Study for portrait of Vincent Van Gogh by Francis Bacon, 1957.
For several years, John has curated the work of landscape artists for a cyber art show that he shares with his audience of landscape painters on Facebook. Every week, he asks his followers a question. A recent question was: “If you had to pick just one thing that being an artist has taught you, what would it be?” The question elicited over a hundred responses, such as:
- Don’t self promote. It’s embarrassing and self-defeating.
- Perseverance, persistence, and patience.
- Not to be an artist. I quit six years ago.
- Never stop learning and pushing your boundaries.
- There will always be someone who is better than you. Don’t compete.
- How hard it is to be an accomplished artist. I sometimes think I’ll never get there.
- Marry well.
- Admire, appreciate, and understand other’s work.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is the thief of joy.
Midweek, John posted a comment in which he said that he had observed only about 2 percent of the population are truly artists and another 10 percent consider themselves creative. Everyone else just likes to paint.
I was quite surprised that John thinks so few of his artist followers think of themselves as creative and even fewer see themselves as artists, but I don’t disagree with him even though I have come to other conclusions. That’s what he’s observed and what he believes. John explained his reasoning this way: “TRUE artists suffer. They struggle to fit in. To get enough money to eat and live. To find time enough to create what is burning them up inside and to get recognition in an indifferent society and world.”
That was Van Gogh’s life story. It’s a story and a mindset that many painters, writers, poets, sculptors—artists—have adopted, though. It’s a belief that is worn by many, perhaps the majority, like sackcloth and perpetuated by its repetition. It’s a belief that is passed from generation to generation. But here’s the thing—beliefs are nothing more than thoughts that people continue to think, and as long as people continue to tell each other their stories of lack, they will continue to manifest and share those experiences.
Tell a different story. Chronic attention to unwanted things holds you in a place (through the thoughts that you think) of disallowing what you really want.
Everyone is creative. If you doubt that is true, take 15 minutes and recall/make a list of things you’ve created (brought into your life) because you imagined/thought of something that you wanted for yourself. The Law of Attraction says that “that which is like onto itself, is drawn.”
I’ve been painting roses like the one pictured here for the past three weeks as homework for a class, “Finding Inner Peace through Painting Roses” that Dennis Perrin offers online. I’ve felt many things while standing in front of my easel and working really hard to paint roses, but feeling peaceful has not been my state of mind. Dennis has offered many demonstrations throughout this time and I’m still not getting it. I’ve felt frustrated, impatient, inept, disappointed, and not close to understanding how to find peace or paint roses.
Every time I try to paint them I’ve wondered What is their secret? To be fair to myself, I’ve learned many other things as I’ve painted. I’m more confident today about mixing paint, seeing values, and I have a new “palette discipline,” which simply means keeping color values together rather than being indiscriminate and haphazard about where I mix a pile of paint. The color value piles on the palette match the color and values in the painting.
I’m acutely aware that I’m still missing the simplicity of the act of painting roses, which are by their nature full of complex details. I’m making it too hard. So this morning, I decided I need to take a break, to step back and look elsewhere for guidance.
While going through a drawer in my bedroom this morning, I found a small notebook. The first entry was made in September 1994. The last entry was made in October 1998. On one of the pages, I’d written the following quote:
Deep within each of you, you will find real beauty, virtue, and goodness. It may be hidden very deep inside of you, but have faith that it is there. You can find it when you are willing to search within with real determination. For you draw to yourself what you hold in your thoughts. Think the very best and you will draw the very best to yourself…Realize how much you have to be grateful for. Surround yourself with beautiful things and beautiful people. See the light in everything and everyone. Let your light shine brightly from deep within you and know that nothing from without can extinguish your flame. So keep your lights burning brightly so you can blaze forth, pushing back the darkness. Be light and let it shine forth from you.
I think I’ve found a thread that if I follow it, I will be able to paint the rose. I’ll post it when it’s done!
Are you waiting to be ready before you share what you know? We humans often think that we’re not ready to share what we know or what we do, because someone else does it better and, well, we’re not quite good enough “yet.” That kind of thinking is the result of comparing yourself to others. And since thoughts are what create beliefs, if you think you’re not good enough yet, well then you don’t believe that you are.
I’m a student in a studio class that’s offered by a man who routinely gets paid $15,000, and often more, for his paintings. He does beautiful work. He’s also a great teacher, and every week he shares his expertise with me and his other students. I will never paint like my teacher paints, because I’m me. I’m different. My hand is different. I hold my brushes different. My brush strokes are different. My eyes see color differently. I choose different subjects to paint. It’s my very differences that make me uniquely different from my teacher.
You’re unique, too. So don’t compare. Share. Share what’s unique about you, because you’re the expert. Never mind what you are not. Decide on what you want and stay focused there on yourself and your flow.
Insist on the beauty of form and color to be obtained from the composition of the largest masses, the four or five large masses which cover your canvas. Let these things above all things have fine shapes…Let them be as meaningful of your subject as they possibly can be. ..Remember that the greatest beauty can be expressed through these masses, that the distinction of the whole canvas depends on them.
~ Robert Henri in The Art Spirit
I passed by this stand of tall, slender pines while driving on a back road in Wisconsin a couple of summers ago. I stopped and took a couple of photos and had every intention of painting them—until tonight.
Every composition is an arrangement of shapes, but the shapes aren’t always obvious. In the photo above, the trees are full of interesting details, and those details disguise the big shapes. That’s when making a notan (the process of reducing everything to two values—black and white—can be a best first step before diving right into a painting. The notan eliminates details and leaves only large shapes.
When the 30-minute notan study was done, I felt less than thrilled with the four large shapes that remained. There is nothing outstanding or beautiful about any of the shapes and I decided not to do the painting
I still love the scene and the memory attached to the photo, but creating a painting requires a significant block of time and effort. So, I’m not disappointed about letting go of the notion. The 30 minutes it took to do the notan drawing was a good use of my time.