Sunday, March 27, 2011

How To Be Inspired!

In preparing for a mixed media class, I was searching for still life objects that inspired me.   If you've ever had to put a still life together you know it takes thought and can be a challenge to find pieces that might be fun to paint.  Earlier in the week I was reading a lesson for a course I'm taking online called Creative Pathfinder, the author brings up a point that I think we overlook.  The idea that having down time or "play" time is squandering your time.  When in fact nothing could be further from the truth!  It is precisely during those times when ideas and inspiration come to me.  Does that happen to you?
It does not happen every time I take a walk or go to the Zoo. And there is no guarantee that goofing off will provide a brilliant idea.  Which may be why most of us work through our dry uninspiring days with more work!  At least we feel productive or can show our boss we did something.  And something is better than nothing?  Maybe not. My thoughts are that sometimes I need to just do the work!  It is true that the more you do something the better at it you get.  But that applies to skill's, right?  Go with me here-does it apply to what inspires us?  Will your work be better if you are using your skills to produce something that you are excited about?  Is your answer YES?  Of course it is!
So I took the article to heart.  I asked myself "where can I go to find inspiration?".  I ended up at one of my favorite garden centers where I bought pansy's and a garden mouse!  Excited?  You bet!  Inspired?  All over the place!
Do this for yourself please:  take some time to play and find inspiration.  It is not a waste of time!   So I thought up these questions to ask yourself.  What do I really enjoy?  Who do I enjoy experiencing it with?  How do I feel when I am doing this?  What causes me to be the most creative?  Is it a time of day or maybe a place?  Am I my most creative and have the most inspiration when I am alone or engaging with others?   What has inspired me in the past?  What intrigues me now?  Do I need to stretch myself to learn new things? (These are just questions to stimulate ideas and self awareness.)
Now go do it!  And then write me and tell me about it.  I'd love it if it were contagious and we do some really awesome things with the right side of our brain!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What Really is Failure?


 A blog or two ago I wrote that I had let the pressure of performance derail my painting attempts.  I think I really wanted to do well and was disappointed that I had "failed" in my view.  But I had tried.  Years ago, I wouldn't have even considered showing up for such an event!  That is growth for me.

While talking to a student she remarked that she occasionally produces something she will actually show to others.  I remember that day too.  It was a milestone for me to feel I could show someone my work and I was proud of it and did not expect riotous laughter from the viewer!  What I know now is that the more you paint, draw or produce whatever it is you do, the more often that will happen.  I mean honestly, the odds are just better with numbers (hours and miles of paper/canvas).  A point driven home to me in the book the Tipping Point

So while I may not have had the success I wanted in that moment, I realize that I have stretched myself beyond my comfort zone (risk) to even put myself in those high pressure experiences.  And I have gained valuable experience for the future.  Since then I have had several successful paintings.  And a few not so. 

Last night I was painting with some friends.  I was using a panel painted with red (risk) to cover the monstrosity (failure) I painted the week before!  I've never worked on a red toned panel before.  Red is such a strong color and one I use sparingly.  Since I had no expectations or pressure I was up for the experiment.  The resulting painting I am very pleased with. (success)  See a pattern?

I share these thoughts to let you know that I fail more than I succeed.  But my successes come closer together than they used to.  And what, really, is failure?  (that's an entire blog itself!)  I am trying to remember that failure, like any other experience is a learning tool.  It doesn't unnerve me as much as it used to because, I guess I'm more used to it!  I don't shield myself from it as much as I once did. And when I succeed, I celebrate because that means I've learned from my mistakes!

Go forth and fail.   The end result will be more success.   Bet you never thought of it like that!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Primrose and Inspiration

Primrose Row-4x9 watercolor, unframed
I saw primrose on sale at the grocer for $1.50 each.  I bought two and then went back a week later for 3 more!  I was so cheered by their bright colors and promise of spring!  To give them light I lined them up on my kitchen window sill.  The sun shone in and back lit the petals with a glow-I had to paint them.  By the time I got back, the sun was behind clouds and only peeked out briefly while I painted, but I still felt good just painting a row of primrose.  I call it Primrose Row!
Primary Palette-5x7 oil, unframed

Today I took the blue, yellow & red ones and plunked them down in my painting room to do a study with primary colors. When I was finished loading the paint on my other palette I noticed how nice they looked right there on the palette and then I realized I was using a primary palette-hence the name!  What fun! 

