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What to do if you don’t like your painting

What to do if you don’t like your painting

 

What to do if you don’t like your painting

 

When I started painting this morning, I did not like the result. Often when I paint, I feel happy and uplifted because the painting rolled out of me seemingly without any effort. But some days I look at my painting and just don’t feel satisfied with it. Moreover, I still feel the forcedness and restraint that I felt while I made the painting. And if I don’t feel in a flow while painting, it usually shows in the result.

There are (at least) two ways to react on this. Firstly, you can focus on the product you made. Secondly, you can focus on the process you went through while making it. (If you want to read more about my personal experience with this, you can read this blog post).

 

Focus on the product.

If the product of your painting session did not turn out well in your eyes, looking at the painting is usually not a pleasant experience. You are disappointed by your ‘failure’, and this never feels good. All kinds of self-degrading thoughts might accompany your feelings: ‘I can’t do this.’ ‘I don’t have the talent.’ ‘I am just not the kind of person that is able to make beautiful paintings.’

You might throw away the painting as soon as possible, and try to forget it. You push away your feelings of disappointment and go on with your life. The next time you paint you are a bit afraid because you might make another painting that you don’t like. And maybe it even makes you avoid painting altogether.

 

Focus on the process.

When you focus on the process of painting, you might still not like the painting. But instead of getting frustrated by this fact and pushing your painting away, you take a closer look at it. What is it exactly what you did not like? Are there any technical problems you did encounter? At what moment did you get stuck, and why? If you ask yourself these questions, you can learn a lot about your art-making and yourself as a painter.

And if you go even deeper, you can look the feelings of inhibition and forcedness that you experienced while making your painting straight into the eye. Those feelings are a fundamental part of your human experience, and denying or avoiding them gives them more power over your life. If you accept them and allow yourself to feel them in your bones while painting, they can transform into a fierce energy that makes your art come alive. The result is that your paintings become more powerful.

This might seem a beautiful but theoretical statement, not attainable for us, ordinary people. But that is not true. The first time you make another ‘ugly’ painting, you can honor it as a tangible proof that you committed yourself to this wonderful process of art-making and that you stuck to it. You can give the painting a place of honor, and breath in the feeling that it gives you. This way you slowly but surely integrate the parts of yourself that you don’t like.

 

So, if you make an ugly painting shortly, rejoice! This is a beautiful chance to permit yourself for being an imperfect, struggling, inhibited and limited human being.

Doing so, you give yourself permission to live life to the fullest, and make your best art along the way.

 

Bye!

Simone Nijboer, Dutch abstract artist, online art teacher, daily painter, creativity accelerator

 

PS: What do you do when you don’t like your painting? Leave your comment below, or join the discussion in the ArtNow Community!

 

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Throw away the art you don’t love!

Throw away the art you don’t love!

Throw away the art you don’t love!

 

I am writing this blog at the first workday after two weeks of Christmas holidays. In these weeks, I have been busy with cleaning up our house, decluttering cupboards and closets, and throwing things away that are old, broken, or that we don’t love anymore. For a few years, I have been inspired by the Japanese declutter-guru Marie Kondo to do this on a regular basis. Her motto is that if your house is cluttered with all kinds of things that you don’t really love, your life gets stuck. You literally don’t have space for new things to enter your life. She encourages you to take a look at every object in your house and ask yourself: ‘Does it spark joy?’ And if it doesn’t: remove it from your life!

In past years, I decluttered my house quite a bit, but I never asked myself the spark-joy question for the big pile of old paintings that I have in my workroom. They are mostly studies on paper, so they don’t take up too much space. Therefore, I could get away with them piling up for a few years. But since I paint every day, and make a lot of studies, my cupboards were getting completely stuck with big heaps of paper. So I decided to go through all my past paintings and ask myself for each and everyone: ‘Does it spark joy?’

To my surprise, I threw away almost all the studies that I had, and only kept a very few that I really loved. Doing so worked out very well. Decluttering my paintings this way gave me lots of new energy and a lot of eagerness to start painting again in the new year to come.

I have thought about why this throwing away was such a positive experience. There are at least five reasons for that.

