Sunday, 15 April 2018

Spring Growth: That Time When Art was Just Like Life

This picture sums up my life right now.  I paint as much as possible, which is at least three or four hours a day and often there is a glass of wine involved. 

There is a practice in selfishness going on here.  Painting is my passion and blogging is definitely taking a back seat.  Reading blogs is just not happening at the moment and I do miss my favourite bloggers.  I feel guilt for not visiting them and seeing how they are doing, cheering them on in life.  Of course I feel guilt about many things, just reading my blog will tell you that.  

I also feel some degree of nervousness, worry, or anxiety most of the time.   Lately it's a fear that after each painting I complete successfully I will never be able to do it again.  I will always look at a painting and see something that could be fixed just a little, would look better in a different colour and sometimes I see things that show up in photos which don't appear obvious in real life. 

Of course, success is subjective and I tend not to even view them as successes for very long.  I can't tell you how often I re-paint, touch up and even completely change paintings I've done in the past.  Any painting not sold and still in my home is fair game because they are never perfect and I am always viewing them critically.  In some ways this is good.  It's a way to grow.  Old paintings exhibiting less skill or less confidence mock me.  Asserting on this blog that they are 'finished' doesn't actually solve this problem.  

How does one know when to leave well enough alone?  Perhaps one doesn't.  Perhaps it's always a gamble, a risk, a chance to learn from mistakes.  Growth.  It's necessary to life and a persistent theme in Spring.

I am not always the best judge of which paintings are successful.  Or perhaps that is better phrased as 'people see and value different things'.  Sometimes a painting I am not crazy about is well liked by others. Probably when one is so intimately involved it's harder to judge the impact of the image.  I see my paintings as a product of how difficult or easy they were for me, how much effort and materials went into it.  I see the brushstrokes that were accidental, the ones that didn't quite give the effect I was aiming for as well as the ones that did.  I see images I painted with little thought and don't feel moved by but whether or not they move someone else is out of my control.

I've re-painted this bowl of fruit many times and shown it on this blog a few times as well.  It seems to be perpetually unfinished even when I try to declare it complete.  I am working on it again, having changed the background ( wall ) colour several times this week not happy with any of them,  I have explored how much shadow I want, or whether I want to go more expressionist in style and forget about shadows.  I have found that subtle effects I've painted don't show in photos and worried about how important ( or not ) that is.  Sometimes I think it's mainly about the subject-I am not moved by an image of a bowl of fruit so this painting is a playground for me.  I just keep dabbing at it whenever I get a new idea but I never feel good about it.  It sits there, mocking me, saying "I am boring and it's your fault."

Maybe I should walk away from it.  Maybe I should re-do it forever.  I see wrong things in everything I paint.  Probably I need to spend more time looking at the right things.

Probably I will never know what I 'should' do.  I will just keep doing what I do and hopefully keep growing.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

A Change is as Good as a Rest


Excitedly exploring palette knives in my art and abstract creations are bursting forth.

I was pondering this while I made breakfast...

It was once thought that a mid-life crisis was something only men experienced.  Only men, it was believed, had a life that was serious enough, hard enough, and possibly unfulfilling because of their duties as providers.  Only men had the stress of serious careers or the risks of hard physical labour.  Perhaps these things are true for many men, but women were typically thought to naturally love the life of domesticity, housework and raising children and if one wants to elevate the task-family management, which turned out to not be true.   A woman who was unhappy in this domestic life was once considered not properly female or perhaps even mentally ill.  Enter valium.

Thankfully we are past those days, but still it is difficult to shake the idea that the woman is the one responsible for the home and the modern complaint is that while women can have careers or pursue their non-familial dreams, they are also tending to take on the majority of the family and household responsibility in addition to this.  Of course this is a generalisation and it’s also possible that times are changing and what I experience is not what younger women are experiencing.  It is astonishing to me to even write the phrase ‘younger women’ as I am arriving in middle age with my head spinning.  How did this happen so fast?  I had my own mid-life crisis of sorts, as women have always been quite able to do and with hindsight it seems not so difficult to live forty or fifty years and not discover that things have gone terribly wrong.  Or even mildly wrong.

