I see myself in front of the easel, hoping to complete what has been “in progress”. The canvas and the colors were reworked so many times I can’t recall. A cute little Instagram font graced my story saying, look what I’m doing, keep watching me paint!
What began as an idea incorporating happy layering of colorful hues has become laborious, overworked, and overthought.
I know the remedy. Step away and come back later, reassess the color, the positioning of objects, and continue what you believed to be a good painting, a representation of you.
This time think less about sharing what you shared as “in progress” the last time you shared it in your Instagram stories.
Let the original idea find you rather than striving to catch up.
Have you felt that self-induced pressure?
It never fails that I get detoured by the almost giddiness of posting a finished painting on social media so that I can show it off. I wonder who might like it, I wonder if it will garner much attention. I begin to think about pricing, I focus on the value of my painting and I often get off the course of what I’d hoped to be the finished product, I lose the peace that painting brings me. I think more about its value and mine as an artist and the joy of creativity turns to defeat. I compare the value of a painting with the value I decide is me.
Artists are trained to understand the role of value as we apply color to the canvas. We understand the need for balance and for the color to draw the eye to a certain object. We have tricks of the trade like photographing our art in black and white to see if the tones in our works are inviting or easy to interpret.
I returned to painting at age 50. Any formal training had been long forgotten. As an art major who struggled, I shifted to Psychology and abandoned painting for many years. Learning to apply color in a way that is balanced pleasingly came trial and error and as I improved, I began to see just how important it is to apply the rules of value not only to my process but to the decision to honor my craft and myself as an artist.
Value, one of several elements that influences a painting is the play of one color next to another. Value is changed by adding black or white. In a narrative of low or high, emotion is conveyed through darkness and light. Color stirs the senses of the viewer emoting a happy or maybe, melancholy response. I love the word “luminosity”. It sounds much like hope. Just as the expression for darkness, maybe dim conjures up depth and contemplation. Highs and lows, colors tell the story. Value is the tool.
As an artist who creates from a faith perspective, inspired by spreading hope, offering comfort, and encouraging healing, I see my understanding of the value I assign to my work as instrumental in my progression as a committed artist. I’ve learned the importance of owning my unique talents, my use of story and color in creativity. I have learned to paint from a place of peace, my soul as my muse. This is no secret. I believe all artists know this. We may be prone to forget.
A few practical choices I have made to understand why valuing myself as an artist is so important and life-giving are:
Allow a piece to develop. Don’t hurry a painting for an audience.
Learn from others, encourage sincerely when you’re drawn to their work.
Paint often for no reason at all. Paint just for pleasure.
Ask for help, don’t be afraid or ashamed of what you don’t know.
Don’t assume it’s easier for others.
Remind yourself on the regular, you were created to create.
As an artist who also writes, I have a natural bend towards the philosophical. To understand what to give and what to take away, what to lighten up, and what to make fade away, the concept of value makes sense both ways. I can manipulate the colors on a canvas just as I can adjust my approach to art, my thoughts, my tendency toward comparison, and my leaning closely to listen to my quiet voice, the one that says painting is for joy; joy for you and perhaps, others too. Joy is a value always welcomed and at times, we realize very long overdue.
Be joyful in your painting. I will too!
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