5 Things to Help Make Painting Easier
1. BE KIND TO YOURSELF
The mind can be likened to a muscle. Whatever we feed it, grows. If you have made a habit of being critical with yourself about your work, you've created a strong muscle. Begin today to exercise acceptance and compassion towards yourself and watch these attitudes grow.
The next time someone compliments your painting, say: "Thank you." That's it! This sounds simple, but for most of us, this is extremely hard. Restrain from interjecting your stories, traumas, fears and insecurities into the mix and completely take away from the viewer's experience.
Abstract Expressionism is about allowing the viewer to derive their own interpretation from the work. So let them! If someone sees beauty in your painting, allow them the experience.
2. DON'T WORRY ABOUT BEING PERFECT
One of my favorite stories about perfection and the the importance of quantity over quality:
"The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work produced, all those on the right side solely on its quality.
His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pounds of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being rated on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot - albeit a perfect one - to get an “A”.
Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes - the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay."
You've probably heard of the 10,000 hour rule? According to Malcolm Gladwell, the author of a book called "Outliers" , it takes 10,000 hours (10 years) of intensive practice to achieve mastery of complex skills and materials.
Where are you in your process?
For context: I have been a professional, full-time painter for almost 14 years. On average, I paint 80 canvases a year. 14 years x 80 paintings per year = 1,120 canvases. That's quite a bit! Remember, don't be so hard on yourself.
3. SET REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS
Take a moment to identify your expectations. How are your expectations influencing your process? I'm not suggesting that having expectations is a bad thing, I'm just saying expectations influence your process. For example, when you want to paint something "beautiful" to hang inside your home, this expectation inevitably makes some colors "good" and other colors "bad".
Here's an exercise for you to try:
If you're having a hard time letting go of expectations, I invite you to take a sharpie and write the word "Fearless" on the back of your canvas. On that canvas, give yourself permission to experiment,play, have fun, make mistakes, and learn something in the process.
In fact, give yourself permission to paint something ugly and blame it on me! Tell whoever you have to explain yourself to, that you had an incredible (wink) teacher this weekend who gave you the assignment to make something ugly but to have fun, and learn something in the process. You got an A+. Spoiler Alert: More often than not, it is the "fearless" canvases we end up loving the most.
4. ENJOY THE PROCESS
One of my favorite spiritual teachers, Mr. Eckhart Tolle said: "When you no longer need your story to work out, it actually works quite well." I'm going to read the same quote but change one word: "When you no longer need your painting to work out, it actually works quite well." Can you feel the sense of surrender, release and allowance in this statement?
In order to create we need flow. Bewared that you don't create so much constriction that we choke the life out of the project. Practice awareness in every moment. Neither spending too much time in the past, or the future. Oftentimes, the process evolves into way better outcomes than the ones we had preconceived.
5. DON'T OVERTHINK THINGS
We were all born creative. Some of us just forgot. I'm not a mom, but my brothers and sister have wasted no time procreating. To date, I have 9 nieces and nephews and I've painted with nearly all of them. Kids are natural born creators. Give them a blank piece of paper, crayons or paint and they don't hesitate. They just begin. They work with their favorite colors, they are completely present in their bodies, they work quickly, they make a mess, they have fun, and they always know when they are finished either because they have really short attention spans or they just get bored and move to something else. I think that if we can channel these attitudes into our experience, we will be better for it.
This blog was created to share my belief that the art-making process is a catalyst for transformation and personal empowerment. I am living proof.