“… if in the process of doing [creative exercises] you don’t make at least one thing that you’re too embarrassed to show anyone, then you’re probably doing it wrong. As hard as it can be, the goal is to let go and let things flow. You’re likely to make some genuinely bad stuff along the way, but I’d wager that the benefits will end up outweighing all that.”
“One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around.” — Anne Lamott, from introduction to “Bird by Bird”
Substitute “painter” for “writer”.
Remember that “places” need not be far away, nor unfamiliar (think Monet and his pond).
A few days in the year, the view from my studio has snow in the foreground, not only on the hilltops of Harris, changing the dominant colours. And then it’s gone, thanks to the Gulf Stream, though it sometimes lingers in the sheltered field between the trees.
” Concentration is so hard to achieve, and even harder to maintain for hours. The key for me is to solve one set of problems at a time. I try to maintain a constructive level of dissatisfaction, and to hang in there until I really feel it can’t be improved.”
“Figure out what you want to commit to doing ahead of time. When it comes time to do it, your brain will start using that classic addict’s tactic of bargaining. Don’t let it negotiate. You decided already, no questioning that decision. Just do it. Let yourself revisit that decision later, after you’ve done it and when you’re in a place to decide, not when you’re facing discomfort and wanting to get out of it.”
Facing that “why did I think this was a good idea” moment when all I want to do is run away screaming silently, lasting through it, and coming out the other side more often than not pleasantly surprised that what had originally prompted me was right after all.
Such as my standing in for an artist friend who’d volunteered to do stone painting with kids at a charity stand at a big local summer event but then had a family emergency. I’d watched her Facebook post where she’d asked but no-one was offering (several people who might have were already doing something) and in the end I messaged her to offer. I didn’t tell anyone beforehand other than the in-house art critic so friends didn’t turn up just to see the unprecedented scene of me and a bunch of kids (or to find that anxiety had won and I’d left already).
As it turned out, it was an inspiring day. The kids who wanted to do the activity preselected themselves as interested in painting, and I persuaded most of their accompanying adults to have a go too. The latter’s joy in reconnecting with painting and making was infectious. I suspect many a set of acrylic paint markers were bought soon thereafter.
‘Leave yourself twice as much time as you think you need for a project, knowing that half of that may not look like “making” anything at all …creativity is unpredictable, and it simply takes time.
‘…When I am bird watching, a favorite pastime that is, strictly speaking, “unproductive,” I have noticed that my perception of time slows down. All of my attention is collected into a single focal point, kept there by fascination and genuine, almost unaccountable interest. This is the experience of learning that I want…’
“For centuries [colour] had been considered inferior in the hierarchy of the elements of art. By the end of the eighteenth century, however, colour had become a standard element in aesthetic discourse, teaching and academic publications
“… The influence of Newton and his followers, combined with the invention of many new pigments as well as watercolours in moist cake form, had made painting with colour an exciting occupation not just for serious artists but also for a much wider audience. The colour revolution had begun.”
Alexandra Loske, in “Colour: A Visual History”, p13
“A day spent painting or drawing en plein air is an all-encompassing experience of fluctuating light, weather and comfort levels. These conditions, along with an intense focus, result in work that tracks a dialogue between observation, memory and abstract mark making. Mark making is key — the ability to describe both emotional intent and observation in one mark.”
“With the development of landscape painting, there came new ways of seeing. Instead of always painting from the back to the front (such as sky, mountains, and then trees) the artist began to see that many times the backlight popping through and around an object forms the object.” Stephen Quiller, “Color Choices”, p111
Perhaps the easiest example of this is painting blue dashes of sky over the greens of tree leaves, rather than leaving gaps between leaves to let blue from a background show through.
“… there is nothing stopping you from giving your [paints] new names to suit your own outlook. And doing so may not only shift how you see them, it may change how you use them, and in effect how you see the rest of the colors around you when you take the time to pause, observe, and consider.”
The names Undersea Green, Moonglow, Shadow Violet, Lunar Black, Sleeping Beauty are poetical, generating a smile and evoking my imagination as I reach to dip my brush into them (and all actual watercolour colours by Daniel Smith).
I have mental images rather than words for some of my standard colours: cobalt blue is the colour of a snow shower on the sea, Prussian blue is a heavy rain shower, cadmium and lemon yellow are daffodil (separate but always together).
Take the pressure off yourself by regarding every painting (or, perhaps more realistically, most paintings) as part of the journey to mastering painting rather than every single piece having to be a completed journey by itself.
It’s not failure to stop working on a painting or drawing. It’s like setting out on a walk and then turning back when it starts pouring with rain rather than the hoped-for light showers; you just didn’t do it that day.