While young, I joined a club track team. Things were very clear cut: you won or you didn’t. For awhile I won, becoming one of the top runners in Canada. Now that I have bragged, what does this have to do with being a good painter?
For one thing, training for hours a day does teach discipline. Secondly, we learned to focus on our strengths, and to improve our weaknesses. However, competition did not teach that it is okay not to cross the finish line first.
Crossing a finish line is great. It is measurable. But how to we quantify ‘success’ with our creativity? So few people get to the top in any field. Also, with social media showing us the global pool of talent, we can be inspired and simultaneously overwhelmed.
In the creative process there is no finish line. As painters we are constantly learning how to paint better. We also know there is always more to learn. These painting challenges keep us interested. Taking on these challenges helps on the path to being a good painter.
Unfortunately, these challenges can also make us feel ‘not good enough’ when we get stuck or have setbacks. Being mindful that this happens to all mere mortals is helpful. So is accepting the fact that gaining painting skills is difficult. And so is focusing on doing our best with our current skills. Plus we can focus on improving. The wonderful thing about being an artist, compared to being an athlete, we can paint from infancy, well, to the second infancy.
Enjoy the Process
Additionally, we can take pleasure in breakthroughs. We can take pleasure in the paintings we like. We can enjoy the process of making something out of nothing. We can remember that our art is valid, whether we have a zillion followers or keep our world smaller. The thing is to take pleasure! Crossing the finish line is a choice—we can choose to meander off the beaten path. Isn’t that more fun than running around in circles anyway? (It is a weird thing to do isn’t it? And I speak from experience.)
How I aspire to being a good painter:
– Getting better
– Being objective
– Being brave in self expression
– Being open and honest
– Obtaining help and feedback
– Learning from artists whose art excites me
– Trying new processes
– Being okay with failed paintings and moving on
– Getting into the studio when the muse is on vacation
– Taking a vacation with the muse
– Exploring variations of colour, value and temperature
– Making great designs
– Walking in the woods
– Creating a painting that is meaningful to someone
– Being humble yet confident
– Knowing that others can teach me something
– Extending a feeling into each painting (more important to me than perfect process)
– Believing that what I do is worthwhile
– Seeing metaphors and similes within paintings
– Being okay when none of the above happens
– Doing things that have nothing to do with painting
And lastly, until that final finish line of life, to simply keep painting as well as possible.