How to be an artist
It seems to me that most of us want to feel both safe and free. Being an artist, on the canvas and in life, can allow for both these two states to coexist. It seems to be an eternal dance of mastering freedom, presence and learning; each one allowing the other to exist.
Here are some pathways that I have found from my own experience and studying the masters. I could be talking about any art form, not just painting. I find that my practice comes in cycles; sometimes I am right on it…. and other times….
Take risks. Paint with curiosity so that you can “fail” again and again. When you paint with a state of curiosity, it doesn’t feel so much like failure, it feels like “ Whoa I didn’t expect that!”
Paint like a child. As Picasso said “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
So try and hit “reset”. Unlearn your beliefs about what art is, allow your innate sense to come through and your mind to relax. Painting with a feeling of ‘Allowance” changes everything.
Enter unknown territories. Matisse said “Creativity takes courage”. It is so exciting and so scary! So wonderfully challenging. Create challenges, otherwise you will become bored and stale. That feels worse.
As Martin Scorsese said “Part of any endeavour is that each one has its own special problems, it’s the nature of the process.”
Paint with your whole heart. Paint about things you are passionate about. If you are learning some new technique that feels a bit dry at the time, go with it and then apply it to your passion.
“If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.” Marc Chagall.
Feed your soul, every week. Everything doesn’t always have to come from you. Be inspired. Find other artists, nature, life, that inspires you. Expose yourself to art you love and dislike. Be open. Try new ways and experiences in life, often.
Show up daily. Push through the lethargy until it becomes like a lover that you must see. This creates a mass of work in which you are more likely to experiment; a building of skill and so freedom, which leads to breakthroughs, a resilience in pushing through sticky points to soaring, and a ritual and deep connection with expressing the unknown within you.
Know that you are connected to all that is, to archetypes and infinite beauty that connect you with your unseen audience. When you show up and paint daily you start tapping into this infinite pool more easily. Often you don’t even necessarily understand it. You just express it. So tune into spirit, your muse, the eternal, nature.
Draw with your non-dominant hand as a warm up and beyond. It goes beyond the mind and we seem to drop expectations of what is possible and go with the flow, more easily.
Take a break from paintings. Have several paintings on the go at once, then you can leave one for a while; coming back fresh really helps. Also look at your work upside down, through a window, from your camera, in a mirror, in a different room, any way of seeing it with different eyes. Get feedback from others who you respect.
Choose an area and become excellent in that area. Study it, take lessons and practice it mindfully. Make breakthroughs by keep practicing it. Decide to become excellent in this area.
No one can paint like you. They could copy you, but they cannot create like you. By showing up each day, painting from your heart and creating a volume of work, you create a space in which you feel safe to experiment and be curious. The canvas will still be there tomorrow to create and express another moment. By finding teachers and people that inspire us and give us feedback, we miss some big falls and we grow; by experimenting and diving into the unknown and infinite, we soar.
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” Picasso
I would love you to continue with this in the comments below…. There are so many ways to be an artist.