I’ve been looking at my wall of shame (the numerous, unfinished, large oil paintings I have hanging on my studio wall), and it’s been my intention to finish them this year. But maybe that intention is just too rigid. Because finishing those pieces is actually an outcome of something larger — me returning to my art, getting to a place where I feel I can finish those paintings.
I have approached art so infrequently over the last six months. I tried setting a night a week to work on my paintings, but because it was just one night a week, it became a sort of momentous occasion. There was too much at stake. I was racked with anxiety at the thought that I wouldn’t make enough progress, that what I did wouldn’t be good enough, and I would end the night feeling no better than if I hadn’t spent the night painting at all.
And then I started thinking about doing art as a daily practice.
I journal every single day. It’s habit. Some days I write pages and pages before I’ve finished my second morning coffee, others I might just manage a simple log of the day. It’s a long time since I sat at my journal and wondered what to write. It’s a part of me because of the daily attention I give it. But the key with my journal is that when I started out, I was a complete beginner. I didn’t write with the intent of creating a good journal entry, I did it for the process.
And I think that’s where I’ve slipped up with my art — I’ve lost the beginner’s mindset.
Art was with me through most of my childhood until I left secondary school. Then there was extremely sporadic dabbling over the following 15 years up until last year when I had a sustained period of producing and selling art. Whatever caused me to burn out last year
So I’ve resolved to forget about the end result, and instead concentrate on the process. This has started with daily sketching — pick a photo and sketch it. Not happy with the result? I’ll draw it again today or tomorrow. I’ll work with lines and shading. I’ll play with colours. I’ll try anything just to engage with the process. If I simply make marks on a blank page, then I’ll consider the day a success. Because every time I engage with my art, I’m building the familiarity, gaining experience, learning from mistakes, and ultimately building a habit.
An anecdote in Art & Fear explains it well:
I can so relate to this. I’m guilty of this stalling for perfectionism. I’ve spent too long wondering why I can’t do it, rather than just doing it. If I have to start back at the beginning, I will, and maybe some day soon, I’ll be back to where I was — hopefully better.