There is an important skill an artist needs to develop that almost no one ever talks about. This is the skill that makes the difference between artists who persist and grow, and artists who lose motivation, get discouraged or find long periods of time passing where good intentions to paint regularly are never followed through. So many artists struggle with dry spells and get so frustrated with ourselves; why is it so hard to make time to paint when we say we want to so badly?
The skill I am talking about is consistency. How do you make a habit of consistently showing up, moving your brush to grow your skills when time and fear conspire to keep you out of the studio, doing almost anything else but painting?
Obstacles to a Consistent Creative Practice:
Waiting to be “Ready”
I have a friend who is a student of art. He is always getting excited about a new instructor or a new medium he can’t wait to try. He is the best informed non-painting artist I know, with a studio full of virtually unused supplies. He is waiting for a readiness to paint that he will never feel.
Trusting Your Emotions
Many of the emotions I felt as a new artist that felt like obstacles to painting well are still with me. I still start a new painting with doubt that I can achieve an inspired result. I still feel unqualified to take the next step to grow my career, I still wonder if I am on the right path and have a hard time telling if my painting is finished or if it’s any good at all! If I had waited for a sense of readiness, for confidence or peace about my path as an artist, I might still be waiting to start, or have given up completely.
Judging the Work
When a painting fails to meet your expectations, are you letting it tell you that you are wasting your time? Are you only as good as your last painting? What about when a painting turns out well? Funnily enough, there was a time for me when a successful painting was almost more of a creativity killer than a failed painting. It just felt impossible that I could ever paint something that good ever again, and it made me hesitant to paint again.
Seeking Outside Approval
Are you waiting for permission to make the art you want to make? Your artistic practice isn’t your own if you are painting with an imaginary judge looking over your shoulder. You might hear the voices of family members, art critics, magazine articles, imaginary art buyers – all telling you that your art will be better if…
Your art practice should be your own! Opening it up to these voices and opinions is stifling and limiting; you deserve to be able to be yourself in your art space, but you will have to fight for it.
“I don’t have time to paint.”
“I’m not creative.”
I don’t know if excuses really deserves a place on this list, because I believe they cover up the real reason your art practice isn’t thriving: fear.
My art practice for nearly 30 years now has been an exercise in uncovering my fears. I have learned that fear is the root of every creative block that has prevented me from being the artist I am truly meant to be. Fear of rejection pushed me to make realism my goal rather than the authenticity and flow that made my heart sing. Fear of discovering my own inadequacy often drives my procrastination; it’s easier to watch another episode on Netflix than to paint and end up with another uninspired, muddy landscape. Fear of my own limitations can actually make me try less; phoning in a lackluster, derivative painting rather than pushing myself to give everything I have to my painting. It’s easy to say that I didn’t have time to paint this week instead of admitting that it’s easier to make myself busy so I don’t have to face another failure in the studio.
So if all of these fears and struggles aren’t going away, how is it possible to create a consistent creative practice and paint authentically from the heart? Today’s prompt for World Watercolor Month is “cheer,” and for me, this is not just a painting prompt but a solution for the struggle to create a consistent creative practice. I can’t erase fear from my life; I keep peeling back layers and finding a little more lurking in the folds. But I can simply and humbly choose to find something to cheer in my art every single day, even when I’m not painting.
I cheer the fact that I am hundreds of failed paintings into my art journey, and I’m still painting!
I cheer over the area in each painting that looks like a “real artist” painted it. Even if it’s a single brush stroke, I can let that success be the step forward toward the next painting.
I cheer the learning that happens each time I pick up my brush, watch a painting demonstration or notice a detail in nature that inspires me to paint.
I cheer the failed paintings that show me that I’m still pushing myself to learn new things. Mistakes mean I’m pressing on into unfamiliar territory and growing my skills.
I cheer the empty paint wells that indicate that I am showing up and working my brush.
I cheer for my children who have watched me pursue something that I am passionate about and for the way this will encourage them to prioritize their own creativity.
I cheer for my courage in sharing my most personal art with others and my courage in being willing to fail repeatedly in order to get better at something I deeply want to do well.
I cheer for the way art has made me slow down and live my life with more presence and awareness. And for the deep thread of connection that making art creates between artists.
What can you cheer for in your art journey today? Leave a comment below!Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in