There are themes and techniques in our work that will persist and continue through out our creative lives. Finding some paintings, drawings, collages or other art forms from years back can sometimes cause head-scratching, gasps, and overall feelings of regret. But there are learning experiences that can come out after some investigating. If you have found these old paintings or drawings and are wondering why you framed them, or what to do with them, I have ideas.
I was talking to my students and almost each one told me that they found work from other times. We talked about what to do with them, like they were some sad, abandoned toy. Do we tear them up? Do we un-frame them? What can we do with work that seems to no longer reflect the way we paint now, or that we think is not frame worthy. I too have these questions because I’ve been sorting and organizing my garage and storage room. As I did, I came across photographs from college, old drawings, and designs from my 2D and 3D design classes. I dug deeper and found paintings from not too long ago, that I created in watercolor classes as an adult. I framed some of those. Oh boy, what was I thinking? In my eyes now, they are not frame worthy.
Every summer when I was in elementary school, if I didn’t have summer school, my dad would give me math lessons from the dreaded orange arithmetic book. Back in the late 50s, summer school was for kids that didn’t have the grades to pass. I did my time in summer school and I thought that when my report card showed I didn’t have to “do summer school,” I’d have a break. My dad thought differently. No summer school meant that I had to do math problems from that orange book.
Every night, my dad would come into my room and have me sit at my desk and then he would explain what I would be working on the following day. No playing in the sprinklers or flooding the front yard with the irrigation pipes for the fields. I’d be doing math problems. He would start with the page number and what was on that page.
“Do the problems 1 though 20 but skip every other one. Only do the odd number problems, show your work and don’t cheat I’ll know if you do.” I didn’t know that there was an answer book that he used to check the problems. I also didn’t realize that in the back of the book was a lot of answers and some “how-tos” that explained some problems and also gave the answers. I suffered though each summer doing math problems that included some word problems. I thought, “who in the world would needs that junk?” Somehow I made it through.
Summer programs for kids need to be somewhat fun. I’m not saying that all summer should be games, trips to the big Disneyland, sleepovers, video games and the like, but enrichment is always a good thing. Giving kids an option to take an art class, music or try some tumbling enhances their brain. Studies show that kids that are involved in some kind of art perform better academically.
I’m an artist. I teach private lessons and workshops and I’ve been creating some kind of art for about 65 years. I’ve always been drawn to nature. I spent the last year searching for a new creative direction for my art and the resounding NATURE echoed in my head. I can’t live without plants, flowers and trees in my life.
There’s something about being in nature that brings me peace and relaxation. I feel really connected to the earth. I don’t just stand on it, but am deeply rooted here. A breeze rushing through pine trees in a forest and a nearby babbling brook can make me so relaxed, I could fall asleep just standing there. Driving through the redwood forests up north was always a joy for me. I’d roll down the windows even if it was raining and take in all the colors, smells, and sounds whipping by. Slowing way down or going into a turn-out to stop. All the sounds: birds chirping or a deer stepping on a branch would bring an involuntary sigh. The smells and colors of the fora would feed my senses.
Taking art classes as an adult can be tricky. An adult student doesn’t seem to need to be directed to the learning process. Adults choose to take a class. There is no grade to encourage you. The class or classes are for enrichment or professional development. We sometimes take classes in different disciplines of art to receive more knowledge and to learn specific techniques. This can be very rewarding but it can be frustrating when we discover that we can’t paint or draw like the instructor. We sometimes blame ourselves, the instructor, our tools, the people around us, or even that the weather was too cold or too warm. But we don’t need to put ourselves through all this when we want to take a class. We just need to follow a few steps before the class and keep reminding ourselves what this class is for.
1. Have an Intention
When I say what it’s for I don’t mean watercolor landscapes or acrylic abstracts, I mean what the class is for, for us. Each one of us takes classes as adults to hone our craft or learn a new technique and enrich our art in some way. Ask yourself why are you taking this class? How do you think this class will add value to you and your art practice? Is the class really something you think you will enjoy or can be of support to you and your art practice?