It was an awkward, painful, difficult time but the pain didn’t last too long, thankfully.  Mostly it was simultaneously uncomfortable and exciting.  Changes came, both quickly and slowly.  I would never say that my former life was full of things wrong for me, because it wasn’t.  In fact there is definitely a part of me that enjoys domesticity, managing a home and raising a child because I love my son more than life itself so all things related to him always felt important.  And I love an orderly and smoothly running home.  The thing is, for a woman of my generation and life experiences, it is rare (although not impossible nor unheard of) to live a life completely dedicated to her own sort of work while someone else manages the details of life.  I mean, it never would have occurred to me that I could or should make my life’s work art and have someone else do the cooking and cleaning or that I could simply neglect it.  #notmyjob or #notmyproblem now come to mind.  It would never have crossed my mind to pursue a life of creativity and not be responsible for the state of the home, the care and feeding of the family.  I suspect that I had internalised from an early age that this is what it meant to be a woman. 

I ponder that now, as I am enjoying what I call mid-life ecstasy.  It’s what is on the other side of the mid-life crisis. No, my life is not perfect or easy or magical, I am much too practical a person to see it that way.  But having raised my child successfully into a wonderful adult human being I can now call a friend, and having found a partner for this second stage of my life who expects nothing of me in the way of domesticity and yet is appreciative and thankful for anything I do, I am mostly free to create my art as much as I wish to.  I say mostly because I still place expectations on myself.  It’s a difficult habit to break. 

Often I apologise if there is no dinner planned or if the laundry has piled up because I was immersed in creating, but he sweetly reminds me that he does not view these things as my job.  I have a partner, not a domestic slave, so while he takes on many of the jobs I am neglecting, he also sometimes neglects them too and I think this is preferable to a partner who is acting the role of housekeeper and caretaker because that would come with guilt for me.  It creates a sort of inequality I cannot live with.  If I had lots of money I am sure I could see myself living as a male artist might, either in a mess and going without meals or with a hired housekeeper to sort out such things.  Nobody viewed a man who could not or did not tend to such mundane chores as inadequate in any way but a woman who cannot or does not is still an oddity at best.

 I am not an oddity, but I am living differently from how I'd ever expected to and am exceedingly happy for it.  Better late than never, as they say.


Sunday, 8 April 2018

Guilt, Art, and Being a Woman

                           Acrylic on paper-experiments with my new palette knives.        

Are there any females who don't live with some degree of guilt?  I often wonder.  I hope that there are and that my generation is the last to feel it, but perhaps I am fantasising too much.  Guilt comes from the pressure, real or imagined and likely both, for a woman to be all things to all people, to do everything well, and mostly to do it for others.  And she should of course look hot while doing it all. 

I am achieving the latter merely due to menopause.

This blog is in danger of becoming obsessively focused on my painting as the previous incarnation was on personal colour theory.  The uniting theme is colour, to be sure.  I imagine myself on my deathbed, commenting on colour in some way.  Probably I will dislike the colours of the hospital room.   

Morbid thoughts!  

Where was I?  Oh yes, colour and painting and guilt.  Currently I am feeling guilt because painting has taken over my life and I'm happy about it. Why the guilt?  Because it takes me away from other things and I mostly don't mind.  Although sometimes I do.  Painting obsessively ( there should be another word as this one perhaps has negative associations-I mean to say I am painting as much as possible when not sleeping, resting or making dinner and the motivation to cook is quite low. ) .....

...painting for hours a day is exhausting in a way that makes me happy, the way I suppose people experience a runner's high or the thrill of climbing a mountain.  I feel guilt over choosing to exhaust myself for something purely selfish because somewhere in my stupid brain is firmly lodged the idea that I should/must only exhaust myself in service to others.  I suspect this has kept me from so single-mindedly pursuing art for most of my life.  That and the need to work for an income.  At this point in my life I am very fortunate as I have enough to live on modestly, a supportive partner and very little in the way of shoulds or musts in my life.  There is nobody other than ME causing this guilt.

