Category Archives: Finding You

Strategies for Finding “That Thing That is Your Own” Part 2

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.

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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.

3. Self-education

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.

8. Journaling

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.

9. Authenticity

Constantly ask yourself, “How can I make this uniquely mine?”

Happy Painting!

Strategies for Finding “That Thing That is Your Own” Part 1

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.

Here are 9 Things to Eliminate:

1. Listening to everybody else.

Become internally rather than externally motivated by choosing to be the central creative force in your life. Make a decision to stop looking to everyone else for answers to what your art is or should be. You don’t need anyone else’s permission to become the artist you want to be.

2. Subjects you don’t love.

Paint only those subjects that attract you or call to you in some way. You don’t need to know or explain why they attract or call to you. What matters is simply that they matter to you. Period.

3. Mediums and techniques you don’t love or that don’t work with your personality and what you want to say with your work.

Don’t choose a medium simply because it’s popular or because all of your art buddies use it. And, don’t choose a medium or techniques just because your first art instructors happened to teach that medium or those techniques. 

4. All critical and judgmental thinking.

Work hard at leaving your VOJ (voice of judgment – see my previous posts on the VOJ) behind when you walk into your studio. Paint without judging. Stop painting often, put your work up, stand a distance away from it and simply ask yourself, “How can I improve it?”

5. Searching for “the right way” to paint.

There’s only one “right” way to paint, your way.

6. The fear of the unknown.

Encounters with the unknown are what creative painting is all about. Therefore, they are a necessary part of the creative process. Rather than avoid the unknown, find fun ways to break out of the box and face the unknown. In order to grow as an artist it’s necessary to take risks and get out of your comfort zone.

7. The fear of failure.

Remind the part of you that fears failure that Thomas Alva Edison perceived failure in this way: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” As it is with the fear of the unknown, the fear of failure is a necessary part of the creative process. Embrace it. Work with it.

8. Abandoning works in progress.

Commit to finishing all your paintings. Stopping when things go awry is stopping in the wrong place. When things go awry, that means that you have created problems in your painting that need to be solved. This is not the time to abandon ship and start another painting. Stay the course and solve the problems. Solving the problems that you’ve created in your painting means that you will have to engage your creativity to come up with the solutions. Often, that’s when the process of putting together a painting really begins.

9. Settling.
 
Never settle for anything less than a painting that you love.
 
 
Happy Painting!

The 6-Word Artist Memoir

                                       

“Sure, your life story could fill a thousand pages – but sometimes a few words are all you need.”    The Oprah Magazine, February 2012

An article in the current issue of The Oprah Magazine describes a 2006 challenge that writer Larry Smith issued to his online readers. Inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s legendary shortest of short stories (“For sale: Baby shoes, never worn”), Smith asked his readers to describe their lives in 6 words. Smith’s 6-Word Memoir challenge officially ended after a month, but the stories kept coming. Now, five years later, participants have sent in more than half a million mini memoirs, and Smith has published 5 compilations of the intensely personal accounts.

Inspired and intrigued, I thought it would be fun to try writing a 6-Word story of my life as an artist. Having been an on again/off again artist for most of my adult life, I looked back at my 40 year+ art journey and spent some time searching for the 6 perfect words to describe it all. It was a stimulating, enlightening, and fun experience!  

Here is what I came up with…………

      My 6-Word Artist Memoir:   

       I Found Myself Painting My Life.    Donna Zagotta

Now it’s your turn! Are you ready to search for those 6 perfect words that describe your life as an artist? E-mail your 6-Word Artist Memoir to me at donnazagotta@chartermi.net by February 16, and I’ll post all of the mini artist memoirs here on my blog. You can find more information and ideas about Larry Smith’s 6-Word Memoir challenge at smithmag.net.

Happy Painting (and Writing)!   

Turning Points

 

Donna Zagotta, This Way

“There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”   Anais Nin

Turning Point: Important moment of change; a time or incident that marks the beginning of a completely new, and usually better, stage in somebody’s life or in the development of something.

A few weeks ago I gave a slide talk at the Stretching Boundaries for Creative People seminar on the autobiographical content of my figure paintings. It was a great opportunity to put together a retrospective of my body of work from the last 10 or so years and reflect on struggles resolved, successes won, questions answered, goals achieved, paths explored, and roads not taken. With the passage of time I was able to see the choices and decisions that I made that led to certain turning points in my art journey. An early turning point occurred when I made the decision to leave behind everything I was told by my early art instructors about what art is and what it could be to find my own answers. A second turning point came about when I resolved to find that thing that is my own. 

But by far, I think that my most important turning point came about when I made the commitment to myself about 6 years ago to please only myself with my paintings, and to never again paint a painting that I didn’t love. In figuring out what it was going to take to put together a painting that I truly loved, I had to take a risk and put it all on the line. What if I did a painting that I loved and then I discovered that the rest of the world thought it was crap? Or, what if I put everything I had into a painting, but I still didn’t love it? But I held my breath, jumped in, and took the risk anyway. And it was in taking that risk that I finally started to find that thing that is my own.

In his book Turning Points, Stories of People Who Made a Difference, Max L. Christensen defines a turning point as:

       A time when commitments are made.

       A time when new attitudes are formed.

       A time when new directions are chosen.

        A time  when distant visions are transformed into reality.

A turning point often occurs at a time of major crisis. It is a decisive moment where a significant change or decision is about to be made. While it can be difficult and scary, and something that requires a gigantic leap of  faith, a turning point can be a fabulous vehicle for positive change and growth. 

Here is some great advice by Katherine Mansfield: Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth. 

Do you have some observations on turning points that you’d like to add to this? I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Painting!