2. Keep Your Expectations Realistic
When we enroll in a class we hope it will be like no other or that we will become enlightened with the force like Luke Skywalker was with Yoda. But this rarely happens. So why are we so disappointed durning or at the end of the class that we can’t paint like the master teacher? We put so much expectation on the class and instructor and maybe we are taking the class with friends that we hope will be supportive, and also have some fun learning together. Right? But does it happen? Let me give you some assistance with this. I know it very well after living it oh — so — many — times. If anyone says that they are an expert and have the secrete to create paintings that will, “sell like hot cakes,” or be the answer to everyone’s dreams, run the other way. Why? Because 99% of the time there isn’t an art class that can do that. We hold ourselves to that idea that this will be the silver bullet, but it won’t happen. What does happen is we blame ourselves, instructor, people around us, and — yes — even the weather. But — the blaming ourselves is what does the most damage to ourselves and our art. I know this because I see it in my students. I have seen it in me, too. I shoot myself down and lose much ground in where I want to go as an artist. I lose the ability to paint for months after a long workshop. I will never get back the precious time I lose because I think I am not an artist and that I know nothing. I get so wrapped up in classes and hoping for the silver bullet that I don’t create any art.
I’ve been asked, “Why do you paint?” Sometimes people ask, “why do you create?” I’ve always answered, “I can’t not create.” But, I think there’s more to it. I think I’ve been holding back from my collectors, students, and people in general.
I’ve been thinking about so many things this past year. Thinking about our world situation and watching the news has sapped my energy and made me feel like a panicked mess. I haven’t wanted to think about art, let alone paint.
I played some with some of my old favorite tools and mediums, and signed up for some online classes that were not me at all. I wanted something to drive me forward and help me back to making art even if I wasn’t really feeling these new classes.
I started thinking about my students and how much I missed them. So, I taught myself how to create virtual classes on Zoom. I pushed myself to build content to engage and inspire my students. I took a few more classes and fell back in love with watercolor. I created more content and lessons that I could launch online for groups of people. I felt that even though we couldn’t be together in person, I could still offer my students good quality classes.
But what about me? What got me creating? What did all those classes do to get me going? And, why am I still feeling I’ve lost my way?
From the Greek, from euphoros-healthy. From eu+pherein, to bear-birth, deliverer,produce.
euphoria…a feeling of well being or elation
To be marked by elation by high spirits
Enthusiastic…filled with or marked by enthusiasm
From the Greek, enthousiasmos, from enthousiazein, to be inspired
Enthusiasm…1. a belief in special revelations of the Holy Spirit. 2. A strong excitement of feeling
There’s a feeling I get. It’s a happy, elated feeling. Something’s coming, but I don’t know what it is. It feels good, and I get very excited at the thought that I might be on the verge of something grand.
“Pending euphoria” is a tool that you can use to get your creative nectar going. In general this feeling doesn’t have a checklist of behaviors that can be diagnosed. It’s just a good vibe that, if left unnurtured, fades and withers like a tender, unwatered seedling. When the pending euphoria hits, it may feel like a brick thrown through a window. Or sometimes, it’s like a gentle breeze tickling my skin saying, “Hello Sweetie… I’m here. Something’s coming.” That’s pending euphoria.
At the beginning of the year, I created a vision board. I’ve been creating one or two a year for about five years. This one was all about what inspired me. There were things I thought I’d like to make and colors I was drawn to. It didn’t stay that way for long. In March, my vision board did not reflect how I was feeling, but most of the colors stayed the same. Now, nature inspires me. Going on little walks and wandering in my own backyard made me feel that all I needed was to be in nature and experience all its beauty. I made a small vision board that reflected this renew love of the outdoors.
I love flowers, trees, and mountains with creeks and streams in and around rocks, covered by mossy slime in the most vibrant greens. After I created my nature vision board that I call “The Dirt”, I had dreams of making art with dirt and mud, rocks, and brick dust in a muddy stream that made me want to cry with joy. I hung these works on a clothesline under a freeway overpass. I’m not sure why there was a freeway in this dream. I have had this dream a few times and think that I need to explore its contents.
We are still artists, and we need to create now more than ever. I want to encourage you to send me photos of your work and or questions as you create. We will make art and work on lessons to feed us through this time.
So here’s a lesson for you to try. Get your color wheel out. If you don’t have one, find one on the internet.
This is my color wheel.
Pick two complementary colors (complementary colors, using any two colors directly opposite each other on the wheel.)
I chose blue and orange.
I used watercolors, but you can do this with acrylic paints also.
“Art is a natural way to practice mindfulness. The colors, textures, and sounds of creating pulls us into the moment. You don’t need any previous training to mediate through art, just a willingness to draw like a child, with freedom and a sense of curiosity.”