 

Gratefulness for the fun and the development

First, I loved going through all of my old paintings. It made me realize the development that I made, and the joy that I had making them. At the same time, I realized that I am not going to continue working on these particular paintings anymore and I am not going to show or sell any of them. They were in my cupboards to witness the past. By going through them and being grateful for the painting years behind me, they had fulfilled their function, and by letting go of them I could make space for new things to come.

 

Dedication to the process

Second, throwing them away made me dedicate myself even more to the process of painting ahead of the product. I am a big advocate of process-oriented painting, as I have written about a lot in my articles about developing an art practice. By throwing away old paintings, I emphasized the importance of working in this process-oriented way, day by day, being in the present moment, not caring about the future to come, and not clinging on to what I left behind.

 

Attention for the loved ones

Third, by keeping only the things that I love, I have given them more space to shine. Because they were covered by dozens and dozens of other paintings, they could not get the attention that they deserved. Now they are uncovered, I can really enjoy them.

 

Trust in the flow of creativity

Fourth, I realized that I kept my old paintings as a kind of proof that I really am a painter. Now that I have removed the traces of the past, and stand with bare hands before the new painting year, I have to trust the flow of creativity that is going through me, instead of leaning on old work to reassure me. And that feels good since I believe this natural flow of creativity is the real basis of making art.

 

The blog as archive

Fifth, the fact that I keep my daily painting blog makes it easy to throw things away. If I would ever like to go back and take a look at my old work, I have my daily painting blog as an online archive. I probably won’t do that often, because I hopefully will rather be painting new work than scrolling through old work. But the possibility is always there.

 

 

How do you deal with old work? Let me know in the comments below, or join the conversation in the ArtNow Community!

 

Simone Nijboer, Dutch abstract artist, online art teacher, daily painter, creativity accelerator

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The Power of Community

The Power of Community

The Power of Community

When I started painting, I was—more or less—on my own. It was the drive deep down inside me that got me painting, but there were not many people around to support me on my abstract art journey. Very few people even knew that I was painting. I did not shout it from the rooftops; I felt too shy. (Read about how I started painting here).

 

An art-friendship

I was very lucky that I met my art-friend Dotty Seiter at an online art-event, organized by Leslie Saeta (30-paintings-in-30-days).

If you scroll back through my Daily Painting blog, you can see that it is mostly her and me communicating about our daily art practices.

Right now, I know that if I had not her support, I would not be painting anymore. Or at least I would not have such a sustained daily art practice as I have right now. This website would not exist either.  It was the power of community that helped me push through, and I am very grateful for that.

 

Most needed: Community

When I launched this website, I asked new subscribers, ‘What would you need most for your art practice to thrive?’ The main answer I got was, ‘Community.’ Apparently, artists need other artists to relate to, to keep them going, to show their work, to receive feedback, and to help them overcome obstacles. And they love to give the same support in return.

 

Making art is usually a solo activity

If you love playing football or choir singing, it is not that difficult to find a tribe to relate to. These are activities that have the community factor built in. Making art, by contrast, is something that you mostly do on your own, in your studio, or at your kitchen table. Of course, joining an art class is terrific, but art classes cost money, which you might not have. They also require time, which you might not have either.

If you want to make abstract art, it might be even more difficult to find art buddies. It is usually easier to find artists in your neighborhood that love to paint realistically, painting landscapes or figures for instance.

There’s nothing wrong with that, of course but if your soul yearns for making abstract art, you can find yourself on your own. Having abstract-art buddies can then make all the difference. They are on the same path, they know what it is to search your way, and they can support you on your journey.

 

Abstract art-making can be challenging

Of course, I don’t want to be negative about art-making. It is one of the most enjoyable and satisfactory activities I have in my life. But it can be very challenging, too. If you make personal abstract art, it comes from deep within you. You can’t hold on to any examples; you have to find your own way.

That is of course not wholly true. There are many inspiring artists out there, and I have learned incredibly much from them, even only by watching their work. But there comes a moment when you have to stop looking at other people’s art, and go deep inside to find your own artistic expression. At that moment it is wonderful to have people around you who go through the same experience.

 

The risk of procrastination

Art-making can be difficult, as I stated above, so it can be tempting to keep postponing:

  • Today I don’t have time for painting—I’ll do it tomorrow.
  • I don’t have the right materials right now—I will need to buy quality paint before I start.
  • I first need to do a course to go to the next level.

Deep down we know this is not true, but it’s not always easy to find the power inside to carry through, pick up your brushes, and start making some marks.

