Monday Motivator: Don’t Learn How to Do Things

Monsieur P painting

“Don’t learn how to do things, keep on inquiring how … keep up an attitude of continuous study and so develop yourself.”
Hawthorne on Painting, page 19.

How do you enhance curiosity, the desire to explore what might happen if you did Y rather than the already-known X? By shutting up your inner critic for starters, the voice that mutters about wasted time and money and art supplies. By ignoring up your outer critics too, the voices that are “only trying to help”. Save being “sensible” for another day.

Stop telling yourself you oughtn’t waste paint and time on unknown results; if you don’t want to keep repeating yourself, you can’t afford not to. Stop telling yourself you can’t do something different; when last and how hard/long did you try, and why should you expect it to be easy/quick anyway?

Allow yourself the time but don’t set the expectation that you’re going to be doing it all the time. Contradictory and ornery, I know, but there’s a balance between the comfortable reassurance of the familiar and the intrigue and worry about the uncertain. The? practising of scales and the learning of a new piece. The cooking of a family favourite and the trying a new recipe. The drawing with a 3B and the drawing with a watersoluble 3B and waterbrush. Colour mixing with the usual suspects and a new (single pigment) colour. Small steps and big steps. Familiar steps and uncertain ones. Small changes and breakthroughs. The X and the Y vs the Y and the X. It’s how I ended up with my studio cat paintings, a subject I’ve long wanted to paint but couldn’t (or wouldn’t?).

3 Replies to “Monday Motivator: Don’t Learn How to Do Things”

  1. Marion, love love love your studio cats!!! Once I retired, I spent 2.5 years experimenting with acrylics – average 7 hours a day 7 days a week – reading, experimenting, listening to videos/youtube, testing, painting. This time was priceless. That’s the period I found you and my online art friends.

  2. I too love your studio cats and your love for them shows through! You are so right about having time ,space and permission from yourself to experiment. I call it messing about..and I enjoy it but often feel I don’t have the time. Yet often the best work comes from this process. I would love to see more cats…lots more!!!

  3. I agree that taking the time to just play can be so valuable. One can read up on what-happens-if? but I think the doing gives one valuable information watching the process, and I’m more likely to remember what I did rather than what I read.

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