Creative expression has benefits beyond showing the world how awesome you are… which is reason enough. Expressive art, your visual concepts and ideas are unique to you, which makes them special. Im not just saying this to make you feel good about yourself, its true. When you paint or create a piece of art, do you criticize it and immediately label it as not good enough? If you feed negativity into what you create it cannot be therapeutic. No healing will come from berating your art, or yourself. The things you say to yourself (or think) are like a subconscious branding iron. By even saying things like “I know its not that good” or allowing your feelings about your own art be determined by someone elses art in comparison you will turn something you sought out to enjoy (art) into a reason to feel inferior. Very few of us feel as good about ourselves as we should, and most of us are harder on ourselves than we need to be. There are times when I have to shake off the negative feelings about my own work. The point is to make yourself aware of it and fight it.
What happens if you feel like you are failing at something? You become disappointed and quit. There are somethings that we fall in love with because we enjoy the process and that is enough. I will never be a champion bowler, but its fun, I enjoy it. It was never important to be to be league worthy. Because I enjoyed it regardless that I sucked at it, without realizing it guess what? I got better and often surprise myself. Maybe I wasn’t as bad as I perceived. When you create, enjoy the process. It is not as easy as saying I know. Maybe if I tell you why its hard to just let go and have fun, I can make it easier.
We are generally attracted to a level of art that wows us. You already have an idea of what beautiful art it. When you pick up your brush to paint you are attempting to create something that qualifies to you as beautiful. Believe it or not the effort put into trying to do that becomes counterproductive. Each stroke you create you hope will be a sign that its becoming what you want it to be. You think about what will make it great, hmmm. If you do like where its going then you begin to fear that your next move is going to “mess it up”. Not only are you not having fun, but your painting doesn’t reflect the real you. The you that you rarely feel comfortable exposing. Not the office work you, or the wearing your sunday best you, but the laughing out loud you when you don’t care what your hair looks like you. Think about that friend that you can cut up and be loud with, the one who you tell how you really feel about things with out feeling bad about it. Your art can be that friend. I would say to paint like you are the only one that will see it, but honestly self criticism is the meanest. I wish there was a magic trick to change all that you’ve read, but hopefully this will get you thinking.
Are you looking for your style? Trying to develop a creative voice? How long did it take for you to develop your handwriting? Your handwriting is part of your identity, it’s unique to you , it even says something about your personality. It didn’t start out that way, we all learned how to write using the same model of individual letters. If we all learned from the same standard alphabet, why are our handwritings so different?
When you are learning to write it feels foreign, you even had to learn how to manipulate the pencil and position your hand. No one expects a 5 year old to have perfect handwriting or to have developed their own handwriting. It takes effort for a five year old to make those letters on that wide ruled paper ,remember it had those dotted lines. Our individual handwriting doesn’t begin to develop until we become comfortable. We become comfortable with writing tools, and creating the letters with out a visual reference. Our personality and individual quirks create a handwriting all your own. Creating art that reflects your personality is a similar process. We as adults don’t learn the same as we did as five year olds. We have expectations of everything we do. We have learned that everything we do says something about us, good or bad. When creating art as adults its easy to allow our expectations and our personal standards get in the way of enjoying the process. You have to allow yourself time to become comfortable in the process for your personality to begin shaping your art. There are things that you can do to make yourself more comfortable.
I do have a few suggestions that may help.
1. When you paint, limit your color pallet. Color theory is one of the most boring classes I ever took. If you have a pallet of 50 colors you will need that class. Look at color combinations in decor magazines, I take pictures of pillows I see in pier1. Choose 5 or 6 colors plus black and white. Pick the color combination that suits your mood before you start. Try creating a monotone painting, meaning varying shades and tones of the same color.
2. Make your objective to arrange the colors in a way that feels right to you. A simple plan with no expectations, use simple repetitive shapes. It may not be perfect composition , but I think that women are pretty instinctive about arranging shapes. We do it all the time, moving furniture, choosing the right earrings, we stare at patterns all day on our clothing. Use those patterns to inspire your shapes.
3. Doodle a lot, grab a pen and paper and doodle, it takes a few minutes of doodling before you let go and get into an intuitive flow that requires no thinking.Get to know your creative handwriting. Bring some of your doodles to life in paint.
4. Think about your materials, is the surface you have suitable for the paint or medium you are using? Is your surface large enough? Painting on small surfaces where a small brush stroke dramatically changes the entire painting doesnt give you a chance to see that you dont like where things are going. Small surfaces dont encourage experimentation. A tiny canvas can turn into a goopy mess in seconds. Give yourself enough space to see things evolving, if a painting becomes crazy to you in a few seconds you are going to be overwhelmed and wonder what happened, not knowing what to do to get back to having fun. I think atleast 16×20″ for expressive painting. A larger surface doesn’t mean it has to cost you more. I will tell you how I save money in a different post.There are some art supplies that the cheap brand is as good as the expensive, and scholastic level art supplies will never preform the way you want them to. There is a way to be cheap and have good art supplies. I will write about that another time. I want you to be aware that these are somethings that can sabotage your efforts, and if you are just starting your creative journey, you won’t know that it’s not you, but that it’s your supplies. I can just say avoid crayola, and those level supplies and brushes. Student level and scholastic level are not the same. Student and studio level refers to what is acceptable for collage level or someone just learning. Scholastic refers to elementary school art supplies.
5. Create a playful low pressure environment. Dont paint where someone will be watching, find a place were you can have time to yourself. Maybe put on the music you listened to in high school. Music is so powerful, what music always makes you feel good?
6. One exercise you can do is, pick a 5 color combination plus black and white. Give yourself a 20 minute time limit to finish a 16×20″ surface. This is fun. I find that my in drawing class my 5 minute warm up sketches are better than the 20 minute ones. There is no time to fuss. The time limit forces you let go of some control and accept imperfection as part of the process.
I want you to get what you are looking for out of your creative experiences. I want you to discover your creative self, find an escape in art, there are a million reasons to be creative!