Life Lessons Art has Taught Me (Part 2)

To Leave the Beaten Path. Art allows me to leave the usual path. I could paint what everybody else is painting, I can do the popular thing. But how will I make my mark as an imitator? How will I be different? Leaving the beaten path allows me to discover new ways to create, allows me to take risks and to learn new things about myself. When I am on the road not travelled, I am alone and have only my own creative thoughts to depend on.

To have an open mind. To leave the well travelled road, forces me to have an open mind. I carve out my own style. I paint the subjects I want to paint. I experiment with different paints and use various found objects in my work. Opening my mind leaves me available and open to new things which will enrich my mind, my art and my life.

To let go. If I am going to have an open mind, I have to let go. It’s much easier to do this in art than in life. But as I said, I am using one to inform the other. We all have perceptions that we hold dear; we are slaves to our culture, our family, our friends, our ancestors and we could go on. We are all colouring within the line but what if we coloured outside of it? What would we discover within ourselves and within our world?

All I need to do is start. I don’t need to be intimidated by a blank canvas. The empty space is waiting on me to make my mark. The canvas is yearning for me to use it to bring a story to life. I don’t always know what I will paint but I stand before the canvas and I think about what I can create that will be impactful. As soon as I start, the path starts to reveal itself. The reveal is not always quick but if I persist it becomes sure.

There is always another way. If I start and I realize that my creation is not going the way I envisioned it, I can change midstream.  I have created works that I did not like. I gesso them over and create something new. These paintings are always the better ones because they have been through the fire of failure and came out popping. There are many ways to fill an empty canvas – different colours, different textures, more pop. This is the reason we should not be afraid to start. We have the ability to adjust.

To surround myself with people who understand my dreams and encourage it. This is the final one and it is a big one. The business of art is already challenging so I do not surround myself with naysayers who sap my energy and diminish my creativity with negative thoughts. I sever any cord that would tie me to discord, to anything that will let me lose focus, to anyone that feed self doubt. Self doubt can mean death to a creative. I surround myself with light; with people who encourage and help me to find my path. This is a very important life lesson – hold fast to dream builders; let go of dream killers. Light in; darkness out.

Life Lessons Art has Taught Me (Part 1)

There is no perfection. There is only the best I can do in this moment. Every piece of art that I have ever done could have been done in many different ways. Perfection is really just a prerequisite for procrastination. We know where procrastination leads – nowhere. We must do all we can with the skills that we have and then let it go.

Silence and alone time is the best time for new ideas. We live in a very noisy world with so many things pushing and pulling us that it can be hard to think. It can be hard to hear our own thoughts and separate trivialities from substance. Alone time is precious and can lead to our best ideas. I come up with some of my best ideas when I am alone and there are no distractions.

Patience is indeed a virtue. A piece of work may not always take the direction I want it to but I work through it and persevere until I have something I can be proud of. Patience is a sort of waiting game and sometimes waiting is not a bad thing.

Art has taught me to be more observant; to see more. I see spaces, lines, colours depth and how they are used and how they relate to each other. I have come to appreciate the spaces between as much as the focal point itself. I take this into other aspects of my life to listen more, to observe more and to be more present. Awareness enhances life.

Details matter. It is the details that make the big picture. Every shadow, every line, every colour, every space, everything matters to the whole.

Nature and Youth

I got lost in the woods once – in Tobermory to be exact. It had a happy ending but it was not a great feeling. I did learn some things about myself being lost at the Bruce Peninsula. I learnt that I got irritated and impatient with myself and others; I tended to think of the worse things like being mauled by a three hundred pound black bear and that even the most innocent sound and movement became ominous. Perhaps I knew these things about myself already. But placed in a heightened situation, we come face to face with who we are and perhaps who we want to be.

I also learnt other things too. Irritation and impatience will not get you found any faster; there are ways to combat fear like making noise to keep the bears away; and things will work out if you keep your head.

Nature can teach everyone something and this is true for teens and young adults. You do not have to be lost to learn from nature. It offers lessons without that added challenge. Today’s teens and young adults have many challenges and issues. Most of these issues have to do with self – meaning they are not necessarily external. There are issues of low self-esteem, anger, impatience etc. There are external things too – like peer pressure. Some of the things we do in nature is walk, hike, camp and fish. All of these require some amount of patience and the mindset to stick to the task at hand. They all take up time – sometimes large amounts of it. You have to find patience if you do not have it. But how does nature helps with other things? For one, it takes you away from the regular day – away from it all to take a step back. Maybe this will help you to view things with greater objectivity.

The distractions of every day life are stripped away and for the most part, you are left with yourself, vast open spaces and the quiet to think. Teens and young adults can think through their angst, peer pressure low self-esteem and whatever else they have going on in their lives. What are you going to to do about any of these issues?

If you do come across the challenges of being lost, confronting a bear, or even crossing a large body of water, how will you proceed? Your character is being called into play here. Stand and fight or take flight. Now you can choose to build that weak self-esteem, bolster your patience, channel your anger, feel the pressure of that situation and know that peer pressure will always be around you but in the end it is you who are going to give in or stand up.

Ultimately, any confrontation with nature is a confrontation with the self. Instinctively, you’ll respond from who you are but you can be guided by nature into responding differently.

Nature is a beautiful and challenging place to be and so is youth.