There the art buddies come in. Because they paint, you get inspired to start painting, too. Because they want to see your work, you start showing it. Because they make their beautiful things, you get ideas to create yours. Because they sometimes make ‘ugly’ paintings, you are less afraid to create ‘imperfect’ art.

The opposite is also true. If you paint, and you realize that it helps other people to continue their art practice, you get even more motivated to keep painting. One hand washes the other.

 

The ArtNow Community

When I started this website, I already had plans to launch an art community where (abstract) painters could meet and inspire each other, but I did not know how I could realize it. When I learned from my research that so many artists share the same desire for community, I started browsing the Internet again, and I discovered online software that makes it possible to create a community quite easily. So I did. The result is the ‘ArtNow Community.

I hope that it will become an open-hearted and supportive online community where we as abstract artists can feel at home and show our processes and products. A warm space where we can share successes and struggles on our art path.

The ArtNow Community is deliberately international. The main language will be English, but I hope that artists for whom English is not their first language will not hesitate to join. We as artists are lucky that our art is doing the most essential part of the communication for us.

 

Join in!

If you are an abstract artist, please join in! Everybody is welcome—beginning as well as advanced artists. And, of course, people who would love to start making art, but are hesitant to do so are most welcome, too!

Read more about the ArtNow Community here. You can join by subscribing to my newsletter. Once you have subscribed, you will receive the invitation link. If you already have subscribed, please go to the download page of my free library where you will find the same link.

 

If you have questions, remarks, or comments, please let me know below!

 

Bye!

 

Simone Nijboer, Dutch abstract artist, online art teacher, daily painter, creativity accelerator
How I started painting – seven tips for aspiring artists

How I started painting – seven tips for aspiring artists

How I started painting – seven tips for aspiring artists

Maybe you have never painted, but you would love to. However, you are afraid. Afraid that you can’t paint, that you will only make ugly things, that you will be making a fool of yourself. You fear that you will not be able to carry through. Or maybe you are worried that you don’t have money, time, or energy to start painting.

It is true: it is not always easy to start painting. There can be many obstacles in the way and many thoughts in your mind that stop you from going ahead and just doing it.

I would like to tell you my painting story, about how I became a painter. About what stood in my way, and what helped me to overcome my doubts and fears. In my story, I will break down the things that helped me in seven tips:

  1. Develop a creative practice, painting daily if possible
  2. Put the stakes as low as possible
  3. Value process first, product second
  4. Start cheap
  5. Start small
  6. Connect with other artists and make art friends
  7. Capture your development

 

My history of painting

When I was about 30 years, I developed a very profound yearning to paint. I had never painted before, but I just felt I needed to start painting. I didn’t know where to begin though. I had no experience at all! Yes, of course as a child on the kitchen table, in kindergarten, and in primary school. But I was not the girl who always had brushes in her hands or who made the most beautiful drawings from early on. When I went to high school, I had drawing lessons where I had to paint vases of flowers and bowls of fruit. I did not like that too much, though, and I was not very good at it – so my grades for the drawing class weren’t very high I came to see myself as somebody who wasn’t good at art. And art became something that other people made. Not me. So when this desire to start painting emerged, fifteen years later, I was standing on a foreign and frightening territory. I had no idea where to begin.

 

Support

I was lucky to meet a very supportive woman at that time. She was a painter, but also a writer, a sportswoman, a mathematician, a saxophone player and much more. She was the kind of person who did not let herself get fenced  in and who pursued her many passions without thinking they should be ‘useful’ or ‘realistic’ or ‘professional.’ She told me, ‘If you want to paint, just start!’

So, I went with her to the art supplies store. It was an overwhelming and intimidating place for me with all those colors and materials. But she guided me through it, and we left the store with some basic art supplies. And then I started painting, inspired by the enthusiasm and the support of my friend.

 

Abstract painting

I had always been drawn to abstract art, much more than to realistic art. So I knew I wanted to paint abtractly. But, that made starting to paint a lot more difficult. Because, if you want to paint realistically – you have a starting point: reality! You can see the clouds, the flowers, the faces, the landscapes, and you can start from there. And you can find lots of information on the Internet (at that time, the library) that can help you to start painting and find your style along the way.

