Last week I did the free taster art workshop by Louise Fletcher called Find Your Joy. It was an emotional week challenging my preconceived ideas of just about everything, especially my own limiting beliefs. At the end of the week Louise said something that turned everything around for me. “Not everyone is born to be the kind of artist they want to be.” It felt like the gate to my cage had been opened and the sun came from behind the clouds. The experience was liberating and truly was life changing for me. A sort of golden Buddha moment.
If you are not familiar with the story of the golden Buddha here is a clip from the lovely film “Finding Joe” that contains a charming telling of the story.
my thinking was wrong
I took this big leap taking my art seriously and up-ending my life in the process. Yet I remained trapped in conventional thinking which kept me stalled. I was frustrated and confused because I thought I was doing the right things. I thought a lot of wrong things.
I thought ‘real’ artists had it all figured out and my struggle was a sign of failure.
I thought that I had to pick a style and genre and stick with it. Then act the part.
I thought if I learned all the technical knowledge available to me that creating would become easier and I would struggle less and be happier. Technical skills are very important and there is a kernel of truth in that belief. But rather than saving me, all the workshops and techniques were only confusing me and dragging me further down.
The biggest piece of wrong thinking was trying to be like my art heroes.
LOOKING TO OTHERS TO EXPRESS MY TRUTH
About 18 months ago I thought if I learned the Blackburn technique that would be the answer and set me on a forward trajectory. I wasn’t concerned that he painted in watercolor and I use acrylics. Sometimes I made it work. Most of the time I didn’t. Every time it was a struggle. This is the only painting that was fairly straightforward for me.
Late last year Gareth Edwards published a book on how he paints those gorgeous, atmospheric, abstract landscapes, in oil. I LOVE Edwards’ paintings. ‘I want to paint like him” I thought. He also begins with a paint pour. I really love that part of the process. At least I have been listening to myself that much. Again, I struggled, although it came much easier for me. Again, the result didn’t look like Edwards’ paintings or really reflect me. Turns out I’m more representational.
I’ve realized part of what made both methods so difficult is they were other painter’s methods. I’ll never paint like them because they are expressing their voice, not mine. I’d invested a lot of time and treasure in learning their methods and clung to them even when they made me miserable and any progress was excruciatingly slow. I didn’t know what to do.
Then I took the Find Your Joy taster course.
find your joy
Find Your Joy differs from other art workshops as the focus is not on technique or creating beautifully finished work. In fact, one assignment was to create an ugly painting. The focus of this workshop is mindset, focusing on the process not the product; exploring, experimenting, welcoming failure, and appreciating the value of limitations.
If what I try brings me joy explore it further. If I really hate it then stop doing it. Learn how to play again. Listen to my truth.
In other words, to be willing to be led by our creativity rather than controlling everything. Although I was aware of the concept of following creativity my understanding wasn’t clear till the week end mindset shift.
Mindset is what allows all the technical skills to serve you
and not the other way around.
The way I see it is this; if I want to be an artist, and not just a picture maker, then the art must resonate with my soul, my deepest self, a way of speaking authentic truth to the world. When that connection is made, creating the art is a joyful endeavor. If I am struggling, and studio time feels like a chore, then I am not in alignment with my true self. To be clear, I’m not saying there will never be difficulty or struggles again. I do believe once I speak in my authentic voice the struggles to resolve a painting won’t be of the soul sucking variety any more.
as in art so in life
This is such a monumental shift for me because it can’t be simply confined to my studio. A shift in thinking affects my whole life. This is not about accepting a part of me it is about accepting me, full stop. I cannot access my authentic truth in the studio and cling to romantic delusions in the rest of my life.
As the workshop was drawing to a close I wondered what to do with the information and the emotional overload from the preceding week? How do I take all the things I’ve learned, both in and outside of the workshop, and make them a part of my work? Another student asked Louise this very question, and her answer was take a year and find out. Try all those ideas swimming around in my head. Fail a lot. Learn from it and try something else. My authentic voice will come through when I find my joy.
I know my why; healing art. I believe I know my what; acrylic landscapes and florals. Although that may be subject to change. I do need to discover the how, and I’m giving myself a year to find out how. I need to focus on process not product and stop following other artist’s methods. Take what I like and leave what I don’t, and try my own crazy ideas.
That floral contest is still on my calendar, but I cannot make that a focus. There is a landscape contest with a deadline the month before but, again, I cannot focus on the end. When the deadline comes, I’ll see if I have anything to submit. Getting this right is more important than a single contest. I need to focus on process and find my way, find my joy. It is a time to wander but for maybe the first time I am not lost.