Monday, December 20, 2010


Again and again I come back to the difference between skill and creativity.  Let me repeat:  Skills are what enable you to execute your creative ideas well in your medium or choice of field.  Once a skill becomes innate you use it like you use your hands-you don't have to stop and think "OK, now, move that finger to the t on the keyboard, and that one to the o-great I just typed "to"! But I had to spend hours practicing keyboard lessons to become good at typing!  And then hours to become faster so I could type almost as fast as I could read or think.  You have to pay your dues!

I think most of us want instant gratification.  When taking a class, students want to walk away with a masterpiece.  I try instead to help them find the joy in the medium and build on skills to bring them along to a painting they not only think is pretty good, but one that was enjoyable to produce.  The most asked question is: what can I do to get better?  My #1 answer is always- "take a drawing class".  Why?  Because if you cant draw a scene or object accurately, how can you paint it?  Drawing is foundational to good art.  Do I need it if I don't do representational art?  Maybe not, but you will need other foundational skills.  Your time is never wasted on basics!

From a recent art newsletter I get I read a quote I'd like to share:
"That power to project a concept or idea in your work comes down to not letting skill become a barrier between what you want to say and how you are able to say it. I think that is why so many artists focus on foundational skills such as drawing mastery. The pendulum swings both ways—innovative ideas inform skill; skill allows you to execute your vision." 

That's what I'm talkin' about!  Said so much better- I'll bet her writing skill set is better! 

Saturday, December 18, 2010


There are things that happen in ones life that are beyond our control.  I have to say that while not a natural disaster, the basement flood has left me immobile.  (and so has this Christmas!  My brain is on overload!)  So much to do, so little enthusiasm to do it! 
I think my main problem, and the one I have with  my work as an artist as well, is well, I'm not sure!  I'm not lazy. Not unmotivated.  I am stretched a little thin, but then so are most people.  Maybe it's focus?  But its really more like a series of "floods"!  And someone must clean it up and repair it.
While reading a short devotional yesterday, by an author I have read for years- his words fit my mood today.  " Thorough. I have just taken my Webster's Dictionary off the shelf and looked up thorough. He says it means "carried through to completion, careful about detail, complete in all respects." And further he says "The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail "
I am bored with details.  Not a good character trait.  But we all have a few bad ones.  And as I've shared before, I great out of the gate, and I'll get to the finish line, but not in any record time!  What is it they say, slow and steady?  That would be me!  So instead of beating myself up for my faults, or making huge changes that make me crazy-I'm going to try harder.  Yup, that's it.  While I admire anyone who can change whole personality traits in a single bound, I take a little longer.  And, as they say, God is in the details. (or the devil, depending on who you talk to)
And I'm going to buy some waders.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Failed Paintings

While the basement dries out and the painters paint, there is little I can to do and little space in which to do it!  Since I am feeling a bit better (wonderful what a little NyQuil and 8 hours of sleep can do for you!)  I ventured into the studio to actually work on the Christmas card idea. 

Here's the thought for the day:  While you may possess the skills to carry a project out, you still need to think through process before you start.  And even then, if all the stars are not aligned you may not get what you want.  I used to just accept that and move on to another project. Sometimes I still do.  But these days more often I repeat the painting using what I learned in the last one to better the next one.  I mean, isn't that what it's really all about? 

But here's the thing with watercolor.  Sometimes the beauty is the very quality that makes it so hard to control!  I think that's why I like it.  And yet, today I had two failed paintings!  Not that I can just whip out two good paintings in one day.  I was doing smaller studies to figure out which process I wanted to use and what colors, etc.  I just don't like them! 

So, my lesson today is:  try and try again.  If at first you don't succeed -yada, yada.  Chuck the frustration and think about what your goal is.  What do I want this painting to say?  How can I best make that happen?  And sometimes, you just have to except that you don't have what it takes to pull it off.  Maybe you lack the skill?  Maybe the tools?  Maybe a clear concept?  Time?  But figuring that out can put you on the path to some change and improvement! 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Creativity and a Flooded Basement

OK...I give!  I caught this cold and the basement flooded!  I'm having the great room painted so this place looks crazy!  There are 7 people traipsing through my house!

Chaos...pandemonium!  There has not even been a creative thought except how best to take a nap!  But you know what??  I see a light at the end of the long tunnel.  There will be new carpeting in the basement now, I can paint the walls down there while the floor is bare concrete (something I didn't plan to do nor have time for)  and have a new basement!  I am having the very tall walls on the main floor painted and have to finish painting where the walls to the catwalk meet upstairs.  In short- I have a load of stuff to do that has nothing to do with Christmas!  Not to mention- this is where all my money is going!! 

Upon reflection, I see that each home improvement project is begun because of some disaster!  So when I get a room finished and decorated, I'd probably live with it my entire life if some impetus did not move me toward change.  I did not use to be like this.  I used to rearrange the furniture almost as often as I vacuumed.  I had new decorating ideas and new home improvement projects going all the time.  I refinished furniture, stenciled and faux finished walls, made curtains and slipcovers, shopped flea markets- and I loved it!

I think decorating fulfilled a creative need of mine.  At the time I was not painting.  I had only done ceramics in high school and in college I got a D in watercolor.    That was enough to discourage me from continuing.  (I was easily discouraged!)  Fine art was not the focus then and I put my efforts into practical applications in school and decorated my home with a creative gusto. 

Now that I paint, I do not find the need for change in decor the way I once did.  In fact, I am going white on white with natural elements which I find restful to the eye and enhance my paintings on the wall.  (or is it really because there are too many color choices and I love them all so much I cannot make a decision??)  I do love color! 

I guess while this blog series is not at all turning out at all the way I had hoped, I am learning to stay open to all possibilities and try to roll with the punches.  Not easy for me, and Christmas cards will be late, but I will most certainly not be watching all the programs I DVR when I'm too busy to watch regularly!  I will keep you posted on the progress of my Christmas prep as well as the decorating ideas I may have. 

All this falls under the category of creativity.  It all serves to keep my creative spirit alive and fresh.  It matters not how it manifests itself, and I can let it's sources and applications change.  Change is the only constant in this world.  Control is largely an illusion!  I think I will try to embrace that and see where it takes my creative spirit!! 

Until tomorrow!