I came across something this past week that reminded of an Aha I had while viewing the Matisse exhibit a few years back.
I can’t compare my rough drafts with someone else’s finished masterpiece.
Yet I fall victim to this all the time and people in my workshops often do the same thing. We’re too hard on ourselves. We forget we aren’t seeing the process and the experiments of the masters. We don’t ever see the bits and pieces lying in closets, sitting on a hard drive or consigned to the trash.
Our work is as unique as our signature and that comparison can be helpful. I never worry that my signature doesn’t look like someone else’s. It doesn’t even cross my mind. (Not to mention that would be illegal.)
That’s why we shouldn’t compare our efforts to the person sitting next to us in a workshop or even worse, hanging in a gallery. We are learning about tools and techniques, just like we did in school as we learned to sign our names. Be gentle with your inner artist.
There IS a lot to learn by studying the work of others who have mastered their craft. Just don’t try to BE them.
Let’s be ourselves
So next time my inner voice says “I wish I could paint like…” I’ll remind myself that it’s better if I let myself paint like me.
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. T. S. Eliot
Choosing the head or the heart
I have to watch myself or I get too “heady” when I’m painting and I forget to tell a story. My background in designing computer systems may have something to do with that.
For that reason, I’m consciously painting “looser” these days. I try to avoid realism, not because it can’t be a story but for me, it becomes an exercise in skill, not story.
Loose, however, is not easy. My Inner Perfectionist wants it to look like a photo. (So does my husband, who just doesn’t ‘get’ anything else.)
To help break away, I’m experimenting with acrylics, bigger brushes, pouring and other mediums such as collage. I’m kicking myself because I gave away all my encaustic supplies before we moved. (Note to self: NEVER give away art supplies.)
As I play with these new (to me) materials, my inner dialog goes something like, ” What am I curious about? What do I feel? What do I want this to say…wait…that doesn’t look real…Oh, right. Back to story.”
Ask the right questions
The trick seems to be sticking with the right questions. The ones about heart, emotion, meaning and story. Doing a piece that is technically well-executed feels…well…satisfying and when I let it, the detailed work pulls me in. The problem is, it doesn’t share anything about me except that I know how to handle a brush and familiar medium.
Recently I asked myself these questions, “Why do I believe so passionately that creative expression is a sacred trust? Why do I believe it’s vital to leading a full life?”
It wasn’t always like that
I grew up around people who taught taking time to paint and draw was a frivolous use of a precious resource. The leaders of the church I attended taught fiction was like telling lies. Dire warnings that following my own path threatened the natural order of the universe. People I respected told me creativity was highly suspect and safer to steer clear.
Why the next thing you knew, I’d be thinking independantly!
Not my truth
Is it any wonder I felt confused? What I heard didn’t line up with inner wisdom.
It was years before I realized those message told me more about the messengers and not about truth. Their words and warnings reflected warped belief systems, disappointed dreams and their own legacy of distorted messages.