But painting abstract art is another thing. It starts somewhere deep within; there is no visible starting point. The question is, how can you access that inner world? How can you translate something immaterial into something material? How can you give form to the formless? And how can you do that without overthinking, without killing the spontaneity by analyzing the painting to death?

That was very difficult for me. Actually, I was not even aware of that process. I just stumbled along. It was confusing. I had looked forward so much to painting, but it was not the fun experience that I had hoped it to be. I found myself wrestling on the canvas. Doubting what I was doing.

 

Thinking about myself

Another thing that made painting difficult for me was that I thought a lot about the role of art in my life. I did not simply paint, but I wondered if I was a ‘real artist.’ I asked myself if this was what I really wanted. And instead of only grabbing my brushes and painting, I worried about my identity as an artist, and about my past and future as a painter.

Lots of thoughts and questions were running through my mind. Should I pursue a career as a professional artist? But I am trained as a counselor, I have already chosen a career. It is too late to go to art school, I have wasted my time. I have made the wrong choices. And how can I earn money with art? Impossible! I don’t have enough talent. Other people’s art is so much better! I will always be second best; I am not a born artist anyway. And so on. And so on.

All those thoughts and worries made my painting experience full of heaviness. Not the light and exciting activity that I had hoped it to be when I started. Soon my painting wavered. And when my life was getting busier with work and motherhood, I dropped painting altogether.

 

Fast forward to 2014

The desire to paint never left. I was lucky to have a sister-in-law who had lots of art books on her shelves. Every time I went to her house, I could not resist the urge to go through them and enjoy the colors, the structures, and the compositions. And when it was Christmas 2014, and we were all together as a family at her house, I stumbled upon a book about daily painting.

The concept of daily painting immediately struck me as powerful. My history as a painter had been full of trying hard, being disappointed, stopping again, then trying again, being a perfectionist, getting disheartened. And so on. I immediately realized daily painting might help me to break the vicious circle of starting and stopping, always painting between hope and fear.

 

Develop a creative practice

I searched the internet about daily painting, and I stumbled on the 30-paintings-in-30-days challenge of a painter named Leslie Saeta. I took part, along with maybe 1000 other artists, and it immediately had a huge effect on me. Daily painting indeed helped me out of the rut of perfectionism and procrastination.

I promised myself to make something every single day. Even on weekends, which are usually busy with my family, my children, weekly chores and so on. So if I had no time at all – I simply made a small drawing in black and white on the back of a business card.

That was perfectly fine for me. Doing so, I had lived a small promise I had made to myself of making art every day. I had NOT promised to produce something very refined or beautiful every day, so I could be happy with the small step I had taken. I felt proud of myself: I had developed a creative practice!

 

Low stakes

The daily painting also helped me to put the stakes very low. I started to realize that making a not-so-beautiful painting is no problem at all. If you paint so often and produce so many paintings, it doesn’t matter if many of them turn out quite bad. Tomorrow you have the chance to make another painting. You can simply dump today’s painting in the garbage bin. Nobody knows, and nobody cares!

 

Process first, product second

The fact that I changed my attention from the product (the finished painting) to the process (the simple fact that I painted, whatever happened) made all the difference for me.

Putting the process first made art-making fun again. It is wonderful to have paint on your fingers, and it is delightful to scratch with crayon on paper. Process-oriented painting is playing like a kid again. You can get ‘in the zone,’ forgetting time, simply adding colors, lines, and shapes, without restraints.

On the contrary, putting the product first makes art-making a stressful thing. If you worry about the outcome, your mind becomes too active. The spontaneity and fun that you long for can easily get lost. And the quality of your painting gets lower because you can see the stress and the overthinking in your painting.

I soon discovered the pure joy that I always had known is the centerpiece of making art. Process-oriented painting got me excited day after day. I felt proud of myself. Not because the products were so beautiful but because I saw myself grow as a painter every day.

The fun thing was that I sometimes really surprised myself with results that I had never imagined I would be able to produce. Other times the products of the daily painting were just boring or ugly. But I did not care. The general tendency was that I made better and better work. Not so strange, of course; even though it feels paradoxical, the less I focused on product, the better my paintings became.

 

Cheap materials

Another thing that daily painting taught me is that you can make significant progress as a painter with cheap materials. I painted on very cheap substrates, like cheap drawing paper and wallpaper, which were not suited to create perfect results. But it worked out well for me.

