No more excuses

After yesterday’s post on The joy of painting, I received a comment which prompted me to think in more depth about why I had not started painting sooner.

“I guess it’s the outcome and what others think that might be a big part of the Fear that keeps people from painting.”

This Fear is something I have been talking about, thinking about, reading and writing about a lot lately. Fear plays the biggest part in what keeps us from being true to ourselves Fear stops us from doing things we would love to do; prevents us from moving forward. What if we could live life without this Fear?

Fear, of course, has its place. Fear stops us from doing stupid things; keeps us from harm.
But without Fear…? I think about all of the things I would have done long ago. I think of the all the things I have wanted to do and the excuses I have made for not doing them. We all do it. I know I am not alone. Maybe thinking about what I might have missed; considering some of the opportunities I let pass me by; wondering about some of the things I might have experienced or achieved had I been brave enough to take the leap will spur me on to push past the Fear next time I start making excuses. This may sound as though I have many regrets. I do not. I wonder, yes, but I do not regret… I have always made choices based on my circumstances, experiences and abilities at the time. Now, I choose to put the Fear away.

Painting is a big breakthrough for me. I had put it off for so long, confining my painted creations to postcard size, with a tiny palette of watercolours as my tools. I made excuses: I can’t paint because I don’t have the space; I can’t paint because I don’t have time; I can’t paint because… well I never actually said “I can’t paint because I’m afraid”, but I was. I was afraid that I would not like what I created; afraid that others would not like what I painted; afraid that I would feel like a failure if I tried and… well, failed. My mind was always filled with ideas when I was super-busy, but when I had a moment to myself, the ideas evaporated, or seemed ridiculous, too ambitious, or too boring.

The truth was that I was afraid to paint big. I was afraid to acknowledge how important art is to me and it was the very fact that it is so important was exactly what had kept me from doing it for so long. The excuses of no time, no space, no inspiration seem silly now that I am acknowledging the importance of art in my life. I can spend 20 mins painting instead of aimlessly trawling the internet before I go to bed… and that 20 mins often becomes half an hour. I can do a very large painting with very little space, just by taping a big sheet of paper to a flat wooden board or a wall. It does not matter if I do not have a fully formed idea of what I am doing before I start. In fact, it is better just to start without an idea.

 And it does not matter what emerges, what matters is that you are doing it!

If something is important to you, you can make time and space for it, however small that time or space may be… there is always a place for it.

So, I leave you today with my artist’s manifesto and I hope that you will create your own manifesto… a contract with yourself… a promise to do the things that are important to you and not let fear hold you back any longer.

Artist’s manifesto
Art is of great importance to me
I will make space in my life for art
I will live a multidimensional, colourful, creative life
I will explore every form of expression that interests me
I will no longer let Fear hold me back

Right, what else have I been putting off because I am afraid… and when can I start?

The joy of painting


Brushes, paint, big paper, a pot of water, masking tape, a large piece of wood… these have been my necessary items this past week or so as I have been painting again. Painting big, painting happily, painting often, painting indoors, outdoors, in the morning, evening, late at night.

As the 30 Day Challenge drew to a close at the end of May, the need to create and post here on a daily basis became less urgent. The word “challenge” became less relevant. Finding little pockets of time to create became more natural. Art was becoming a habit again.

With the target of making and posting every day, there was a certain pressure to create. There was a pressure to think of something, pressure to do something, pressure to share it. Whilst that pressure meant that I was fulfilling my target, it also meant late nights, little sleep and what was produced was sometimes forced, not always natural, created from a “must do” rather than “want to”. But the great thing about that pressure was that it made me consider art on a daily basis. It forced me to make time to create. If pushed me into making space for art in my life. And that pressure worked. Now, free from the constraints of daily posting, I find that I want to create. I want to make time. I want to draw, paint, cut and collage. And so I do. The little opportunities to create are now more obvious to me. I seize these little moments to do what I can when I can. If I am out, I carry small paper and pen. If I am home, all that I need is close at hand. Waiting for my coffee to arrive at the café, I have a few moments to sketch a little scene. In that quiet hour after boys’ bedtime and before mine, I turn away from the computer, tape my new big paper to my wooden board and I paint. Art has become a habit. A good habit.

The thing that is missing now is my own voice. I am aware, looking back at the work created over the past couple of month, that there is no clear style to my work. I admire those artists who have a clear voice… a definite stamp of originality… a certain something that marks them out. I like to be able to look at a piece and say, “ah yes, that’s by…” and I am struggling to find my own voice.

No… struggling is not true. It does not feel like a struggle. At the moment, it feels like a journey. I am on a journey to find my own voice. Step by step. Some days, I have a clear idea of what to create… but these days are rare. Very rare. I have realised that this is a good thing. Letting go of expectations has freed me from disappointment at my inability to create on paper what I see clearly in my mind. When I come to a fresh piece of paper and just paint, there are no expectations, no pressure, just the pleasure of painting. And this is something I am loving more and more. I trust that I will one day find my painter’s voice. All in good time.