ME refers to both myself and M.E. ( myalgic encephalomyelitis ) because the latter is why the former gets so exhausted from several hours of painting a day.  The guilt I am specifically feeling is over the lack of getting out for a walk.  There is correlation involved here though perhaps it's not the cause I think it is.  I haven't conducted a truly scientific experiment.  The weather has been terrible and both Jim and I were feeling quite run down.  Our walks dwindled and we haven't been out in a couple of weeks whereas the goal of three times a week was being readily met for awhile.  It was being easily met when I wasn't painting so much.  As the rain came and the walks dwindled my desire to paint burst out and I haven't experienced this level of immersed passion since my days as an obsessed gardener.


Ahhhh gardening.  I miss it in many ways though it too was exhausting and eventually formidably so.  When I look back on how I gardened, although I know there was pleasure in the physicality of it, of being outside, sinking my hands into soil, the fresh air, the birds, gardening for me was very significantly an art.  I was focused on arranging plant forms, shapes, textures and colours into a desired effect.  In non-gardening weather I spent hours planning, researching, looking into new plants.  I also dug up and moved plants constantly in order to improve the effect I was creating with them.  If I didn't like a certain colour combination it had to be changed!

Back on topic, sort of:

Writing doesn't induce the same level of guilt that painting does because I can write in bed.  I can write when my body is so fatigued that anything else is out of the question.  But painting needs the same level of energy I would need to do housework, exercise, take care of other people, all of those female-assigned jobs.

I don't have a solution.  I could list all of the sayings, quotes, bits of advice that I've ever heard or read but the truth would be that they only work a little bit.  We all have to deal with our own responses and my task is to try to deal with this guilt.  Perhaps it is your task too.  We can at least take comfort knowing we are on that journey together.

                                    Can't stop making these little multi-coloured women. 

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Paint Bravely

I have mainly been painting and sleeping, I think.  That's how it seems and I do have to admit to myself that painting is exhausting.  I can lose hours at it, so try to limit myself to a few hours a day though I hate to stop if I'm making good progress.  I've also gotten brave and made an Instagram account for sharing photos of my work and meeting other artists.  This is how those of us who don't leave home and don't like groups have to do it!  I know you are probably wondering why sharing on Instagram is brave and sharing here is not as much so.  I don't know that I can explain it but it has something to do with how here I just say 'hey, it's me, look at what I am playing at'.  On Instagram I said, 'hi there, I am an artist'.

A couple of posts back I shared an abstract that I'd begun, saying I didn't know where it was going.  It became this.  That's how art and life both work-you may not end up where you thought you were going to.  You may not know where you are going.

                                     Bedroom Curtain, acrylic on canvas

I have had successes, surprises, disappointments and failures, just like life too.  I have continued to change pieces I said were finished, sold a painting and thought up a gazillion ideas for more paintings.  No wonder I'm tired!

I love playing with charcoal, though it's messy.  It takes several drawings to get one I like, but the process is quick and fun.

I joined a 7 Day Challenge on Instagram and my focus is loosely painted women.  It's meant to be an experimental process project, creating mini paintings and the above pieces on paper are my results so far.  I like the green one the least, but there is always something to learn from what doesn't work.  My goal was not to fuss.

There is nothing like really getting messy and doing the work to bring on progress and that's what things are like for me now.  Messy, progressing, feeling good!  I am going to have to re-think my wardrobe though.  I am seriously thinking about adding coveralls to my wardrobe.

Monday, 2 April 2018

A New Perspective on Perfectionism

I'm a perfectionist and have been trying not to be one.  I'm going to stop that and here is why.

I wanted to paint with a faster and looser style but it's easier said than done, perhaps more so if one is a cautious person with perfectionist tendencies.  I know I am not alone because I know this is a goal of many artists and the tendency to begin to tighten up, to head too much in a direction of realism is something many artists say they are constantly fighting.  Habits take time to develop and are also hard to break which is common wisdom that applies to all areas of life.  Sometimes we can get to a breakthrough if we just spend enough time thinking about and imagining the change.  The mental shift comes before the physical shift.  At least that's how it often works for me.  Some people call this 'setting an intention' which is the new way of saying 'make a plan' or 'make a decision'.  It sounds a bit more magical and I think it comes from the 'ask the universe for what you want'  approach to life.  I haven't got a spiritual bone in my body, so as far as I am concerned, changing your thinking can change your actions.