Because the materials were so cheap and unpretentious and imperfect, I could drop the need to make perfect paintings. Also, I painted with cheap paint. Professional grade paint was far too expensive for me, and painting with high-quality  paint would have stifled me. Who dares to fearlessly throw some paint around when they know that every tube of paint costs a fortune?

By the way, I did not buy materials that were too cheap. I simply bought the student grade paint in the art supplies store, not the cheaper craft paint. And with my current experience I would advise buying at least one bottle of professional liquid acrylics and, if you like working with crayon, a few professional high pigmented crayons. But that doesn’t need to be too expensive if you choose carefully.

Later on, I started to buy some professional paints, too, combining them with student grade paints. Professional paints can give an additional dimension to the painting experience. Their high pigmentation is a feast for the eye, and the colors are rich and inviting.

But in my opinion, the most important thing is finding the freedom to express yourself without hesitation. And if the price of the paint is limiting that freedom of expression, the quality of the paint is not worth it.

 

Starting small

The very first time that I started painting, I wanted to paint on big canvases. I had always loved big colorful paintings, and I wanted to make them myself, too. So I bought canvases of 50/70 cm (20/28“) and 100/100 cm (40/40”).

But this did not work out well for me. Those canvases were quite expensive. They were big and difficult to move around and store. I needed a lot of paint to cover the surface. Finishing a painting took a long time. And doing quick experiments and studies was not easy on those large surfaces.

When I started my daily painting practice 15 years later, I started a lot smaller, and I painted on a piece of wallpaper instead of on a canvas. One friend of mine had lots of rolls left from a room makeover, and she gave them to me for free. I prepared them with gesso, and I was ready to start.

I cut out squares of 50/50 cm (20/20”), smaller than the canvas that I used before, and I felt so much freer. Because I worked on paper, I could easily store my paintings. If I did not like them, I threw them away, or painted them over, or used them as a first layer for the next painting. Since I was not that precious about my work, I made massive amounts of paintings. That worked out well because indeed quantity breeds quality.

 

An art friend

Another essential aspect of my daily painting adventure was the development of a friendship with a fellow artist. During the 30-paintings-in-30-days challenge from Leslie Saeta I met another artist online, Dotty Seiter, who has been my buddy in art now for years.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to have someone who follows you, who likes what you are doing and who supports you no matter what. Mutual support is critical. Art-making can be such a lonely endeavor – you are working in your home or studio, usually alone. If you never communicate about what you are doing with fellow artists, it can be easy to drop art-making altogether in difficult or uninspired times.

 

Capture the development

Another thing that helped me very much to stay on track as an artist was the fact that I started a blog about my daily painting. I did so, because I participated in the 30-paintings-in-30-days challenge. This way, my online fellow painters could see what I had painted that day.

I immediately liked my blog. Because I photographed my work every day, I kept track of my development. After a month of painting, I could see that I had created a considerable body of work. When I scrolled back through my blog, I could easily see what I had learned, and how I had grown. My blog helped me to take my painting seriously, and it created accountability.

The blog made it also possible for my art friend Dotty to react on my daily painting. That made me feel connected on a daily basis. The first year I kept my blog hidden from the public. I published it on a free blog site (Weebly) and used a pseudonym to keep it secret. (In the free plan of Weebly it is not possible to keep your site hidden from the public, so if you want to keep your blog private you have to use a pseudonym).

After a year I moved my blog to a public site under my real name. (It was too big a hassle to move the Weebly posts over to the new website, so if you like the idea of a public art blog, I would suggest starting your own WordPress site straight away. When you want to keep your blog hidden at first, you can hide it behind a password.).

Of course, you can use a paper notebook to keep track of your developments, too. That is perfectly fine. The advantage of a blog, though, is that it gives you the possibility to easily showcase photos from your artwork. It also helps you to connect with other painters all over the world. And you get used to showing your work publicly on the Internet.

 

Keep going

My daily painting practice still is vital to me. I now skip the weekends and holidays, and on days that are very busy I don’t paint. But on ‘normal’ work days I always take time to do something creative.

Sometimes it is only a short study – I just scratch with crayons, dry brush some liquid paint around, and that’s it. I often use my fingers and a foam brush, and I paint unpretentiously for 15 or 20 minutes. I enjoy the colors and the lines; I use it as a kind of meditation. I photograph what I have done, write something short about it on my blog, and then the rest of my day starts.

