Every artist hits dry spells. Well I had a year full of dry! It seemed every piece I worked on this year was not what I would call a success. I had started to teach an art classes at our local art shop in my home town two years ago. Dealing with students questions, I became convinced that I needed to learn to do everything my students had questions about. So I started trying everything: landscapes, still life, oils, pastels, Color mixing, and learn to paint in blues, yellows and pinks… These are all good things, but I have no passion for them.
I love doing portraits. Whether it’s people or animals, I love portraiture. Even when I paint landscape, it is more a portrait of a tree, not every tree in the forest. My mind wants to single out the subject and make it the complete focus. I was trying to fight myself because I felt that “Real Artists” see the whole picture and should be able to paint anything in any colors, any time, any where. But I have found out during this year of trial and error that all it seamed to do was steal my joy of painting and drawing. I am very stubborn and sometimes not the sharpest knife in the drawer. So it took me a year to get this revelation! LOL!
Once I finally realized what I was doing, I decided to just paint for the joy of it and paint what intrigues and fascinates me. Something amazing happened. I started to enjoy the process again. It took a while to get back in the swing of things again. Paintings didn’t just start coming out perfect all of the sudden, I still had to fight a years worth of what I saw as failures. Each had built upon the others leading me to the conclusion that I was not a “REAL Artist”. It was a epic mental battle that I had to press through with God’s help.
The Revelation and Healing
December 2016 came and with it the realization that it had been a whole year since I had turned out a completed art piece that I loved. One day after failing yet again trying to do something that I SHOULD do. I threw up my hands and asked myself “what I was doing?” and “Why” did I feel I needed to know how to do everything, Why? I was fed up, frustrated and just down right angry with myself for being so arrogant that I thought I could not teach or be an artist until I knew everything there was to know about it.
So I said “NO MORE!” and I walked over to my reference photos of things I really wanted to paint some day. As I looked through them I found a photo Of my granddaughter doing a Gymnastics leap. I could hear her precious voice in my ear as she had said to me months ago, “I would love it if you would paint a picture of me doing gymnastics, Granny!”
So it was settled. I knew I was not up to getting a perfect likeness of her at this point, so I decided to do a gesture painting. Again not something I have done before, but it is something I have always WANTED to try. So I started laying out a background.
This was so much fun, but again I was fighting my nature. I love to refine, blend and smooth things out, yet with gesture painting you want to leave deliberate brush strokes with minimal detail. When I reached this point I stopped. I wasn’t sure I liked what I saw, though I had done what I set out to do. Needing some feed back I posted this photo On my facebook page and walked away from my studio for a couple of hours.
When I came back with a fresh set of eyes and less critical, I saw that I really did liked her. I saw just a few things I needed to add or fix to complete her; and set forth to complete the work. When I went to post the completed work photo I saw that I had gotten a great supportive response that I was not expecting.
“I really like idea of using the more abstract style to give the feeling of movement. It also gives me the feeling that the dancer herself is leaping in a focused, trusting strength(which is great that you call it “Leap of Faith). I love the colors for the background and that whatever the dancer is leaping into is not clear to see, which gives me the feeling that the dancer is unconcerned about what is around her. Very beautiful.” Katie M
I was so encouraged and blessed by so many of my friends. Finishing up I had such a sense of relief, joy and excitement. The thought came to my mind “I am Back! I haven’t lost it after all! Thank You God!”
I was still a little reluctant to show it to my granddaughter. For fear that she wouldn’t like it because it was abstract, and partly because I was afraid she would like it and want it, and I would have to part with it. I know, crazy maker stuff. Am I the only one that does this to my self? I think not! When I made the big reveal, she was just giddy! She loved it and gave me a hug enthusiastic hug! If that doesn’t boost ones confidence nothing would.
Food For Thought
I guess what I wanted to share with you is that whether you are an artist or not, sometimes you go through a time of doubting your abilities and gifts. You may go through a time of really stinking at everything you try to do.
Let me encourage you that in trying you are learning. In failing, you are learning what not to do. You can’t fail if you don’t try, and not trying really stinks too. I have learned that I am human and fallible. Not a huge revelation! I had feared that failing in front of my student would cause them to doubt my ability to instruct them, but in fact they told me that it was actually an encouragement to them. Because if their instructor could try new things and fail then it was alright for them to try and fail in front of others.
I also learned something that simply amazed me. As I was struggling with the nagging thought that I was not a “REAL ARTIST” I kept hearing other artist say the same thing. Even artists that I look up to as my mentors were saying things like, “Well, so and so is a Real Artist” or “If I was a Real Artist.”…
We all feel inadequate. All feel like posers. We are all comparing ourselves to others and thinking if only I could be like, paint like, cook like, write like… that person, then I would be a REAL artist, Chef, Author… Insert what ever it is you are trying to be REAL at here.
It’s REALLY quite ridiculous if you step back from it and look at it for what it is! I love art, I love to paint and draw. I do it all the time. I can’t NOT be an artist. Even when I am no good at it, my heart struggles and is compelled to keep doing it. It’s like trying not to breath. Eventually you have to do it even if you are under water. I am an artist! Inside out or upside-down it is who I am, not what I am.
If you are going through a dry spell, take courage that it is a learning process and this too shall pass. Do not doubt that you are REAL. God knows who you are!
Psalm 139 (Biblegateway.com)
13 For you (God) created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
I hope this encourages you to go on trying new things, stretching yourself and even failing. But also remember that God has made you to be one of a kind. You don’t have to be another Michelangelo or Monet. Just be the best you that you can be. Paint what God has placed in your heart to paint. Don’t do it for fame or fortune, do it for the love of it.