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3 Things I've Learned From Painting Every Day

This is "Deep Cove Paddler", 12x24 oil on canvas.

I finished this painting yesterday after what seemed like an eternity of working on it. I've mentioned before how time speeds up at the easel when I'm enjoying the work. Well, the reverse holds true also. I'm not a big fan of the colour blue. No surprise then that it felt like this work would never end.

The other painters at the studio know my preferred colour palette. So when one of them saw this piece, her first reaction was - "Oh! That's not you." Truer words were never spoken.

The slog aspect notwithstanding, I certainly learned a lot doing this piece. In fact, I think each painting teaches the painter something. And by painting every day, or at least most days, I have found that the lessons come along at a very fast clip. So here are three things I’ve learned from painting daily. I’m not saying this will apply to everyone who steps up to the easel. Your mileage may vary. But, in my experience:

1- Paint doesn’t hide anything.

Quite the opposite, in fact. If I'm having a bad day or a good one, it always affects how I paint. When I was earning my keep with writing, I was being paid to strip emotion out of my work. Journalism 101 - just the facts, ma'am. Thank you. But now, If I'm feeling sad or happy or angry or lazy - it all impacts the purchase of the brush on the canvas. And those emotions come off the tip of my paintbrush and leave a mark for all to see. For me, viewing one of my paintings is often like a trip down some emotional memory lane. So chances are that if you connect with an artist's painting, it's not just the image you're reacting to, but also those emotions. Which is kind of cool, when you think about it.

2- Failure is to creativity like oxygen is to fire.

You need to fail. It's the frustration you feel when you do fail that fuels the fire of creativity. I've had to learn to love the really crappy stuff I paint as much as the good stuff. I suspect this lesson will serve me well in the long run. For one thing, there’ll likely be a lot more of the former than the latter for a while yet. For another, the bad pieces are infinitely more instructive than the paintings that just ‘work’. People will tell you not to be too hard on yourself. But you know what? If you're going to paint, what comes off that easel needs to please you first and foremost. And if something you've created makes you react with a shrug and a 'meh', there's a good chance that's a sign your standards are improving. And that's all for the good because it gets you one step closer to that brilliant painting you're going to do one day that will amaze you every single time you see it.

3 - Creativity is a perpetual motion machine.

The more time you spend exercising your creative brawn, the more creative and better focused you will get. By painting every day, I’m burning through ideas like a pile of dry leaves set alight by a glass bottle bottom focusing the sun’s light. And, like those dead leaves, a lot of what gets burned off, frankly, is absolute rubbish. That's why protecting ideas is such a waste of time. That's been a hard lesson for me. I'm always hesitant to talk about what I have in mind for a project. Part of that is just a fear of sounding like a complete idiot. Communicating an unformed idea is like trying to give someone water cupped in your hands. There’s bound to be spillage and loss in the process. But sometimes just forming the words helps you see whether the idea has enough structural integrity to hold up the walls you plan to build. And hey, if someone is willing to listen to you ramble on, take advantage of it. It is a privilege.


Paint. Rinse. Repeat. Daily.

See you around the studio.

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