At times I work on larger canvases, with more colors. That usually takes up more time, which is not always possible in my schedule. I try not to push myself, but I also keep challenging myself not to give up, and not to escape in the usual business of the day.

Contrary to what most people think, painting is not always ‘easy.’ Every day you are confronted with a blank piece of paper or a blank or half-finished canvas. If you paint abstractly, you never know what your next step is going to be. It arises at the moment – you can’t force it. Abstract painting nails you down in the present moment. Which makes it such a beautiful thing, but which can also be challenging. Human beings usually love it when things are predictable, and when they know how to get results beforehand. Abstract painting does not give you this clarity.

 

Stay in the moment

But if you dare to stay in this moment of not-knowing, beautiful things can happen. And these beautiful things don’t only appear on paper, but also in daily life. If you learn to trust your impulses and intuitions while making art, you simultaneously get to trust yourself in the rest of your life.

The creative process is of course about playing with color and about creating beauty in the world. But even more importantly,  it can teach you so much else. By following the creative path, you learn to live in the present moment, to let go of what is not serving you anymore, to dare to take risks, to look at things from an unexpected angle, and to experience life on a deeper level.

 

Try to find time!

I realize that since I am self-employed, and since my children go to school, it might be easier for me to paint daily than for someone who is working at a day job or who has kids at home. But even if your day is very full and you can’t control your schedule you can try to make space in your day to do something small.

Maybe something that does not make a big mess. Maybe you can use watercolor pencils, or water soluble crayons, or only a black marker. Or use dry brush techniques with only one color of paint. There is always something small possible.

The most important thing is that you get your creativity flowing. And once you have a longer window of time – maybe on the weekend or holiday – you are ready to paint. You can express yourself freely since you have practiced it day after day on a small scale.

I wish you so much joy and freedom making art. If you desire to make art, start now! And if you feel inclined, write me an email with your questions and remarks.

 

Good luck!

Let me know in the comments below about your painting history!!

 

Bye!

Simone

 

PS: The seven tips again:

These were the seven tips that helped me to start painting:

  1. Develop a creative practice, painting daily if possible
  2. Put the stakes as low as possible
  3. Value process first, product second
  4. Start cheap
  5. Start small
  6. Connect with other artists and make art friends
  7. Capture your development

Why art-making is the cheapest therapy ever

Why art-making is the cheapest therapy ever

Why art-making is the cheapest therapy ever

 

When I started making abstract art a few years ago, I noticed a profound effect on my level of happiness and well-being. I always joked to my friends that making art was ‘the cheapest therapy ever’—but honestly, I meant it. I am not talking about ‘art therapy,’ with a therapist by your side who gives you assignments and who helps you to find meaning in your work. No, the simple act of putting paint on the paper or scratching marks on canvas gives a basic kind of joy.

In this ‘cheapest therapy ever’ you don’t talk about your problems, your fears, and your pain, you don’t work through them on a psychological level, but, miraculously, painting is healing. It gives quality to your life.

In this post, I will explore four reasons why this is true, at least for me, and I hear from other artists that it is true for them also. It might be true for you, too.

 

Out of your head and into your body

First of all, making art gets you out of your head and into your body. When you first start painting it is not always so easy. You might stare at the white paper or canvas and think, think, think. What should I do? Where to start? What color to use? What mark to make?

You can feel insecure, and maybe your mind starts racing around and around. When you keep painting, though, your mind slows down. Especially in abstract art, as opposed to realistic art, there is not so much to think about. Reasonable or logical abstract art-making may not even exist.

Of course, there is color theory, and there are theories about composition and so on, but my experience is that relying on that kind of art theory does not make practicing art more enjoyable, nor your art better.

Personally, I like art the best that comes straight from the heart and the gut, so to speak, and not so much from the head. And more important: the painting experience is so much more fun this way!

 

Using your senses

Second, art-making makes you use your bodily senses instead of your thinking. You dive into the feeling of paint on your hand, the scratching of your ink pen on the paper, the smoothness of crayon on canvas, the bright and inviting colors on your palette. You experience the world directly instead of from the head.