Feeling the need for a focus and the feeling (after 30 days being part of a 200-strong group of challengers), that I do not want to do this alone, I decided to embark on Connie Hozvicka’s online workshop Total Alignment. With Connie’s virtual hand-holding, video by video guiding you through the process of FEARLESS® painting, paiting without expectations, it’s like hearing my own voice. I am back to the teen-me, the fearless me, the one who just painted… the one who carried a notebook everywhere, who drew, wrote, created on a daily basis and yes, the one who got angry and frustrated, frightened and almost gave up… but then picked up that pen again, went back to the drawing board and drew… drew on the tube, in the street or the café, at home in the early hours… the one for whom art was a part of daily life.

The art I have created this past week or so is not what I would ever have had in mind. In years gone by, I may have hidden it away, thrown it even, but now I feel happy to share. I have posted it here because it is part of the process… another milestone along the path… another step in the right direction.

In painting without expectation, I am free to immerse myself in the process. In painting free from expecation, I am free to explore whatever I wish in any way I wish. In painting free from expectation, it does not matter what comes out. What matters for me now is the process… the feeling… that fabulous freedom of paper, paint, hand, brush… anything is possible.

And this is what I want to share.

This is what I LOVE:
I love taping a new piece of paper to my big piece of wood.
I love the sound of water gushing out of the tap and into the glass jar as I turn the tap on too fast.
I love holding the brush in my hand.
I love the look of those freshly squeezed colours on my palette.
I love the first brushstrokes, putting something, anything on the page.
I love going with the flow.
I love seeing what emerges.
I love the dance of my hand and my brush.
I love walking away.
I love coming back.
I love the fact that I am painting.
I love that I am loving painting.

I want you to feel this too… the joy of painting.
So try it.
Just try… and let me know how it goes.

Resolving the restless


The urge to create has been strong this past week.
I have a feeling that recent activities at art club may have something to do with it.

Last Wednesday’s after-school art club was another break-through lesson. A few weeks ago, after a particularly frustrating class of restless children unable or unwilling to sit still, I was feeling rather flat and in need of a big change to keep my enthusiasm for the club alive. The following week, I arrived at the hut, ready to set up the materials, but was faced with a room with no tables. Slow rain had just started to fall, so my ideas for getting the children up and out of the classroom looked less than promising. However, I decided to go ahead with the plan to get the children making wax rubbings from the textures around the class. What fun! As they were moving around, seeking their own inspiration and enjoying this new process without the constraints of sitting at a table, there was a distinct shift in behaviour… for the better. Why did it take the absence of tables and my choice not to put out chairs for me to realise that children do not want to sit down at the end of a long school day?

This week, with large-scale painting and restless children in mind, I chose to work in a different way again. I stretched lengths of plastic along the floor, put tables behind them, brushes, water, mixing palettes, paint. On entering the class, each child was asked to lay down on the floor whilst another child, my assistant or myself drew a rough outline of the child’s shape with pencil on lining paper. With the paper taped to the wall, the children were able to stand face to face with their outline and create a self-portrait of their own desire… either realistic or imaginary.

The children seemed to enjoy working on the wall and those who did not or could not, were happy spread out on the floor, some working collaboratively, others alone. The results were impressive and most were only half-finished by the end of class, so some of the children requested the chance to work again on the same piece the following week.

Not once, in that lesson, did I have to ask for calm and quiet… everyone, myself included was excited and productive in their own way. Thrilled to have stumbled upon this new way of running the class, I don’t think we will be going back to sitting at tables after school before the end of term.

Having seemingly resolved the restless, we can now get on with creating great art.

 

Me, me, me

Last week, somebody told me that a friend had been talking about my art in the pub. They had seen it online and loved it. They had been following what I was working on and said that it was the kind of art they would buy, but… they found it a little odd that it was all about me. So, I stopped. I put the portraits on hold, I took a step back, I looked for other ways to express myself. I took the “me” out of my art and whilst I had fun creating in different ways, I did not connect in any deeper way with what I had produced. I was creating art that was neutral, impersonal, safe. I played, I experimented, I explored new methods and media, but whilst I enjoyed the process, after a few days, began to feel that I was not following my heart.

What I should have done, of course, was listen to the praise. I should have taken to heart the fact that this person I respect would spend their hard earned cash on art like mine, that they were interested enough to follow what I was doing, wanted to see more. I should not have let my own interpretation of a comment influence my art. But I did. 

When emotions are high, I often feel the need to get them out. I write, I draw, I photograph, I explore what is going on in words and images. It is when I feel things strongly that I channel my emotions, pour out and make visual or verbal that which is crowding my head.

As an artist, this is my way of exploring and expressing my thoughts, feelings, emotions, my light and dark days. I find that one of the most powerful forms of expression for me is self-portraiture. So I am back… being true to myself and working on a new set of self-portraits which reveal the pensive gaze, the dreams of colour and light, the fire and the fear.

Yes, they are odd, they may look awkward or uncomfortable, but that is how I feel sometimes and examining those sensitivities through art helps me make sense of them. So I will continue. “I like what you are doing”, another friend told me, “it must be a bit like therapy”. It is. And for as long as I find it enjoyable or beneficial, I will go on.