My reward for doing hard things

My days (when not at the day job/when I don’t have other boring grown-up appointments) generally start with 2 hours of charcoal drawing and 2-4 hours of oil painting (consisting of masters studies/experimenting with techniques/ commissions/juried show pieces).

I love charcoal drawing and I love oils. However, it’s very focused technical work. After 3-4 hours of analytical work my brain is toast. That’s when I know it’s time to bust out my watercolors (or gouache).

Yes, I still have to use my brain to do a watercolor piece. But I try to just make something simple, small, and experimental. I also know very little about water-based medium so the pressures off to be a pro. I paint a flower or a woodland creature and just try to have fun. (And Painting on paper makes my bad ones very disposable!)

But it’s still creative and my hand and brain still have to communicate!

What’s your creative reward for doing hard things? (You know, aside from things like tv and ice cream. Though I’m a fan of those too!)

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Stopping and starting and stopping and starting…

You know, for as much as I love drawing and painting you’d think I would do more of it.

Sure, I could blame my day job. It is absolutely easier to make art when I’m not working. But I cannot justify watching four consecutive episodes of Parks & Rec (but it’s so goooooood) when I could be practicing my drawing or starting a new painting.

I have time available to me.

I forgive myself for being silly with my time (it’s important to live a silly life, I am sure of it) but I know that there is a little tiny voice inside me dying to create. But I get nervous and squirmy at the thought of making a bad piece of art… so I go eat some chocolate and distract myself instead.

So here’s to a daily art practice that I am starting… again. And if I get nervous and stop I will just start again. And again. And again. Because starting again is the most important thing.

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I’ve started at the beginning of the Watts Atelier curriculum (again) and I will work my way through it. Here are some skull studies I did for one of the first course assignments.

Beginner’s Mind

Wow. I am facing some serious “not good enough” stuff this week! It seemed to crop up after getting a spot in the (much coveted) Morgan Weistling painting workshop in Pasadena. At first I was just on the waiting list… which felt safe. But suddenly I get the email: “We’ve got a spot for you!”. And then… panic set in. And this is what it sounds like in my brain:

“Oh no. The website said this workshop isn’t appropriate for beginners… am I a beginner? My drawing skills still need serious work. But… I’ve been working on art for the last 5 years– I must not be a ‘beginner’ anymore!… Puh-leeze, you’re so lazy, you basically did nothing to improve your art in that time.”

And the voice goes on……. and on….. and on………….

The thing is, I want to be an artist because I love to make art. And (call me crazy) my self imposed emotional beatings makes the whole process a hole heck of a lot less fun.

I recently watched this video about that uncomfortable place just outside of comfortable where all the learning happens. But the scared part of my brain says “beginner” like it’s a bad thing. Because I want to be there, in that uncertain place where I am eagerly trying and failing with such gusto that I’m always moving forward.

So essentially, I am still a “beginner.” But always want to be a beginner, even if I become the cat’s pajamas, I want to think like a beginner. Always risking, stepping into the unknown, moving forward. I always want to be the worst artist in a classroom so that I have huge leaps to grow before moving to the next level.

Here’s some Morgan Weistling work to blow your socks off:

from: morganweistling.com

from: morganweisling.com

Quicksketch

These (below) are some quicksketches I did as practice from the Watts Atelier online program. (If you haven’t heard me say it before: it is an awesome program). And I have FINALLY discovered a way to get my butt in the chair to do some drawing work. My typical modus operandi is to avoid practicing my drawing until I encounter something so difficult in a painting project that I am forced to practice my drawing again. Really, I should be practicing drawing every darn day.

Sooo when I saw an interview with artisit Teresa Oaxaca, I was totally blown away when she said that she listens to audiobooks while working. I just assumed it was too difficult to listen to an audiobook and work at the same time- perhaps my head would explode with the effort of trying to do both at the same time. But, low and behold, it has done quite the opposite. Listening to an audiobook while I draw seems to distract me from the voice that says things like: “This is haaaard. I can’t do this! I’m never going to be a real artist! I hate this. It’s boring. Don’t make me do it!” Instead, that part of my brain is like: “Oh no! Poor Robinson Crusoe! What’s gonna happen next?” (you might guess the current audiobook of choice) while the rest of my brain gets down to work. And here’s the hillarious and amazing part of this discovery: I now can’t wait to draw. The part of my brain that loves stories is now tied to the part that practices drawings and it can’t wait to see what happens next.

I won’t claim that it’s not still challenging to draw- it is. But I will say that it’s a heck of a lot more fun to sit down and begin the task.

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Studies for Watts Atelier Online

        

So the Watts Atelier online program is amazing. It is so content rich that I kind of want to jump up and down and shout it out to the internet! Granted, I miss being in the classroom at Watts Atelier (there’s nothing quite like the camaraderie and joy of working hard, side by side with real folks) but it is really a program to be reckoned with.

And to make it EVEN BETTER (impossible- right? Wrong.) they added a cycle of friendly competitions to keep students motivated. Each student submits a weekly assignment leading up to the final piece on week four. Winners get an original Jeff Watts drawing!

Talk about a fun way to motivate growth!