Monday Motivator: Collect Shells, Experience Waves

Monday Motivator quote

“The painting is what remains after we’ve completed the act of creation, to stare back at us, like shells washed up on a beach. Sometimes we collect beautiful shells, but we experience waves.”

Stephen Berry, I’m Looking For an Experience

That the act of painting, the doing thereof, the brush into paint and onto paper, needs to be rewarding in itself, disconnected from the need for a satisfying end result,hard as this is, is something I struggle to explain. This quote filled that gap for me as I instantly related to how I interact with waves on a beach compared to pebbles (shells, sea glass).

I might take photos of waves, but they’re eternally ephemeral. I don’t have thoughts other than to watch and enjoy (okay, and to stay out of reach of them). Pebbles I can pick up and hold, turn over in my hand, feel the weight and texture, walk with for a while until I encounter another that I want to touch.

We experience painting every time, but don’t collect a painting every time.

Monday Motivator: Brainstorm When Tired

Monday Motivator quote

Monday Motivator

“Brainstorm when tired. Ron Friedman, author of ‘The Best Place to Work’, explains our fatigued brains are less capable of filtering out all the weird stuff, like we are during the day. He suggests finding that time when you’re tired and less focused to box off that time for creative brainstorming.”
Ed Terpening, Creativity in Art is Risky Business

Tired is when I’m least likely to ‘plan’ and ‘think hard’ because it feels like it’s going to take energy I don’t have, take too much effort. But it would mean that my thought filters are tired too and so perversely it’ll take less effort to get to outlying thoughts, if I can get myself over the hump of starting.

Monday Motivator: Some Paintings Will Be Rehearsals

Monday Motivator Inspirational Art Quote

“Accept that some paintings will be rehearsals for new brush techniques, palettes, or subject matter that build your skills and experience

“… there are three qualities you need to develop as a painter: patience, persistence, and passion.

“Since painting is a complex process, you need to be patient with yourself as you learn to master the craft. Your persistence is important, in order to move past your failures and frustrations. And finally, it is your passion…that propels you forward.”
Suzanne Brooker, “The Elements of Landscape Oil Painting”, page 195

Monday Motivator: Landscapes We Carry

Monday Motivator quote

“I paint from remembered landscapes that I carry with me—and remembered feelings of them, which of course become transformed. I could certainly never mirror nature. I would like more to paint what it leaves me with.”

Joan Mitchell, letter written in 1958
(in John I.H. Baur, Nature in Abstraction: The Relation of Abstract Painting and Sculpture to  Nature in Twentieth-Century American Art, via David Zimmer)

Remembered from a single occasion.
Remembered from multiple occasions.
Remembered from visits years apart and remembered from frequent visits.
Remembered by telling someone else.
Remembered through listening to someone else’s remembering.

The layers of memory as layers in a painting.
Each memory in a different medium? A different type of mark?

Monday Motivator: Art is the Kind of Marathon

“Art is the kind of marathon where you cross the finish line and instead of getting a medal placed around your neck, the volunteers roughly grab you by the shoulders and walk you to the starting line of another marathon.”
— Ryan Holiday, “Perennial Seller“, page 28

If you might find this quote demotivating and demoralising, remember that ultra-marathons are a thing some people do for fun. Pacing yourself is the key.

Monday Motivator: Like a Popcorn Machine

Monday motivator art quotes

“…as we pass through the heat of life we cannot help but produce meaning, like a popcorn machine produces popcorn.

“…imbue the world with significance and value … better or worse, relevant or irrelevant …

“This is what differentiates us from the rock that is indifferent to being pummelled to sand by the sea.”
Stephen Cave, Not nothing, Aeon 25 July 2014

Monday Motivator: Intensively vs Extensively

Monday Motivator Inspirational Art Quote
Monday Motivator Inspirational Art Quote

” … reading “intensively” [was] the common practice of most readers before the nineteenth century, when books, which were scarce and expensive, were often read aloud and many times over. As reading materials—not just books, but newspapers, magazines, and ephemera—proliferated, more recent centuries saw the rise of reading “extensively”: we read these materials once, often quickly, and move on.”

Mairead Small Staid, Reading in the Age of Constant Distraction, The Paris Review, 8 Feb 2019

I have favourite fiction books I have read many times, favourite films/series I have watched many times, and favourite reference books. Wearing my non-fiction editor hat, I read things at least three times, first for the gist, second to line-edit, third to check my edit. Maybe it’s inevitable that I revisit subjects and locations to paint them time and again, looping around and coming back to things with myself being the variable not the constant.

Random fact: “Extense” is an archaic word. “Intense” we still use.

Monday Motivator: Assume You Don’t Need It

Monday motivator art quotes

Monday motivator art quotes

” …you can take the first draft of any poem and improve it 80% by lopping off the first and last stanzas.

“… with the first stanza we are struggling to get the creative juices flowing; by the end of the poem we are so enamored with what we are doing that we don’t want to stop

“… what do we agonize over most when writing a piece?  The first sentence, the first paragraph, the first scene.  Jump in, don’t worry about it; assume you’ll throw this part out when you revise, anyway.”

— John Lehman, Like Melting Ice, quoting an observation by Rod Jellema

Taking this into drawing and painting, I think it is: jump in and start anywhere; include less (in the composition and detail); stop sooner.

Monday Motivator: Skill or Talent?

Monday motivator art quotes“Being jealous of talents that are actually skills is a great way to let yourself off the hook and make yourself miserable at the same time.”
Seth Godin, One way to think about talent

“If even one person is able to learn it, if even one person is able to use effort and training to get good at something, it’s a skill.
Seth Godin, Skills vs. talents

Would you hold a cello for the first time and expect to be Jaqueline du Pré playing Elgar?

Did she ever stopped practising? Was she the only musician able to play that composition? There are many performances, all the same notes, all different.

So why pick up a watercolour brush and expect to instantly be Beatrix Potter?

Don’t deny yourself the journey that learning to paint is. The sights and sounds of the road, ups and downs, the sought-after and the serendipitous.

Monday Motivator: Subject Isn’t the Most Important Part of a Painting

Monday Motivator Inspirational Art Quote

Monday Motivator Inspirational Art Quote

“If the subject matter were the most important part of a painting, then you would no longer need to paint.

“… everything under the sun has already been painted. The humble holly tree is not itself important, but how your perceptions are used to interpret those impressions through paint is what matters most.”
Suzanne Brooker, “Elements of Landscape Oil Painting”, p10

Worry Focus less about what you’re painting and more on how you’re painting it.

James Gurney (of Dinotopia fame) is a great inspiration with this, turning the everyday into art. See for example his snow pile behind a supermarket, parking lot entrance ramp, a road sign and a utility/phone pole. His skill at this is also a bit demotivating; just remember he has many, many miles under his brush.

Dancing a line with a brush