Or at least it can begin to change them.  Change usually takes time, even if you are as prone to epiphanies as I am.  You didn't become who you are overnight and you will continue to gradually evolve.  Sometimes it's without trying to and other times it's with great effort.

My two greatest efforts of late are to minimise the unwanted in my life and to let my painting style go in the direction I wish it to despite what holds me back.  My best strategies for those are to know what the goal is and to just keep trying.  I purge and donate, clear out a cupboard and think I'm finished but later I discover I can let go of more.  I think that I am finished a painting, may even announce it on a blog post, but later suddenly want to make a change or an addition. 

A quotation I have stumbled upon and which really resonates with me is attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci but it seems others have paraphrased it and have also been credited with the quote....perhaps the fate of all good ideas.

"Art is never finished, merely abandoned."  

I think this applies to many projects and efforts.  We may set something aside, but later come back and often with clarity and a good solution.  Aiming for perfection means it is never finished and since perfection doesn't exist, aiming for it isn't always a good idea....

But sometimes it is.  Sometimes that streak of perfectionism can tell you that something just isn't quite there yet and if you leave it alone for awhile you will get to a better place with it eventually.  If you are in this process then you are growing, which is much better than remaining stagnant. (I think this is a mix of metaphors-plants and water?)  For me this lately means taking my paintings where I want them to go, getting there in stages with a few false stops.  (Some people make false starts but I make false stops.) It also means making lifestyle changes that take time and don't have a predetermined result. 

Here is an abstract in progress.  I don't know when it will be finished and I will probably be wrong about that a few times.  I find that I have to step back out of my art and look at for a long time to know what I want to do with it next, to wait for it to tell me what it needs.  This isn't unusual for artists; I'm not unique.  I think life can be like this too.  Step back.  Wait a bit.  See what happens and what needs to happen.  It will make sense eventually and you will know what you need to do.  Sometimes you wait, sometimes you take a step. Sometimes you learn from your mistakes, sometimes you have a leap of progress, make a big change, undo or add.  Just keep going, rest when you need to and then get going again.  This is the best way I know how to paint and how to live life.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Painting Wildly on a Sunday Morning

                                    Mother and Daughter, acrylic on paper

                             Home From the Beauty Salon, acrylic on paper

Today I said, forget it, to realism.  There is a lot of paint here, a lot of layering and these were fun to make.  Is it a new direction?  I don't know.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Peach, Salmon, Coral, Whatever You Call It...

Although it's officially Spring, the weather is still sometimes grey and dreary.  Sunny days come more frequently though as well as that particular combination of grey clouds and bright sunshine that indicates Spring on BC's coast.  I haven't yet developed that sunny weather urge for wearing more colour, but it's only a few months away.  Once we have sunshine saturated days I will be ready to wear juicier colour. 

Although my base layers tend to be denim, cream and camel, this peachy vest and this thrifted scarf are making regular appearances.  I don't wear that pillow on the right.  Just can't work it into an outfit.

These colours are probably somewhere in between Soft Autumn and Warm Autumn, which suits me well as I tend to wear the softest versions of the Warm Autumn colours.  Why am I not a Soft Autumn then?  

So glad you asked!  Different systems will have some variation, but in general the palette called Soft Autumn is slightly greyed and includes some colours that are leaning cooler.  That means only the warmest and least greyed of the colours in that palette work for me but there is essentially an overlap, a place where a colour could be worked into either the Soft Autumn or the Warm Autumn palette if the person is leaning warmer or leaning softer in either of those categories. 

This peach/salmon/coral/orange-pink that everyone gives a slightly different name is one of my favourites and I am surprised it doesn't show up much in my art.  

Today it actually did and it is one of my favourite paintings to date.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Art Journalling: The Last in What Became a Week-long Art Series

You will know from reading this blog that I am working on confidence and courage and that while I have plenty of ideas about how to grow both of them, it's always a work in progress for me.  Every day I make art and look at art.  In the space of half an hour I can swing more than once between feeling good about what I make and feeling convinced it's crap and everyone else on the planet is doing it better.  Okay maybe not everyone but at least a billion people.  And they are all on Instagram.

I am thinking about putting my work on Instagram too, although I currently don't own a smart phone so that is apparently a problem.  

