in our work.
In the beginning of making Art there are few consequences from going too far. The only risk it seems to me is that in the beginning we don’t go far enough. Then our foundation, our starting place, is left somewhat half-baked. Trying to continue on with art that is only giving you half of its potential is exhausting. It is super hard to rescue your work from mediocrity the further down the road you go.
Art making, after all, is our practice. It teaches us about the intertwining of life and our art. In both, we need to step up, again and again – even if it is scary. Go for what you want, especially in the beginning. The two words I have on my studio wall remind me of this every time I make my art: “Don’t settle”
Note: “You are not marrying, only dating” is a quote from my financial mentor Tyrone Jackson. He uses this hilarious phrase to point out flawed attachments to certain equities, companies that one invests in. I see this advice perfectly relates also to art making.
In gratitude, Nicholas