Have you ever wondered if you are too old to be an artist? Or, if you are learning to paint or learning to make art, do you wonder when you’ll be “good enough” to create art that really pleases you? Do you ever find yourself artistically stuck – jumping between different styles or techniques unable to figure out what and how you really want to paint? Do you find yourself wanting to be like every good artist you’ve seen, and then realize that you have no real idea of who you are as an artist?
As artists we can become so caught up in consuming knowledge, accumulating more and more in the way of skills and techniques that we can forget what we are truly about. We are creators. At a time when citizens are regularly referred to as “consumers” and “retail therapy” has become the norm, we stand apart as creators. Before you pick up another brush think about this. Your images may be decorative, transcendent, naïve, poetic, strong, weak, ugly, beautiful, mundane, unforgettable, good, bad or somewhere in between. Regardless of your own and others judgment of your work, remember that out of paint and paper and through the movements of your body you create something material from thought and sensation. Nurturing your process of painting ensures your creativity will continue to evolve and that the art you create will be true to you.
You’re reading this magazine because you intend to improve your painting. Attention to craft is noble, but beware of holding yourself to standards that may have nothing to do with your life and skills. Many times adult art students despair of ever living long enough to get “good enough”. The thing to remember is that every time you pick up your brush your palette is not limited to the colors in front of you and the techniques you’ve mastered. Your palette includes your lifetime of experience.
We’ve all seen amazing drawings and paintings by young children. Beautiful colors and design flow easily from a child unencumbered with limitations. Even if your childhood ended decades ago, you can still rediscover the open mind that comes naturally to a young child. Think like a child, (albeit a very experienced child) and disconnect your limitations. You’ll naturally reconnect your creativity, resulting in art that emanates from the palette within you – the unique combination of life experiences and art skills only you have.
Here’s a few tips to get you started and then keep you connected to your palette within:
• Watch your thoughts.
Replace any negative or limiting thoughts with something positive or nothing at all. Do whatever it takes for you to develop a quiet and open mind.
• Practice your process.
Every day take five to fifteen minutes and draw or paint something. This can be a new piece every day or a continuation of prior work.
• Remember that technique follows your creativity.
Learning new techniques can trigger a fresh surge of enthusiasm and creativity within you. Use this energy as a way to reach new creative heights. After you learn a new technique “forget” it. Trust that your mind will remember the techniques you’ve learned when you need them. This will ensure that you don’t get so caught up in the mechanical aspects of painting that you neglect the creative process.
• Smile when you paint!
You’ll look better, you’ll probably feel better, and you may even paint better!
It’s Never Too Late to Begin
The artist Elizabeth Layton didn’t began painting and drawing until she was 68 years old. From that time until her death in 1993 at age 84, she produced a body of art that continues to be displayed and collected in public and private collections nationwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Research her work online and you’ll see how she combined the simple technique of contour drawing with a life palette of rich experiences to create powerfully moving art.
Originally published in The Palette Magazine April 2005