Creating is a Process

Sage by Sharon Leah. 4”x6” Study in gouache on paper.

Teaching myself to paint with gouache has been a series of near wins and a lot of misses. I attempted this because I’m traveling in a few weeks and I want to paint at locations I’ll visit. Using gouache has practical advantages over oil paint that I’ve used for years. Gouache is easier to transport, less toxic, and it dries fast (so no wet paintings to deal with). That it dries fast is also one of its challenges.

After a month of trying, and with more fails than wins with gouache, I questioned the value of continuing the effort. Frustrated with the previous version of the above painting, I took it off the easel and tossed it on a table in my studio. I was floundering.

Floundering is the feeling of not knowing what to do; lacking skills, knowledge, and a process (practice) to keep from going under. I lacked all three.

Coincidently, or not…

I’ve been reading Seth Godin’s book The Practice. Godin says the act of doing something that might not work, to create, requires us to trust ourselves. “It’s a commitment to the process, not simply the next outcome on the list. If we focus only on the outcome, our practice will fall apart.”

I can relate to that. I spent a lot of time, energy, and supplies on gouache paintings (outcomes) that were, well…not very good.

I was focused on the wrong thing, which was the outcome.

Back to the Process

I learned a process for painting that works well from a nationally recognized landscape painter, who lives and teaches in my area. But I’ve tried different things—different processes, new colors, brands, brushes, even different subject matter. I love my little adventures to art supply stores in my area. But in the process of exploring, I had set aside and then forgotten one of the most important things: a process that works for painting.

I hadn’t understood it’s real value. And now I didn’t know how to get to where I wanted to go. I thought my problem stemmed from trying to work with a new medium. Gouache paint. That wasn’t the problem.

Trust and Practice

I remembered and then recommitted to the practice I’d learned to make paintings. And it worked! Not every painting will be a “success,” but I can trust the practice and myself, and I’ll get closer next time.

Power Play

Every game, every tournament, has confident entrants who don’t win. Requiring control over external events is a recipe for heartache and frustration. Worse, if you need a guarantee you’re going to win before you begin, you’ll never start. The alternative is to trust the process, to do our work with generosity and intent, and to accept every outcome, the good ones as well as the bad. — Seth Godin, The Practice

Trust yourself to find the way. Pay attention to things you hear, see, read, and feel. Especially, how you feel. They have your attention for good reason.

What do you think? Do you have a process for practicing your creativity? Are you following it? Jump into the conversation and share your thoughts.

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