Some time ago I realised that I was wasting time not making enough art.  It's not so terribly unusual to be afraid to do something you want to do, but it took me awhile to realise I was avoiding it.  I have a variety of interests, I read and write and love getting outside for walks.  I still have the usual mundane chores and responsibilities that most people have and I have a larger requirement for sleep and rest than most people.  In other words, I had plenty of excuses. But I didn't know I was making excuses.  It's possible that an obsession with personal style that burnt itself out was a bit of sidestepping, an interest in something creative that felt much less risky to me.  We all have to wear clothing.  If I put on an outfit that fails creatively I can always fall back on the excuse that I have to wear something and this was the best I could do at the time.  Being creative with clothing is fun but there are others who do it much better than I do and eventually I lost interest.  I love colour and style systems from an academic point of view but I drifted away from my focus on clothing as an art form and then, in a sense, I was naked.

Okay, not actually naked, I was still wearing clothes but I was exposed to myself and I knew that the creative outlet I really needed to focus on was my art.  

As you can tell by all of the sharing, I am painting quite a bit, and you will be happy to know, I even refrain from sharing some of it.  Like all people enthused by something, I want to share my joy and also what I learn along the way.  I also want to share what I learn and how I deliberately go about learning it just in case it is helpful to anyone in some way.  And because I believe that at least some of the time, the lessons are applicable to other things, whether it's other types of creating or just life in general.

I've dabbled in a variety of art journals and at one time I thought I was going to make a very specific type with a particular style quite popular on Pinterest and Blogs around the web.  I bought many books on it and collected ( also purchased ) supplies for this mixed media type of art journal.  But it turned out not to be the right thing for me.  More than anything I am just compelled to paint, once in awhile sketching or making marks and lines as a form of practice or warm up.  I might like to doodle sometimes or make Zentangles but my passion is with brushes and globs of thick, creamy paint.

My challenge was to get looser and leaning a little more abstract and the minute I am in front of a canvas I develop some sort of worry about it needing to be a 'serious' painting and it affects the results.  The results are usually tighter than I want, leaning more towards realism than abstract and while I do want something that is somewhere in the middle, I want the lean to be in the abstract direction.  So I decided that a journal might help.

I like themes.  In this journal I paint only flowers, I give myself permission to experiment both with medium and style.  I generally work from my imagination so the flowers are sometimes pure inventions, other times they come from my memory.  Once or twice I've looked at an image as a reminder, since it has been several years since I had a garden.  I didn't want to be tied to realism much, not in colour or shape though I did want the images somewhat recognisable.

There are many people painting flowers.  It's definitely a popular genre and particularly with women painters so sometimes it discourages me a little to be one of the herd and that nasty little voice in my head says, 'yeah and not only one of the herd but one of the lame ones'.

Oh that nasty voice is such a bitch.  I should slap her.

But painting in an art journal has taught me quite a bit about myself and my painting.  I get closer to my goal when I paint in the journal so now begins the process of recognising that and translating it to canvas or large pieces of art paper.  The downside to the journal is that although acrylics dry quickly they do remain sticky for awhile so pages can get stuck together and it's difficult to paint several in one sitting for that reason.  I am currently glazing all of these pages and that will take awhile given the wait for drying time.

Painting in my journal I have let go of the worry about whether or not it's perfect, let my strokes be looser, and if something looks a bit wrong or off I usually don't worry about it.  Sometimes I do a bit of correcting, but I life with imperfect and I like imperfect.  This is also an advantage to painting imaginary things.  You can't get the look of a flower wrong if you made it up!  It's good practice in letting go of perfection.  I prefer the lines a bit wobbly, some of the shapes a bit questionable and the colours both exuberant and not always 'realistic'.  I experiment with how I make lines, where I place colour, the brushstrokes, the shapes, and sometimes with using ink or charcoal, making darker outlines or not making any.  I just play with it to find out what I like best.

Yes, other people are painting similar things.  Or at least they are painting loose representations of flowers, usually as still live, sometimes as abstracts.  I am sure I will constantly hear that little voice reminding me this, but I know that it doesn't matter if other people do it too.  I am doing it my way, in my own style and taking pleasure in it.  If other people can take pleasure in what I make too I will be happy and there are enough flowers and there is enough happiness to go around.

