February has been cold and snowy so far. I have been shoveling, working in the studio, reading about abstract painters and researching how artists come up with titles and hashtags. I started thinking that for a profession centered on creating art, I spend a lot of my time with words. When you get into the business of being an artist you quickly realize that it requires you to get comfortable with writing.
There is also a lot of MATH, but that is for another post.
There are all kinds of words. There is the title of the work, a written statement describing the work, captions, descriptions, hashtags, key words, posts, texts. tweets and SEO words. There are inspirational words in the form of quotes. Words chosen for motivation like a word of the year. There are plans to write, lists to make and journals to fill. In using all these words, I make mistakes. Lots of them. Spelling mistakes and grammar mistakes mostly. This used to really freak me out. But its ok. Mistakes can be fixed. I also struggle to figure out what to say and how to say it. Thinking who cares what I have to say?
It’s easy to get embarrassed, self-conscious, tired, overwhelmed and quiet. When that happens, it is hard and awkward to start engaging again. But talking and writing about your work is important. In today’s world where self-representation is the norm, writing about your work is really not optional. It helps people get to know you and understand your point of view.
As an artist I use many tools. There are the obvious ones like paint, brushes and canvas to the less known ones like an expired credit card, a heat gun and the occasional condiment bottle. Learning how to use a tool takes practice. When I get stuck, I think of writing as just another tool and think of all the tools I have already learned to use.
If you are thinking of adding more writing to your art practice, start small perhaps by adding a bit more to a post. Take baby steps. It gets easier and It doesn’t have to perfect. Case in point - you are reading this and I am sure it isn’t close to perfect.
I generally prefer audio books as a background in my studio. I have listened to hundreds of art histories, biographies, mysteries and true crime stories, plowing through series after series. I have always needed a bit of escapism to occupy my inner critic as I work, but lately I prefer silence.
At the beginning of quarantine when life became strange and frightening, I turned once again to meditation (and Ben & Jerry). I had exactly zero success with meditation up to this point, but during the repetitive circumstances of lockdown, I began a modest practice that began to help with my anxiety and focus.
A funny thing has happened after months of meditation. It has crept into my studio! When I am working, I often prefer silence. I am happily conscious of being in the moment and I don’t need to drown out that voice, in fact, I think I may have made friends with my inner critic. Well, more like a friendly acquaintance I chat with, and sometimes tell very nicely to shut up.
Meditation is a process that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But you could try switching up your painting soundtrack or turning it off all together. Maybe In the quiet you can have a nice polite chat with your inner critic too.
January in the studio can be slow. Some artists begin each year by clearing the decks, cleaning and organizing their workspaces. Others are brimming with many new ideas and excited to get back to work after a holiday break but are not sure where to start. When I want to refocus my art practice anytime of the year and I like to create or join an online challenge. This gives me accountability, structure and permission to play. To create an online challenge you only need social media, an idea and a hashtag such as #30in30 or #my2021art. Challenges can be any length 21, 30, 100 or even 365. You could even do it daily for years.
If thats not for you, search for a challenge run by another artist. Sometimes this requires you to sign-up and post your work on a specific site. Using the site you may be able to interact with other artists and give and receive feedback. Months with 30 days such as January and September are popular times for organized challenges. You don't have to limit yourself to the art you practice or even art at all. You could try a new medium, a sketchbook challenge or simply take a photo of your easel day and do a documenting my process challenge.
Whatever you choose, keep it simple and don't worry if you miss a day, just keep going and see what happens.
Over the years I have collected many art practice tips. When I feel tight and off track I use this list to loosen up my painting.
Sometimes you come across a quote that just stops you. Really, you stop and read it over a few times. Maybe you write it down in the margin of your calendar or copy and paste it into the notes section of your phone. Maybe you print it out and tack it to the cork board in your studio. You might even get those words tattooed onto your arm. Because, well, you don’t want to forget them. But you do. Sometimes those forgotten words keep following you, popping up again and again. This quote from John Cage is one of those for me.
I love this quote!! I find it comforting and inspiring, like a push. He vividly lists the sources of the
baggage that we bring to creating. I can see all of the people around my easel between me and the canvas. Then he reminds me how to get past it, telling me to keep painting and get out of the way and sometimes I listen.
Decorating for the holidays is fun, but sometimes those pumpkins or bright Santa figures don't seem comfortable in front of you treasured art. Here are four things you can do to help your art and your decorations get along during the holidays.
I first published this piece in 2016. I still use these tips when I decorate for Christmas especially displaying special holiday family photos. One of my favorites is this picture of my sons now 25 and 29 with angel wings!