This year I'm trying to take a big leap of faith. It's rather difficult to paint purely for yourself, especially if you are in the business of art. Not trying to live up to other's expectations, or painting what you think will sell. Because someone wanting to buy your art is the biggest form of a complement, and that reassurance that what you are doing is generally accepted as "good", is priceless. It is so hard to not paint that way, to not try to paint using Pantone's "color of the year", to not follow the latest trend of neutrals (for example), but any time I try to paint based on any one else's expectations, or on my impression of what is expected of me, I fail. Neutrals are "safe", but they bore me to tears - color energizes me.
In my previous corporate career (I was once a project manager for IT companies), I thrived because I knew what the expectations were, and I could easily meet or exceed those expectations. The art world is nothing like that world, and yet, for so long, I have been treating it as such. Thoughts of, if I could just come up with the perfect palette, or the perfect "signature style", but in art, all the rules are meant to be broken. It is a world of constant invention and exploration.
I want to use all the colors, and all the tools, and all the techniques. I want to play and pour paint and see the visions in my head come to life. At other times, I want to paint without a vision, and just see what comes out of me. I want to act, and then re-act, and continue working as if in a dance with the canvas and the paint. I give myself challenges, such as using all the leftover paint from the my students after a workshop on a single-session painting. I take on new, harder subjects, such as pet portraits. I take workshops to push myself to think differently. The process is what drives me.
I believe whole heartedly that "variety is the spice of life." I'm happiest when I am not on a schedule, and I can take life as it comes at me. When I give myself time to think and have ideas and then act on those ideas.
So this year, I'm striving to be an artist on my own terms. I'm jumping off the cliff and praying I land in a pool of joy. Knowing that I am doing my best work, and that it is my work, authentically me. Accepting that there is no "magic formula for succeeding as a fine art painter, that is the only way this journey will become a journey of joy.
For as long as I can remember, I thought of myself as an artist. Maybe because I come from a very talented family, and I always had the urge to create, whether cooking or drawing. But, the first time that was validated publicly was when I was about 10 and our class was asked to draw a picture illustrating a story we had been told by a local storyteller. The author praised my drawing specifically, and so later, when our librarian decided to have the story published as a gift to the author, she asked me to illustrate the entire story. This was a huge honor, and I certainly felt validated as an artist, even at that young age.
But, at least a year had passed since I did the original drawing. I know my skills had improved since then, and so, even then, I struggled with how to approach this art project. Would the author still be impressed if I drew the illustrations differently than the original drawing? I worried that she would not be, and so I did all the drawings the same way, even though I felt I could do so much better if I approached the illustrations with a fresh perspective, and my improved drawing skills. By the time the book was published, and we did our round of book signings, I was even older and more skilled, and I was embarrassed that my drawings looked so child-like, but everyone seemed to love them.