What's the One Thing you can do this year to improve your art work?

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You're probably going to roll your eyes when I tell you this....but it's to allow yourself the grace to just screw-up.  Yes, make an error, make a big mess, make a little mess, attempt something you're not sure of, attempt something you think you can't do, attempt something you think you CAN do....step up to the plate and SWING FOR THE OUTFIELD.  And then, continue to do it all over again....after all - you get a "free do-over"! Leave your adult ego at the door, and jump in with the enthusiasm of a child! I know, I know, perhaps it's hard to remember back that far!

So many of us, when we've reached a 'certain age' and have been a pro at 'something' our entire lives, now hesitate to try that one thing we've been wanting to do for decades....and that is to paint, to create something beautiful. We hesitate, and tell ourselves 'we aren't good enough', or ask, "what will 'others' think"?  I can't tell you how many times I have heard this from others...and indeed I probably said it to myself thirty years ago when I wanted to paint. It was a process that came in steps for me.  I had taken a community college basic drawing class, and knew that I wanted to continue learning.  I had been interested in this ever since I was a young girl in grade school.  I was one of those kids however, whose father insisted I study something practical like math or science...or engineering. I ended up choosing a degree inhospital information management, and spent a decade working in hospital basements (where all those records/ and information is usually kept!). 

My husband's Navy career had taken us to all sorts of interesting places, and luckily each of these places gave me access to some great places to learn a thing or two about making art. When we were stationed in CT (hmm, was that first time about 25 or 28 years ago?); I decided I would take a class maybe two at the Lyme Academy of Art (before it officially became an accredited college).  I met with an advisor who told me I could actually sign up for three classes if I wished (and before they became an 'accredited college', they were actually affordable for me).  So I was able to enroll in a basic drawing class, a pastel painting class, and a life drawing class.  I was thrilled and ready to learn but had no idea of where I stood among my peers in class.  My first day in the life drawing class was quite humbling....here's how it played out. 

So, our first assignment on the first day with our giant pads of paper, and our giant easels, was to draw this person standing on a platform in the middle of us 20 or so students.  It was a twenty minute pose, and here is this nude middle aged man holding a noble pose for us all to draw.  With a bachelor of science background, I had taken anatomy and physiology.  I could name all the parts of a human and I knew how they all worked, but I had never had to draw them in the entirety.  But I did the best I could, looking at everything as a series of lines and angles.  And then the twenty minutes were up! I had a stick man on my page.  I glanced over at my neighbor's paper, and there was a fully fleshed out human form ready to leap off the page. How did he do that? In twenty minutes?  I knew that clearly I was in over my head, and felt a deep pit in my stomach. Then our teacher said, okay, let's walk around the room now and see what everyone has got....oh my, I felt my face burning red, feeling like I'd never measure up to my classmates.  I was the second one in the room whose easel we stood in front of...and before she could speak, I told the teacher, "this is where I am today, drawing a "stick-man"....but I want to get to that (pointing to my neighbor's paper).  Can you get me there?"  (gulp, I knew I had to leave all ego at the door, I wanted to learn this so much!).  To my great relief, she said, "Yes, I can get you there. You'll work hard, but I can get you there."   Yes, I did work hard. And to my great relief one of my other teachers told me, "We ALL start at the beginning.  Drawing is a teachable subject like math or science...you are not born with it, contrary to what everyone thinks". 

I trusted my teachers, and finished that semester before the Navy moved us south to Washington, DC. That one semester, was like rocket fuel to desire to learn. After that experience I knew that every teacher I would seek out from that point on would get me to the 'next thing' that I wanted to learn.  Luckily, I discovered that learning is a life-long endeavor. We are never through with learning.  We don't even have to go it alone...although some do- and do it quite well, it just might take longer, or maybe not.

When my students come to my studio to learn, I always request that NO ONE can make disparaging comments about themselves or anyone else. But especially about themselves or their work. None of this "I stink, this is crap, etc, etc." Just not allowed. What I DO encourage is when things happen on your paper that didn't quite go how you wanted, is to think or say, "Well, that's not what I intended...what can I do to fix it? or how can I change this or make it different/better?"  Usually there's a way (yes, even in watercolor).  And if it IS an error that's unfixable, now think about how you might do it differently next time? You have just learned a great thing all in a small amount of time.  No need to rush through it, but think about what you're seeing happen before you. 

The point I'm making is if that urge to paint, draw, create beautiful things is calling your name; by all means, answer that call. We are ALL created to create.  I truly believe that God gives us this crazy-fun ability to imagine and create (remember those words, 'in his likeness'?)...and our gift back to her/him is to USE that gift...not to question it.   If your creativity calls you in another direction; cooking/creating with food, writing stories/plays, making music, you name it- answer that call.  I'd love some comments from you all!! How do you use your creativity?? What's a call that you haven't answered yet, that you may have had knocking around in your head for years?? Let's share in the discussion!! Now go out there, make your mark, and don't hold back! It's okay, you'll get a free 'do-over' if it's not what you first intended.