A Thought for 2019

quote restlessness
quote restlessness

Let your creative heart/mind be an eternal nomad.

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?”


Monday Motivator: Try Things Against Your Grain

Inspirational quotes for artists

Monday Motivator Motivation Quote

“Try things against your grain to find out just what your grain really is.”

“You are always the student in a one-person art school. You are also the teacher of that class.”

“Vermeer found a life’s work in the corner of a room.”

Irwin Greenberg, The Painter’s Primer

There are 97 other tips in the primer linked above, a list that was apparently distributed to students of the Art Students League of New York. These three resonated with me in particular.

Another sounded very familiar:
“Never say I can’t. It closes the door to potential development.”.

I generally say: “Add the word ‘yet’. Say ‘I can’t, yet’.”

May 2019 be a year filled with creative joy for you, with moments where ‘I can’t, yet’ becomes ‘I can, now’.

Inspirational quotes for artists

Inspirational quotes for artists

Inspirational quotes for artists

Monday Motivator: Make Your Own Museum of Happiness

Motivational quotes for artists Museum of Happiness
Monday Motivator Motivation Quote

“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?

Monday Motivator: Inspiration vs Disinclination

Motivator quote Tchaikivsky

Monday Motivator Motivation Quote

“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.

moody clouds

Motivator quote Tchaikivsky

Monday Motivator: Surrender to the Song

Jerry Fresia art quote

Monday Motivator Motivation Quote

“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 Fresia, Pretend You Are Dancing a Painting

Jerry Fresia art quote

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).

Monday Motivator: Value the Slow in the Age of Speed

Monday Motivator Motivation Quote

Monday Motivator Motivation Quote

“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.

(*Not the same as an award-winning shot.)

Monday Motivator: Habit is Persistence in Practice

motivator quote octavia butler

Monday Motivator Motivation Quote

“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.”

— Octavia Butler, “Bloodchild: And Other Stories” 1995 (via Quote Investigator)

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).

motivator quote octavia butler

Monday Motivator: Paint Outside the Lines

Monday Motivator Motivation Quote

‘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?

monday motivator art quote

Monday Motivator: Thoughts are Visitors to Our Minds

Light at the End of the Tunnel

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.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Monday Motivator: The Goal of Practice (and it’s probably not what you think)

Monday Motivator The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner's mind.

Monday Motivator Motivation Quote

‘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.’

Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, via On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal 12 February 2015

If you’ve been frustrated that you haven’t been attaining the perfection that practice supposedly makes, don’t give up on practising but change what you are aiming to get from it.

Monday Motivator The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner's mind.