Final Note:
These are imperfect and that is what I like about them.  It is difficult to resist the temptation to go at them and attempt to 'fix' things.  But the point is for them not to be fixed.  After photographing them I did glaze them which is a look I like and to me it seems to meld the colours together better so I finish all my work that way.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

We are Most Insecure when we Really Care

                                        And Night Came, acrylic on canvas

It's much easier to share unfinished work on my blog than it is to share it when it is finished.  Sometimes I am consciously choosing that, although not always.  Often I am just excited.  I had so much fun painting I want to say 'look world, at what I did today!' and it's not typical for a painting to be finished in one session or one day.  So while the reason for showing an unfinished painting is often simple enthusiasm, it is also safe.  It's safe because if there is anything 'wrong' with it, if somebody doesn't like it, my ego is safe because the painting isn't finished.   I know that there is more to do, usually some shadows and light to add, perhaps more colour to dab around.  These are the things I typically do last and take more time to do.  Sometimes I need to loosen it up with larger, looser brush strokes.  After I have done this I rarely show the painting again.  I may want to, but now the fear is that I will bore people with it. 

"Oh that thing again.  I didn't like it the first time."

Painting seems to be the thing I really care about.  Oh sure there are other ways to push my buttons.  For instance, suggest that I don't care about something which I do care about, or that I am not honest and sincere, which for the most part I am, and I will probably get quite upset.   When I think back over my life and at what made me cry, it was generally these issues at the root of it.

I publicly share a terrible outfit, write things in first draft with lots of mistakes and post it, post photos of my face without makeup and looking pale and tired and ill.  I can write about  my failings and fears, but what scares me most is sharing a photo of my finished paintings and risking criticism or indifference.  The latter might be worse.   This is where I am vulnerable, so this is what I am determined to get sorted.

Recently I read some advice about this, because I am not alone.  Far from it.  And as with most things arty, this advice probably extends into other areas of life as well.  Here it is.

Learn not to care about what others think.

OH MY GONDOLA!  We have never heard this advice before.

Okay, we have and I am just naturally a sarcastic woman.  You should know that about me.  BUT isn't the best advice the easiest to ignore?  It's hard, that's why.  It's not easy to learn to not care about what others think and while I've done it in some areas of my life I haven't achieved it in all of them.    I've had less practice at making art and showing it to people.  Much less practice than I have had showing my face or my outfit or writing things down and knowing that people will see what I've written.  I've been doing all of those things nearly my whole life.  I've been making art off and on for quite awhile, but giving myself permission to really take it seriously ( in the way that one must take fun seriously or die ) and to do it often and show it to people, well that is harder and I am still near the beginning of that journey.  It has only been about seven years since I bought myself proper art supplies and gave myself permission to spend time and money on this pursuit.

I used to imagine that there was some sort of magic destination where I would feel like a proper artist and have no compunctions about charging money for my time, talent and materials, easily who others my work with the full on knowledge that I am good.  But I realised two things.  One of them is that I am not that sort of person and never have been.  I require a very high level of mastery to consider myself an expert in something and thus it's rather unlikely in any area of life.  It is my nature to set the bar very high and spend my life jumping.  The other realisation is that I am not alone and not only that, but plenty of artists who have commercial success, who sell their hobby paintings, who most of us would consider really good, do not think this of themselves. 

So here are some paintings I have shared in an unfinished state, now finished as far as I am going to take them.  Sharing them now is a risk but at the same time it's a risk I feel ready to take so maybe it's not such a risk anymore.  Progress.  It happens if you keep going.

                                                The Loner, acrylic on canvas

                                             Fruit, of Course, acrylic on canvas

                                               Spring Garden, acrylic on canvas                                           

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Sometimes Life is like Art

I've read plenty of advice on how to say No, but also advice on saying Yes and each time that advice is presented it seems that this single word, either yes or no, is the most important thing, the thing that will change your life.  The reality is that there are things we want to say no to but are afraid, and things we are afraid to say yes to but would probably be happier if we did, and figuring it all out is what life is.  A process.