Think spring!  Thanks for reading-stay tuned! 

Monday, March 7, 2011

What I learned at the Art at the Arnold

Ashley- Art at the Arnold
 Last year I blogged about the cathartic effect Art at the Arnold had on me.  (see earlier post 10/14/10 about last year!)  This years experience was not as profound in a sense, but no less a learning experience.  If you'll allow me to blather on I'll get my impressions out of my head!

Any time I participate in a competition and see all the amazing artists crank out this phenomenal art I think to myself "what was I thinking?!!"  It's extremely intimidating and my self doubt whispers - "never again should you put your work out next to these other much more accomplished artists!" And, no, it's not different in that sense at the Arnold. 

What is different are the surroundings and the vibe. The Arnold is very much about Arnold.  Last year only the finalist's had a chance to chat with the "Govenator".  I did get some nice shots of the secret service men holding the artists and the throngs of onlookers back!  This year he came by on Saturday to our competition area and graciously spoke to each of us.  To me he commented that watercolor was the hardest medium, which surprised me, so I asked something like "you know watercolor?"  Yes he had tried it years ago and decided it was too hard and left it alone.  I was impressed.  He told me my work was lovely or something and moved on.  What I learned? : Even Arnold Schwarzenegger has his limits!  This is a man who has been the best and a winner at many things- but decided that watercolor too hard!  I may switch to oil! :)

The Arnold is also about competition.  And there was some stiff competition.  I decided early on I was not in the running and was just hoping to produce something that I wasn't embarrassed to show!   Those whose work I admired had put in many more hours honing their skills than I have!  Just like the athletes competing in any of the other events had spent hours practicing and working to compete, so have these amazing artists.  One artist had spent 50 day's doing 50 paintings.  Another had taken life drawing classes since that was not her strong suit.  And my friends are painting all the time!  What I learned? :  I don't need another workshop or better brushes - I need to log more painting time.

At one point early on Saturday, I was so frustrated and so unnerved that I was completely unable to get it together!  This was a critical point and I turned to my friends for help.  They really saved me!  John said "Too much negative space!"  Ugh!  He was right!  I told my friend Karen that I was unable to get a drawing I was pleased with. (and the clock was ticking loudly in my head!)  She said "just redraw it until you get it right- don't go with something you aren't happy with!  And she was right!  What I learned? :  That I can freak myself out and my friends helped me pick myself up and put my skills to work.  I need my friends!

I was much more pleased with my painting last year than this year.  I felt in "the zone" last year while I was painting.  I loved the subject and had a vision when I began the painting.  While I never made the semi-finals, I enjoyed the process and was happy with the painting and that was enough.  That happens to me often.  The stars align and the gods smile on me while I paint and make decisions (a big part of painting) with ease.  That was not the case this year, AT ALL!  I remember years ago watching a documentary on Arnold as Mr. Olympia.  He would try to get into fellow competitors heads with his comments about or too them and that was very much a part of his plan.  In those same sentences he also told himself and others how great he was!

I had let distractions and intimidation by what I saw around me get in my head.  I listened to the voice that tells me "You're no artist!  You can't paint!  You have no business here!" and I didn't counter it with "you can do this! "  What I learned? : To do anything well, you MUST keep your head in the game! 

The winner this year was a very humble young man from Chicago who also competed the day before in some type of race at the Arnold.  After his award I spoke to him and asked how he had done in his race.  He told me he beat last years time and that was what he came to do.  He achieved that goal.  About his first place art award he said that last year his piece would not have even been considered.  That it's all about the judges.  He was probably right.  What I learned? :  All you can do is your best and on any given day it might be judged the best.  Most often, I won't be!  But I will try to beat my personal best every time from now on because that is really all I can do! 

I love Art at the Arnold!