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Getting Over Art-Making Hurdles

May 06, 2021 5:38 PM | Dan Nelson

TIP No. 1— DITCH THE BIG PREP!

     Having a hard time just getting around to your art?  Welcome to the human race! We are all pulled in so many directions, it’s really hard to make time to do the stuff you really WANT to do. Here’s a little tip that has helped me get over this hurdle—

      Let me use an analogy from a non-art part of my life— I’m a fairly serious musician; I play several instruments and TRY to practice them every day. I don’t reach that lofty goal, but having the goal gets me closer than not. Anyway— here’s the tip: CAN THE CASE! I never keep any of my instruments in their cases. My instruments hang on the walls, sit on shelves, stand on stands . . . so that ANY time I’m strolling though the den I can pick one up and practice for 4 or 5 minutes. By-the-way— On a related note: some of the most productive practicing we do (of any skill) can happen in the first 5 minutes. So don’t turn up your nose at such a scanty session.

     Back to ART: KEEP YOUR ART STUFF OUT WHERE YOU CAN GRAB IT AND MAKE ART — EVEN FOR 5 MINUTES.

   I know that might not work for oil or acrylic painting— My oil palette stays in the freezer, so it takes a good 20 minutes for that to thaw out, and acrylics would be bone-dry if you left them out, but sketchbooks with pencils, pens, pastels, watercolors and gauche are ready to go ANYTIME. 

     I have sketchbooks scattered everywhere— One in my car, one in my wife’s, one on the coffee table, one in the top drawer of the cabinet in the front hall, et cetera. Oh-- and by the way, most of them are spiral-bound and already have pencils, pens & brushes stuck in the spiral. Voi la! Instant ART kit!

     I don’t have to wait ’til I’m in the mood, I don’t to go through a big production unpacking and setting up. Just grab and go! 

TIP No. 2— CREATE A READY-TO-GO PICTURE FILE

     I’m assuming you own a smart phone. Just get in the habit of SHOOTING anything and everything that strikes your fancy— the way a shadow falls on a wall, a close-up of a leaf, a close-up of your shoe laces, even somebody else’s painting! (You don’t have to COPY it, but if you do, give credit . . . and don’t enter in into a competition.) Next time you have a moment— open your phone's picture gallery and start flipping. 

     One more tip in this category— I’ve heard of artists having “Blank Canvas Paralysis”. I know I should be really empathetic here and say, “Yeah, it happens to everybody.” But it doesn’t. I’ve never had it. So all empathy aside, let me give you ONE simple tip for overcoming this one: START 3, 4, OR 5 SMALL PAINTINGS ALL AT THE SAME TIME. One canvas might intimidate you; a whole row of (little) ones won’t, because you will perceive in one sweeping glance that each canvas is NOT ALL THAT IMPORTANT— which is one of the main sources of this paralysis. 

TIP No. 3— THE COMPARISON / MASTERPIECE TRAP

     These two impulses are universal: the urge to compare yourself to others, and the desire to create a MASTERPIECE. Both of them are counterproductive. Derive INSPIRATION from other people’s art, but not INTIMIDATION. You are unique. NOBODY can do what you do. If God had wanted to to be Michelangelo, he would have made you him . . . (And you’d have been dead for 457 years now. Way to go! You’ve still got time to catch up!)

     The “Gotta-Mayka-Masterpiece” pressure is just that: PRESSURE! Try this: just do a “nice little painting”. Honestly, your chances of actually doing a masterpiece just increased.

That’s enough for now. What tips have YOU learned for jump-starting your art-making life? Share them here. I look forward to hearing from you.

Til then— Happy Painting!

Dan


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