by Sabrina Hill, President PSWC
It’s January of a new year in a new decade. Lots of reasons to reflect on the past year. My dwindling ability to engage in art has made me a little sad. I blame it on several reasons—dealing with my mother’s Alzheimer’s, helping to run a successful and very busy dental practice, and my own insecurities about my art—each which have taken a toll on my creativity.
One day recently, I was scrolling through my Facebook friends—liking a painting by Laura Pollak, and laughing at a cartoon depicting a Rhinoceros artist whose painting always include a giant horn right in the middle of the view, when I came across two posts from artist friends Ruby Silvious and Deborah Pepin (PSWC membership Chair).
Debbie’s post showed a lovely painting she had completed in pastels on watercolor paper with a coating micaceous oxide as the ground.
I was impressed with the painting and very impressed that she created her own substrate with the micaceous oxide.
Ruby Silvious’s post showed one of her many unusual canvases. Though this brilliant artist is widely known for her paintings on teabags (she has two books on the subject), she will paint on anything— from eggshells to corks to acorns—you name it. Here we see what she does with a roll of adding machine tape at breakfast every morning.
“Why can’t I do this? Why am I not this creative?” I reflected. I thought about these posts all day and into the night. And then it hit me: they were experimenting, having fun, taking chances. They were playing!
Numerous scientific studies have proven the advantages of playing. Playing is a stress reducer, a creativity enhancer, and a communication builder. It improves reasoning skills, problem-solving, and the ability to focus. Plus, playing is fun! Often as adults, we cast aside this important human activity in deference to the responsibilities of adult life.
Fun. I forgot the fun of art. For years, I have been creating emotional art, commissionable art, and the perfecting of an art technique. I was doing the work of art. Now, I love being an artist, and I love being able to make a living working as an artist.. As a professional, I always have commissions in the works. I also do calligraphy, so there’s always a wedding or shower or piece that must be done in a certain way by a certain date. And it’s not that these pieces are not fun, but they are not play. They can’t be experimental or quirky or have a surprise ending. But I haven’t allowed time for the other pieces that can flop or fail but also soar with new possibilities for techniques and materials and joyous play.
I haven’t made time for the sheer fun of making art.
But what to do next?
Luckily, it’s January 2nd. 2020. Time for a new vision and a maybe a gentle resolution or two or three. Here are mine:
This one is the big one for me in 2020. My art supply cupboards are Armageddon-ready. (If the world experiences a shortage in art supplies…call me, I can fix it). I don’t even need to leave the house to come up with a new use for a tool or material.
My first order of play is to experiment with calligraphy and pastels—my two art loves. And I am going to try incorporating Debbie’s micaceous oxide ground for this one.
I have written a children’s book that I want to illustrate with richly colored pastel paintings, but I have gotten stuck in the desire to make it perfect. And so, the book is stuck in my head. I am going to play with some techniques that will bring this to paper.
BE KINDER TO MYSELF
In my head there runs a news crawl that features debilitating criticism of my own self, from my weight to my art abilities. I won’t go into the painful way I speak to myself, but I am going to play with this idea a lot more as well. I am also going to expect a little less perfection—which BTW I haven’t achieved at all—and opt in for something that speaks to a sense of fun, forgiveness and love.
I still have commissions to do, projects to complete, but I am going to accept them as they relate to my changing perspective of myself and my art. If it is going to involve excessive stress, I may not take it on, at least not this year. And if the art can’t be fun, I am going to balance it out with other kinds of fun, adventurous projects. But more on that in a minute…
MAKE A PLAN
So, you can’t make effective change without a plan and a few goals. That’s where the SIMPLE STEPS come in. I am setting a real low bar for these resolutions so that I don’t get stuck in the failure of unattainable goals. Once I meet the first expectation, I can regroup and set the next one, just a little higher. Having lofty goals is great, but you can’t get into the loft without a ladder. I am choosing the one rung at a time method to achieve these goals.
Simple Step 1
A Doodle a Day. I must have a dozen sketch books and a least 2 rolls of adding machine tape. One doodle, each day, silly or serious, doesn’t matter.
Simple Step 2
Out of the Box. To break out of non-productive habits, I am going to experiment with new materials and techniques—one each month. January will be calligraphy on watercolor paper with micaceous oxide a la Debbie Pepin.
This year I will also try plein air painting which scares the hell out of me. My worst nightmare is I can’t capture in a painting the things I see, and I am totally washed-up as an artist. I then retire to the garden to eat worms—as the old song says.
Simple Step 3
Change the Dialogue. Specifically, change my internal dialogue. I am turning every statement I make to myself into a positive and empowering statement. When I question my art ability, I will remind myself of the pieces I am proud of. This one will be the hardest, but I am going to do it. Every time. I want to become my own best fan.
That’s it for the moment. I don’t want to overwhelm myself early in the process. I would like to know what you think, and especially what your reflections, revelations, and resolutions are and what your plan will be as you move forward.