Friday, May 27, 2022

Commitment to Process - Getting UN-Stuck

Commitment to process is an important key to getting unstuck. We have a habit of focusing on results, setting expectations, and making judgements accordingly. We want to know how things will turn out; we want to avoid uncertainty by planning, so that we get it ‘right’. While this habit of planning for results is essential for most activities in our lives (I don’t dispute the value of planning!), it does seem to be one of the main reasons that we get stuck as artists.  


Making some marks, the first layers, with no plan.

Of course we can plan out a painting go through the steps, and get the result we expect. Some people can. When I try to do this my result is not satisfying. I feel like I've missed it, and the painting looks - and is - superficial. At times in my early painting career I tried following instructions in a book. I knew instinctively that it would not result in something that felt authentic, but allowing the benefit of the doubt and figured I'd learn something. I didn't. Well, I did learn that I was right about it not feeling authentic. Following step-by-step instructions that focused on a particular result was not a satisfying endeavor. It lacked something essential to making real art. Does this sound familiar?


For me it takes periodic RE-commitment to process to stay connected authentically with my work. The tendency towards planning and results orientation is tenacious, and it creeps up unnoticed until I get stuck. I have a few tricks for getting back into my groove:

I am offering a short Zoom session on 5 Ways to Get UN-Stuck to share with you my favorite practices that get me back to a focus on process. See details and sign up here.


Painting 'parts' that I will use in collage.

"Letting Loose", mashing things together

Trying to put together an awkward arrangement

Making a bunch of marks with my fingers

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Meltdown

 I got this comment in my May Survey, and I feel compelled to address it:

For me, it's about playing and have fun; hanging out with my intuition. In the only workshop I've taken with you you, I clearly remember you saying fun and play are NOT what making art is about and went so far as to say we should EXPECT to have a meltdown during the course of the workshop. Unfortunately, I listened to you, had my meltdown, worked seriously, with great industry and felt the joy leak right out of me. I've wondered how you sustain your art life doing it this way; it seems painful.

In my in-person workshops I do address the issue of The Meltdown. The Meltdown is when you are frustrated with your work; you look around, and eveybody else in the workshop seems to 'get it', they are just chugging along and their work all looks great. Yours looks terrible. You start to feel that you've wasted your time and your money being here, you are out of place, who do you think you are trying to be an artist? You are ready to throw your brushes, or whatever down and  exit.

When the Meltdown shows up, eat a chocolate chip cookie.

My advice, such as it is, is to notice the meltdown, notice that your feel frustrated, and let it be. Give it a time limit. OK, I agree to feel like sh!t for an hour. After an hour, I get to pack up and leave if I want to. Fine. I don't have any advice on avoiding the meltdown. In my experience, just noticing it, giving the meltdown its space, has a way of making it dissipate.

I have also noticed that students in my workshops have fewer meltdowns when they know about it ahead of time. They might have mini meltdowns, but expecting some moments of frustration has a way of making them less important. And they have fun.

It admit that I cringe a bit when someone arrives at my workshop saying "I just want to have fun".  I hear that as "I'm not here to push myself" or "I expect this to be all fun and easy". Learning new things, being challenged IS fun with the right attitude. But most of us have moments of frustration and uncertainty in a workshop environment, and I just want people to set their expectations appropriately.

Making art IS about play and it IS fun, but that is not all it is, usually. If you are always playing and having fun, with no angst or frustration, and you are also generating images that really speak to you, that you find compelling, then that is just GREAT! Congratulations. Most of us also have moments of frustration and occasional meltdowns or at least self-doubt. Learning how to navigate these skillfully is part of the process.

One more thought: art is a LOT more fun when you have facility with your materials and techniques, and you have a fluency in composition. I don't mean you "know the rules", but that you are able to SEE the visual content of your own work. So in teaching and learning skills, I hope that affords us all more fun in making art! 

Thanks to the anonymous contributor to my May Survey. I am sure there are others who have the same questions.



Thursday, May 12, 2022

Workshop Preferences - April Survey Results

 Abstract Composition and Mixed Media Techniques were the stars of the April survey. No surprise there. Composition is the #1 topic people ask me about. But 'mixed media' was a bit of a surprise. I guess I mix my media, but I call myself a painter. To me it's all painting, whatever the techniques are.

The next question was about composition workshops:

Here, the "composition boot camp" won out. I can do that. I have done that. And it is hard, not all that fun, and you do learn a lot. 

Once you have a handle on abstract composition, then what? What else do you want from your work? Take my May Survey to let me know what else is important in your art practice.