Wrestling with Paint… and Oneself



One of the most gratifying aspects to having written an instructional book on something I’m so passionate about, is that now and then I receive feedback on how my words have given a gentle push at just the right time in someone’s creative development. 


Elaine came to me (via email) seeking advice. She was recreating the  “Nature Walk” project (above) from my book, Creative Kids’ Murals You Can Paint and was struggling a bit to obtain the right consistency for her blue pond glaze. Undeterred, she wrote, This project is going to be fun! I have not picked up my brushes for years. I’m very happy to be doing this mural.” 
I was psyched! 


She’s jazzed. She’s motivated. She’s organized. She’s got it going on! She translated my response of technical advice and encouragement like this:
“I am following your guidance to the tee. Color me ‘rusty’ with brushes and paints these days but your advice gives me much needed confidence.  Just ‘roll right back over it’ if I don’t like it! That phrase was particularly freeing… All will be well.” 
In our correspondences, she confessed it had been 27 years since she picked up a brush. It’s monumental that she finally gave herself permission and this certainly should be celebrated. I’m so happy for her!


I won’t pretend to know her reasons for delaying. But, I can tell you from my own experience why I have avoided or abandoned a project. My perfectionism has been the dragon I’ve had to slay, and not just once. That guy keeps resurrecting! However, remembering paint has a layering ability and opaque quality has been my saving grace. When painting, we are not knocking down walls, except maybe our own self-imposed barriers. We can literally just brush right over an area we think is muddy, ugly, or just plain unsuccessful. How freeing is that?! I laugh out loud at myself when I think of how many paintings lay beneath the final piece that I allow “the world” to actually view. 


Let’s not forget, those hidden treasures beneath contain the real lessons. If we were to excavate, we might not only remember a pertinent piece of advice from our high school art teacher, but we might also witness our ability to intuitively respond to what is before us… or recognize how we just conquered that crazy and inaccurate self-talker… or become conscious of the many divinely inspired ideas flowing through us so much of the time. And, Bonus! — that underpainting often makes for a more interesting texture in the final composition. To be sure, it’s the process, not the final product, that is the true gift when making art. 


So, if I may offer this last bit of advice: Keep perspective, stay joyful, stay playful, and allow many healthy strokes of self-acceptance.


A great big “thank you” to Elaine for allowing me to display her process! P.24 “Nature Walk” Project in my book, Creative Kids’ Murals You Can Paint!