This post originally appeared in October, 2009. After my post about Georgia O’Keeffe (Georgia on my Mind), where I reminisced about how she inspired me to pursue “that thing that is my own,” I thought this post and the last were the perfect follow-ups.
As I mentioned in my last post, sometimes we paint the way we do simply because that’s the way we were taught. We take classes and workshops and often we’re so busy learning other artists’ rules, techniques, color and composition tastes, etc. that we miss the whole point. It’s not about finding techniques, rules, and formulas. It’s about using your chosen medium, your skills, and the elements and principles of design to express what Georgia O’Keeffe called “that thing that is my own’.
Finding “that thing that is your own” involves making conscious choices about what to pursue and what to eliminate, both in your thinking and in your work. In my last post, I listed 9 things to eliminate.
Here are 9 things to pursue:
1. Your passion
It begins and ends with love. In his book Creating, Robert Fritz said, “Love is what creating is about – although not as we usually mean the term. Love is often thought of as a passive response to something or other – something we can “fall into,” something that evokes in us a complex of emotions, something that happens to us………(that kind of) love is a response and not a cause. When you are creating, it is the other way around. The love comes first, and the situation later. In the creative process, love is generative rather than simply responsive. The object of your love does not yet exist. Quite often, it isn’t even established in your mind. It may be just a glimmer or impulse, or even a vague impression, or it may not even be that much. But a creator is able to love something that does not yet exist – even in the imagination – and bring it into existence. From nothing, something is formed.”
2. Subjects you love
Find subjects that matter to you, that attract you, that call to you, that speak to you. What you are naturally attracted to is what distinguishes you from everyone else and is the starting place for authentic expression.
Set up a program and a plan to develop the skills and gather up the knowledge and information you need to do the kind of work you dream of doing.
4. Methods for nurturing your creative self
Make a plan for dealing with fear, failure, and discouragement. Accept the fact that they will show up. How will you nurture yourself, dust yourself off, and start all over again?
5. Starting and finishing lots of paintings
Just do it! Doing is the core ingredient. Doing is what will make all the difference.
6. Looking at a lot of art
Look not with the idea of copying, but with the idea of finding new options and ideas for moving your art forward.
7. Your connection to Art History
Many of the problems we deal with in our paintings have been dealt with by the masters. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel! There is in art history a wealth of ideas for solving problems and growing your art.
A written art journal is a great place to make lists, set goals, clarify ideas, and make plans for how you will nurture your artist self and grow your art.
Constantly ask yourself, “How can I make this uniquely mine?”