I make up a lot of rules for myself. Rules that may or may not actually exist, that I may or may not have invented all for myself. And I follow them, maybe out of tradition or convention or fear or doubt or bad habit or laziness, or maybe because it's what I see other people doing so I think this must be how things are done. Rules that seem perfectly logical and reasonable.
But it's like WHY?? Why am I following all these rules that I may or may not have had anything to do with and that maybe have nothing to do with me.
Painting is a very traditional medium. It's been around for thousands of years now and has accumulated a VERY long list of rules. So many rules that even breaking traditional painting rules has become a rule.
I think I've been very conventional in my thinking about my work. For the most part I'm a stretched canvas, paint brush and palette of oil paint and medium kind of painter. And that's been fine except that all of a sudden it's not!
Hangover painting, 2017, acrylic and oil on cardboard
I've been very precious with these things and it's holding me back. Following these painting rules whether self imposed or not, is holding me back. It's created four walls around me that I keep banging up against. I want to feel free, like there are no rules at all, like I've just discovered painting for the first time, like a child. I especially want to feel like if something's not working I'm not forcing myself to try to gloss over it to make it better. Working through painting issues and the problems we create on canvas is all very well, sometimes even the whole point, but trying to make it work just because it's already there and because I've already spent so much time on it will never work! The only rule really should be, if you know in your gut it's not working destroy it and start over. But I also have a rule about time... I think I consider some paintings finished when they're definitely not because I feel like I've spent ample time with them. Or the opposite, where I keep working on something that may already be finished, because I feel like I've invested so much money and energy in the materials and preparation it can't possibly be done after a few hours of work. These are ridiculous self imposed rules that are clouding my judgement.
Being precious with your work gets you nowhere. I need to get rid of this way of thinking and be free to get at the thing I'm supposed to be getting at! I have no idea exactly how to do that, but recognizing the problem is a good first step!
A little less than six months ago I became a vegan. It's just occurred to me how being a vegan is sort of on par with being an artist... People tend to react in very similar ways. When you tell people you're an artist, right away they put you into a stereotypical category that may or may not have anything to do with you. Temporarily they may start using words like artsy, crafty, eccentric and even weird, all the while recounting every family member or friend's relative or neighbor they know of who is also an artist. They will insist on giving you advice you didn't ask for and don't want, about making more money and getting more exposure, and will often exclaim how little they personally know about it and how they "can't even draw a stick figure", indicating in some degrading passive/aggressive way that being an artist is way too special* for them and thank goodness they don't have to have anything to do with it. *a.k.a abnormal
I think it would shock and bewilder people even more if they knew anything about what being an artist is really like. Let me get all defensive for a minute and say that artists just happen to have the hardest working, most conscientious, community minded, concerned, empathetic, risk taking will power and nerves of steel you'll ever encounter in your life! One day I would like to respond to the question what do you do with the answer; I stand in a quiet empty room by myself for 5 hours a day contemplating my existence. I build frames and staple fabric to them so I can paint pictures and argue with myself over how to properly express my ideas visually. I spend hours, days and months working on things that I end up destroying. I obsessively examine my purpose, my inner voice, and how to make even a tiny ripple in the overall world around me. I attempt to define and redefine an imaginary dialogue with artists who've lived two hundred years ago, artists who are here now, and artists who aren't even alive yet. And then I hang it all up for strangers to ogle and critique. What do you do? Hmmmm... Maybe this is proving that artists really are weird, but I think it's the other way around. Maybe everyone else is the weirdo in this scenario. Anyway, when you tell certain people you are a vegan, and it definitely depends on who it is, as "the times they are a changin'"... some people are immediately suspicious and put off, even annoyed, like oh, you're one of those* people. There are a lot of questions asked that require proper justification. And then there is, again, lots of advice that you didn't ask for and don't want. Humans crave the familiar, and fear the unknown, and there's just no way around it.
I became a vegan for one simple reason, to be healthier. It just made sense to me. I may not decide to be a vegan my whole life, but in the end, it's not all that complicated, and really, neither is being an artist.
P.S Get the recipe for vegan blueberry pie here at 40aprons.com