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!

 

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

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