Of course, thinking plays its role in painting. At a certain moment you get to know your materials, and you know how to mix colors and how to reach an effect that you like. You learn how certain compositions make you happy, and what you have to do to make them happen. It can be beneficial to learn something about techniques, but the thinking head plays a very natural and helpful role in this—and not the criticizing and even degrading role it can play so often.

 

Free expression of intuition

Third, art-making gives you the opportunity to explore the inner domain of intuitions and impulses and to express them without the interference of your ever-talking head.

This is a miraculous thing. In our society we have to explain ourselves all the time; we have to have good reasons for everything we do. When we make abstract art, there are no unspoken rules. You are free to express yourself as you like. This leads to a feeling of freedom and endless possibilities.

Of course, this does not always come easily. I get thrown out of this sense of freedom all the time, back into the struggling and the thinking. However, the more I paint, the more natural it becomes to find my way back to this free way of painting and being.

 

Power & resilience

Fourth, when you are more in your body and less in the criticizing head, you develop strength and resilience, and a profound sense of self-trust and rootedness in life.

Art-making can be frightening—it is easy to get caught up in self-doubt or self-criticizing—but if you keep painting, you get to the other side of this fear. You learn to stay with the uncomfortable feeling of not knowing how to take the next step. When you ‘ruin’ your painting, you learn to just put another layer on it. Sometimes this works out, and sometimes it doesn’t. Both are equally fine. Tomorrow you have another chance. Nothing can ever go wrong.

 

To sum it up

Let me sum up why in my experience art-making enhances your well-being and happiness:

  • it gets you out of your head, and into your body;
  • it stimulates you to make good use of your often neglected bodily senses;
  • it lets you explore the inner domain of intuitions and impulses, and express them freely; and
  • it teaches you to stay with uncomfortable feelings, and this helps to develop self-trust.

 

Let me know below in the comments if you recognize this!

 

Bye!

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The power of art-making within restraints

The power of art-making within restraints

The power of art-making within restraints

 

If you have the creative itch, and you would love to start creating, many things may hold you back. You may feel that you don’t have enough of the right materials, enough time, or enough space.

But the opposite can also be true. You may feel stifled because you have too many materials, too much time on your hands, or too much space.

I know very well from my own art practice the frustration of not having enough time, space, and materials. But I have also experienced that painting within those limits can work out very well.

If you limit yourself regarding materials, time, and space, doing so can free you up and unlock your creativity. Once that has happened, you just enjoy the materials, the time, the energy, and the space that you have at that moment. You realize that you can create with every material, always, and everywhere.

There is a lot to say about this. Let’s dive in!

 

Not enough materials, time, or space

Maybe you feel you don’t have enough materials. Or perhaps you have only cheap stuff that does not fulfill your needs. Art supplies are usually not cheap, especially not professional quality materials. If you go to the art supplies store, and you fill your basket with paint, brushes, canvas, or paper, you can be shocked because of the price.

In my experience, it is easy to get discouraged by this. If paint and paper are that expensive, can you afford art-making?

And maybe you feel you don’t have enough time. If you have a busy job, children to take care of, or older parents who need your attention, it can be difficult to find time to create. If you come home late in the afternoon, maybe all you want to do is sit down. Getting out all of your art supplies is time-consuming, not to speak of cleaning up afterward.

Maybe you have a chronic illness, which drains you of your energy. You need the time to do the most necessary activities like cooking and cleaning and, after that, your energy is gone. The idea of cramming another thing into your day can paralyze you and hold you back from jumping into the creative process.

Maybe you think you don’t have enough space. You live in a small apartment and have no spare room for an easel or other art supplies. You would love to work on canvas, but you just have no space to put an easel somewhere or store the paintings when they are finished. You might think you should wait until you can afford an atelier, or move to a bigger house.

 

Too many materials, too much time or space

Maybe you are in an opposite position. You have plenty of time, space, and materials. But when that is the case, you can also get creatively blocked.

If you have high-quality art materials, you can get intimidated by them. If you start making art with expensive paint, you might feel you have to make something beautiful with it; otherwise, you waste your money, don’t you? When you have many colors to choose from, which ones will you take first? Too many choices can block your creativity and the feeling of freedom.

Some people can get paralyzed because they have very much time. If you have all day, why should you start now? You might start postponing. First, you will do the dishes and then go shopping. After that, you will paint.

