Becoming an artist: Lesson 2–Paint!

In the previous blog I talked about the process of becoming an artist and how it starts with “believing” that you are an artist and “behaving” like one.  Yesterday I was watching KungFu Panda, and it is such a great film, as it reminds you about the “special ingredient” which is to believe in yourself.  So, what’s next?  Well, the second lesson of this year is:

Lesson 2:

“Don’t get it perfect, get it painted”

I am borrowing this phrase from my friend Alison Stowell, who also took it from her colleague G. Burrell, in relation to writing: “don’t get it right, get it written.” And this makes me think so much about the amount of time we artists spend “imagining” paintings, drawing from dreams, visions, ideas, plans, schemes… and how sometimes the fear of not doing it perfectly makes us procrastinate. Ah! I am an expert in procrastination. Somehow I always find an excuse for not starting painting… I have all sort of rituals as I love to clean my desk/studio once a project is finished, like a clear slate for the next to come. If only I were going to paint for a minimum of 15 minutes everyday, I’d tell you! I would have finished all my “imaginary” projects.  Nothing wrong with planning, imagining and making notes; but it is only by getting messy in the studio that art is done! And as all of us know, by painting you get into the “zone”, you meditate, you dream and you are! How many times after running out of excuses I go down to the studio and when I am there… oh joy! oh playfulness… why it took me so long to get painting?

But somehow I try to sabotage myself into thinking so much and second guessing.  What do I have to lose?  Nothing! Am I risking lives or money in doing this? Not really… so?

Anyway, because I know myself I have come to a number of little strategies to get me painting:

beetles and flowers-8 copy - Version 6Engage into 30 Days project. Last year I started with a 30 day project called 1-Bug-1 Day. It was so lovely to be painting bugs, or rather beetles one each day for 28 days to be exact. Beetles are small but oh boy, they have lots of work. I wanted to do them for two reasons: because I’ve been meaning to do them for years, and secondly, because it was a good way to “warm up” in the day. Little by little I got them and at the end I made a nice painting and also I got them as individual illustrations that later I transformed into lovely greeting cards.

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Work in Series:  This is a key advice from my friend Charmaine Lenisa and repeated several times in the Abundant Artist podcasts. It has three main advantages: firstly, it allows you to explore a topic, look an issue from different perspectives and learn more from it; secondly, it gives to your work much more body and weight, as it gives continuity and professionalism to what you do; and thirdly, at the end of the process you will have a good amount of paintings: some good, some not that fantastic, but you will have grown with them! I loved working in the series of Frida and Me, and also, the ongoing series of Our Garden of Everyday

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Chain sketching:  I try to keep my sketchbook with me at all times, but specially when I travel or when I attend an exhibition. When I travel it allows me to register what is going on, and make quick notes. This year I decided not to take pictures but to make sketches, because photographs -for me personally- do not help me to capture the moment, they are ‘fake’ memories, as I am not really grasping them through pen and paper. And these sketchbooks are my language, my identity, my real treasures!

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Attend some courses:  This has two main purposes: one obvious that is to improve your skills… perhaps you think you know so much, but there is always something to improve; second, to make special time out of your “painting projects” to get some room, take some air and bring those skills to the daily practice. This year I went into the Still Life course with Mike Skidmore and that was amazing. Also, Lesley Longworth kindly gave me a lot of lessons on portraiture, and that was an amazing learning!

Ravel - Prussia Cove

Warm up with doodles or zentangles:  This has been another key discovery, thanks to the great Ann Rippin! Zentangles are a combination of “zen” and “doodling” and it is a sort of graphic tiles (or tales!).  It is simply bliss to do repetitive patterns and at the end there is always something nice to show up. See the Music of Prussia Cove

Make your rituals, clean your desk, take notes, collect your books, make a cuppa, whatever… just go and paint!

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