9 January 2012

Panic & Painting: It's Okay to Stray

It took me a while to truly come to believe this philosophy but I think I am finally getting it. So many times when learning something new we feel like we have to do it ‘the right way’. It is ingrained in us that there is a process to follow and one can only achieve a good outcome by following a set of steps or rules and taking a text book approach, literally. We may not completely realise it but our mind loves the comfort of this, it makes us feel safe and if you’re like me, ticking off the steps as they are completed can be very satisfying. 

Although there is nothing wrong with following a process it can be detrimental to the way we create if taken too seriously. The risk being, we end up doing nothing at all and become too obsessed with getting it ‘right’. I struggle with this all the time and end up procrastinating for months on end pretending to ‘look for proper inspiration’ when the truth is I am too afraid to start in case I mess it up and get it all wrong! So I thought I’d share some advice that has worked for me and pushed me into getting started.

  • Let Go of Expectations: forget about any expectation you have for your work, just for now and just so you can allow yourself to act. 
  • Take Action: grab the materials, put pencil to paper or paint to canvas – whatever, just physically do it. Scribble, scrape, smudge or blot, release whatever it is that is holding you back and expect nothing. 
  • Loosen up: Try techniques you haven’t tried before, use your non-dominant hand if painting or drawing, to try materials you have been too afraid to try because you ‘don’t know how’, use a longer brush and step further back not focusing on the details and allowing your application to freely flow. 
  • Get it ‘Wrong’: We can get so fixated on wanting to make something look a certain way and getting it ‘right’ that we forget why we started it in the first place. Just have fun with it and enjoy the process. 
Reminding myself to think this way each time I feel blocked has allowed me accept that it is okay to create for the sake of creating, and contrary to popular belief, there doesn’t always have to be a point!

Let me demonstrate:

Initial Task: Create a great still life using oil paint that will realistically resemble the subject matter I set up.

Setting up and Composition
Final Result: An abstract painting using acrylic paint and a palette knife. Noting that I have never used acrylic nor a palette knife to paint before...for some reason had convinced myself I’d hate it.Crazy huh!

...actually I think I like it better this way?!

 How this Happened?

When I was planning for the still life I couldn’t get motivated. I was too overwhelmed to start, knowing hadn’t allocated enough time that weekend to get done what I wanted to, including thumbnail sketches, first layers and all the fine details I had envisaged for the piece..

I was very tempted to turn away and do something else like I normally would, and come back to paint maybe a month later...but I didn’t , instead I decided to use the same colour palette I had selected for the still life to create a something else. And here’s the result!

I am not yet sure if I like it or not (leaning more toward like) but I don’t care. I thoroughly enjoyed the exercise of just letting go and creating something completely different to my original concept. I am proud for actually taking action rather than running off and distracting myself with something much less fulfilling.

I think I will come back for the still life but with a much more relaxed approach!

Lessons Learnt: 
  • Creating something unplanned and seemingly pointless is better is than creating nothing at all.
  • If the task is too daunting to commence don’t run away, just slow down. You’re better off strolling on the sidelines than giving up on the race altogether.
  • Try new mediums and techniques that you thought weren’t you, you may end up surprising yourself. 
  • Allow yourself to keep going even if half way through and you find it’s not according to plan. Remember its okay to stray!

No comments:

Post a Comment