But something unexpected comes in between, and before you realize it your day is over. Maybe tomorrow. But the more you procrastinate, the more you lose confidence in yourself. You told yourself that you want to start painting, but now you don’t do it, even if the time is yours!

Even having a huge and beautiful space to make art can put a lot of pressure on you. If you have so much space that other artists don’t have, you tell yourself you should really make some good work; otherwise, you are not worth this space.

Or you start working on a big surface because you have space to do so, but once you begin with a big painting it feels daunting. Working big is not as much fun as you hoped it would be. The big canvas becomes threatening instead of inviting and inspiring.

 

Let the restraints become your friends

The fact that you have limited money to buy materials, have little time, or have a small space, does not mean you can’t start making art. The opposite can also be true: if you do not have a lot of resources, it can free you up.

You don’t have to wait for the future when you are actually always well-equipped for art-making. Now, at this very moment, you can start. You can pick up a piece of copy paper and just start scribbling around. You can start making a simple Zentangle (see my article about this here). You can work on the kitchen table. There are possibilities everywhere; even in three minutes you can start and finish a small creative project.

When you are very busy because you have small children, you can paint along with them, on the kitchen table. And if you have a baby, you can make something minimal when your child is asleep. I don’t want to romanticize this; when my kids were babies, I was exhausted all the time, and the only thing that I wanted to do when they were asleep was get asleep myself.

But you get the point: if you get accustomed to the idea that you don’t need a lot of time to create something, then you will start to notice small moments of opportunity. Half an hour just before your job starts. Thirty minutes after you have put your children in bed. Five minutes before bedtime.

And when your children are older, you can create alongside them. When my daughter went to high school, she was very busy, and I started to sit down with her in between her homework moments and simply made drawings alongside her. I did not create very artistic work, but I was creating, and just happy doodling along. And at the same time I had a beautiful moment with my busy daughter.

You can also look at your daily habits with a fresh eye. Do you need to watch the news another time? Is it essential to check your Facebook now? I don’t want to sound patronizing (even though I may), but we lose a lot of time throughout the day. We consume so much what others create for us, that we have no space left for creating things ourselves.

 

How to set restraints for art-making

Giving yourself limits can help to avoid or break through a creative block. You can do this in different ways.

 

Working with limited materials

Having lots of art materials around is wonderful. Many colors and many tools give you lots of possibilities for expression. However, if you feel stuck, it can sometimes help you to take only a few colors or a few tools. It challenges you to use each material to the maximum of its possibilities. It makes you get to know your equipment and tools well.

It also it makes you more creative. If you don’t have a lot of colors, you have to find other ways to make the painting interesting and alive. You have to dig deeper to create contrast and different kinds of details. And if you keep doing this you become more and more creative and resourceful.

 

Working in a very limited time

Another way of giving yourself limits is working for only a concise period. ‘Five-minute-paintings’ are fantastic for this. I first learned about this concept from artist Jane Davies. And I have made many five-minute paintings since then.

You set your timer, you put your materials out, and off you go. Time goes so quickly that you simply don’t have a chance to get stuck in your head. Your creative energy doesn’t get frustrated by the chattering mind.

Of course, painting a five-minute painting can be difficult at first, because you might get stressed or stuck. But that is no problem since you only work for five minutes. After that, you can set your timer again.

You can do only one five-minute painting, but also you can do four or so in a row, and stop within half an hour. If you practice this, you start to relax under time pressure. The chances are that you sometimes produce something that you like very much – even in such a short amount of time. And if not so, you have practiced your skills. You have made progress, in whatever way.

 

Working within limited space or on a small size

If you challenge yourself to paint in unusual or imperfect places, you make yourself independent of the environment where you are. If you realize that you can make art at the airport, on holidays, in a café, on the floor or the kitchen table, you know that you can make art everywhere.

Working on a minimal size can also free you up. When I was busy, I sometimes made a drawing on the back of a business card. I drew only in black and white, with a very thin black marker. It was so much fun to do, and it made me realize that I should not make such a big fuss about art-making. The essential thing is to create something that was not there before. And you can do that at any size.

I hope I have inspired you to look with another eye at your lack of materials, time, and space. Maybe working within restraints can start to function as a way of unleashing your creativity. Let me know how your experiments turn out!

 

 

Bye!

Simone Nijboer, Dutch abstract artist, online art teacher, daily painter, creativity accelerator

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