Practicing Patience: Favorite Inch by Favorite Inch

watercolor collage painting

Let’s start with an exercise, shall we?  “Breathe in trust.  Breathe out fear.  Breathe in trust.  Breathe out fear.”

What does this teach us?  To calm down.  To be in the moment.  To practice PATIENCE.  But why?

Making art is a lengthy process.  I should know.  This particular piece took 10+ hours and several class periods to complete.  At times, it looked so abstract that I feared nothing would come of it.  But as fellow artists know, once you’re in the middle of a project, you only have two choices.  Quit to avoid failing (which actually translates to an automatic failure) or continue on the path and see how it turns out.  I chose the second option because I’m just stubborn like that 😉

The process of watercolor collage painting involves dyeing handmade paper using liquid watercolor paint.  Then you have to let each piece dry.  Meanwhile you sketch your scene.  Then you painstakingly glue each colored piece to your paper using matte gel medium.  You can’t be sure if you’ve colored enough pieces for each section.  Also be aware that your hands will become dyed and glued very easily!  All you can do is trust the process.

What can I say?  The end result was satisfying.  But is that always the case?  Sometimes you reach your destination after a lot of hard work to find a breathtaking sight.  Other times, you feel discouraged by your work.  You may also feel like it goes unappreciated.  But patience and perseverance are always the keys.

“Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.” — Hal Borland

If you don’t feel up to it, try this exercise:  “Find your favorite inch.”  I learned about this at a recent workshop at the Mazza Museum for children’s illustration in Findlay, OH.  One of the speakers mentioned that when you’re feeling down about your art, search for your favorite part inside a piece of art.  You can also use this exercise when viewing art at a museum or gallery as a learning tool.  There must be one part you’re satisfied with in your work.  It could be an interesting line or angle, a character’s expression, a unique color.  Something is always working in a painting.  It is your job to find it, which can be extremely difficult when self evaluating.  Once you identify your sweet spot, work from that.  Think of it as a stepping stone.  Achievement always begins with a single step.  In this case, a single brush stroke.

Let’s review:  Breathe in Trust; breathe out fear.  Practice patience.  Find your favorite inch.

And when all hope is lost, just remember:

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” — Harriet Tubman

As the new year approaches, keep reaching!

 

I Am the Canvas

acrylic

This painting represents the holiday Holi which is an ancient Hindu festival  observed in India, Nepal, and other places.  To celebrate spring, people spray each other with colored water.  I was fascinated when a friend told me about this tradition.  I wish I could participate!  The closest thing we have is The Color Run in Ypsilanti.

What makes this event so special?  As an artist, I would say it is the opportunity to be a blank canvas again and then turn yourself into a rainbow.  We wear a lot of masks in society, some of them are thrust upon us while others we don ourselves.  What if we could take them off for one day?  Would it make any difference?

Given the opportunity, how would you paint yourself to the world?  Please share!

Go to the Well

People go to wells for many reasons– water…wishes…words?

I enjoy receiving book recommendations.  Recently someone suggested On Writing Well  by William Zinsser.  Since it’s a guide for nonfiction writing, I paused before picking it up.  But then I thought, why not?  Thank goodness I did.  Turns out the wisdom found in its pages works for all kinds of writers.

Here are some highlights!

“Ultimately the product that any writer has to sell is not the subject being written about, but who he or she is.”

When writing, go in search of humanity and warmth.  “Good writing has an aliveness that keeps the reader reading…”

My favorite chapter is titled “Clutter.”  Follow this advice to help declutter your writing.

  • Don’t follow a verb with a preposition (“order up”)
  • Don’t add an adverb when the verb itself does the job (“smile happily”)
  • Don’t add an adjective that states a known fact (“tall skyscraper”)
  • Avoid using qualifiers that weaken the sentence (“a bit,” “sort of”)
  • Avoid using phrases that don’t mean anything (“in a sense”)
  • Avoid following up a sentence with another sentence that essentially says the same thing.  (You can also cut sentences that give info readers don’t really need to know or can figure out on their own.)

Astonishing fact: “Most first drafts can be cut by 50 percent without losing any information or losing the author’s voice.”

***How do we get our own style?***

Trick question!  “First…learn to hammer the nails, and if what you build is sturdy and serviceable, take satisfaction in its plain strength.”

If anything, “Sell yourself…Believe in your own identity and your own opinions.  Writing is an act of ego…Use its energy to keep yourself going.”

Here’s some advice on fear and confidence from humorist S. J. Perelman.  “The reader has to feel that the writer is feeling good…Even if he isn’t.”

“Writers have to jump-start themselves at the moment of performance, no less than actors and dancers and painters and musicians…You also have to [be the one to] turn on the switch.  Nobody is going to do it for you.”

And what’s my new mantra from this book?  “Get on the plane.”  You never know where your words will take you.  But they won’t take you anywhere, unless you have the courage to write them.