I think I have spent my whole adult life figuring out who I am.  Each time I discover something, I rest there for awhile, perhaps a little inclined to think I've got it ALL figured out now.  Peace will come.  And then I discover that I haven't got it all figured out.  I haven't because it's not possible to have it all figured out.  Nobody does and if they say they do they are wrong and if you think they do you are mistaken.  Life is the process of figuring, which is why it is now a cliche to call life a journey.  It is one.  We may stride forward with purpose or we may meander.  We may do a little of both at different times.  There are things to learn and there are almost as many things to unlearn.

Sometimes I feel as though I am the only weirdo on the planet and other times I think I must be dreadfully dull and ordinary.  I don't know whether I prefer discovering others like me or the mistaken belief that I am unique.  I suppose, in the end, since I tend to favour accuracy and truth over even the most delightful of delusions, I do not want to carry on believing I am significantly unique.

Yes, I know it goes against all of the popular self-esteem mantras of the day to say that I am not unique and to assert that nobody is.  The thing is, we are and we aren't; it just depends on how you frame it.  Perhaps nobody else in the world has the exact same brown hair as I have but there are plenty who have brown hair and plenty whose brown is indistinguishable from mine.  My handwriting is unique to me and yet surely there are others whose handwriting looks remarkably similar.  The entire package that I am may not exist anywhere else but other similar packages do.  I think you take my point.  There are times when it helps to think of myself as unique and there are times when I find I cannot sustain that belief.

At this point in my life I think the answer to all of that is to not care.  After all, while there are things to gain from believing oneself to be unique and special, there are also things to gain from recognising the ways we are all alike.  The feeling of belonging to a family, a community or humanity is important for surviving and thriving.

Balance is always the answer.  It's always what people are seeking, whether they use that term or not, and balance is somewhat self-defined.  The things I say NO to are meant to free me for saying YES to other things.  That's why being able to recognise and articulate the need for both Nos and Yeses is important.    I'm saying No to more things so that I can increasingly say Yes to my art.  I'm struggling all the time with thinking my art is crap, that there are so many others who are better, that if I can't be perfect there is no point.  Those are the demon voices I personally battle.  I know there are others like me and it helps to know that I am not unique in this case.

Today I have been dabbling, quite literally as I have many paintings that are in the not quite finished category.  I've shown some of them on this blog.  They need finishing touches such as more shadow or light, maybe there is a splash of colour missing, maybe what I've done so far is lay the groundwork, create the outline and a base but what I need to do next is cover it with looser, less precise brush strokes.  I find a certain irony in this because...

I simultaneously want to create art that is loose, expressive, and more abstract than representational and yet I am a perfectionist who tends to tighten up and start aiming for reality without even knowing it's  what I am doing.  It's my default and I think that buried somewhere in that is a metaphor for my whole life.

The negative way to look at that is to say, I over-think and I over-paint.  On the other hand, I could say that I persevere.  I keep going until I get there.  And I rather like that way of looking at it.

It's crazy to keep doing something you don't want to do, but it happens all the time in life and in art.  I keep painting as though I am aiming for realistic representation when that's not what I want at all and at best I get something that is half way.  In life also, I have at times found myself continuing along a path that is not actually the one I want.  We default to what is ingrained and even when we are emotionally ready to change it can be difficult to erase old habits.  When I began painting I was using water colours and aiming for realistic landscapes.  I only understood art in terms of technical proficiency.  I wasn't happy with my painting until someone shoved me in a different direction, larger, looser, more colourful.  But I still slip back into old habits.

For now, my best art strategy is two simple steps:

1.  If I am getting too tightly focused, stop.

2.  If I have a piece that I am frustrated with because it's still too representational, set it aside and then come back later and paint another looser layer on top.

If not taken quite so literally these steps can apply to life too.

Art is like life in that we all have to do it our own way in order to be happy.  Sometimes we will encounter someone who doesn't like our way.  Sometimes when I change a painting someone in my life objects, saying they liked it better the other way.  I am no different from anyone else who creates; I love it when something I make speaks to someone else.  I want others to like and enjoy what I create.  But, I also do it for myself because it feeds something inside me.  Life is like art in that I must eventually do it for myself and do it my way in order to be happy.

Spring Growth: That Time When Art was Just Like Life

This picture sums up my life right now.  I paint as much as possible, which is at least three or four hours a day and often there is a g...