Investigate, explore, follow the “what if I” impulses.
Try what intimidates or eludes you. It needn’t be a leap all the way across, it can be a step in a direction. “What if I don’t do as detailed a drawing first before I paint?” rather than “What if I don’t do a pencil drawing at all before I paint?”
“I’ve made my own Museum of Happiness, which isn’t built of brick or stone or wood, its walls the thickness of the day …
“I’ll carry it around with me to pitch beside the sea, in a field or by that river, a billowing rickety marquee, a travelling show of personal delights performing one night only & forever.” From the poem “Happiness” by Stuart A Paterson
How about a small sketchbook as a pocket Museum of Happiness? Carry it around to make notes of things seen and heard, thoughts, sketch, doodles, to stick in things so it’s a sketchbook-cum-scrapbook-cum-journal-cum-things-that-made-me-smile-book .
The only rule — if some else wants to take a look, you show them because why wouldn’t you share happiness?
“If we wait for the mood, without endeavouring to meet it half-way, we easily become indolent and apathetic. We must be patient, and believe that inspiration will come to those who can master their disinclination.”
— Tchaikovsky (From a letter the composer wrote to his benefactress, Nadezhda von Meck, March 1878; via Brainpickings)
Some 150 years ago the issue of “I don’t feel like it today” also existed. Seems this creative issue is timeless! So we may as well give up waiting for the right moment, because if it existed someone would’ve explained how to get there by now.
“It is not especially easy, but when we turn off that little critical voice and when we really don’t look for results, we are far more able to surrender to that song from within.
“The irony, of course, is that when all this energy pours through us, the process becomes that wonderful state of being that makes art possible. The results are so much better. And paintings are just those things that happen as we discover and create who we are.”
Jerry’s philosophy is “complete at every stage“: “I am suggesting that we ought to think of a painting (and making art generally) less as a manufactured product and more of something alive that grows and moves in unexpected directions, not unlike jazz improvisation or even like the growth of a child.”
He explains it in his book “The Practice and Philosophy of French Impressionism” (follow the link from his website and click on preview).
“Today’s cult of convenience fails to acknowledge that difficulty is a constitutive feature of human experience. Convenience is all destination and no journey.
“But climbing a mountain is different from taking the tram to the top, even if you end up at the same place. We are becoming people who care mainly or only about outcomes. We are at risk of making most of our life experiences a series of trolley rides.” — Tim Wu The Tyranny of Convenience, (NY Times Opinion 16 February 2018)
Being impatient for results we feel we ought to produce denies us the journey of getting there.
A painting driven by process, by the doing, is a different creature to one driven by having a finished product.
If instant gratification is what you need, stick to photography for now, where you can get a “finished photo”* in seconds.
“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.”
“Forget talent. If you have it, fine. Use it. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter. As habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent.”
The word “habit” tends to have negative connotations, as in “bad habits” rather than “good habits”. Call it routine or ritual if you prefer.
Brushing your hair is a habit, though we don’t tend to call it that or think of it as such. It’s simply part of the routine of daily life, things done without question as part of getting ready for something else. Some days I do a better job of it than others (though living in a windy climate it can be hard to tell).
Same with painting, all the unseen, uncounted brushmarks that go into making the ones you finally see. Some days I do a better job of it than others (though by the time I declare a painting finished I’d like to believe others couldn’t tell).
‘I discourage any elaborate drawing-in of the motif to be painted, either with pencil, pen or brush. This produces a fear of the pigment or paint; a kind of dry, joyless “working up to the edges,” and leads subsequently to a kind of “colored drawings”.’ — John F. Carlson, Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting, page 42
Are you painting between your security-blanket lines or outside the lines?
Looking through my draft blog posts I found this quote, which I’d saved back in January. It feels apt as I start looking through my email and all the other things put on “pause” while I was at Higham Hall in a tranquil bubble of creativity:
“While we do not get to curate the realities of the external world, the barrage of news, or our social media, we do decide the parameters of our reactions. We decide the size of each reaction, each thought. We decide how long each thought is allowed to stay, how much space it is given, how much power it will have.”
“Thoughts are visitors we invite into our minds.” — Reema Zaman
And, like visitors, some thoughts are more welcome than others, some overstay their welcome, others don’t visit often enough.
The light at the end of the tunnel is finding ways to encourage the latter. For me it lies in painting.
‘The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner’s mind.
…In the beginner’s mind there is no thought “I have attained something.” All self-centered thoughts limit our vast mind. When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn something. The beginner’s mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless.’