I started this blog to help other artists–and myself–by collecting together all the helpful information about painting and drawing I keep coming across. As someone who has wrestled with the art monster for a long time, I wanted to throw a lifeline to help others (and myself) dip easily into resources. When one is lost in the sea of chaos that painting can become, it’s nice to feel one has a compass.
Anyone who wants to raise their level of creative achievement above the mediocre (and I’m not saying I have done that but I do keep trying) cannot avoid this necessary difficulty. But then again, nothing that is truly gratifying in life is easy. Immersion in a challenging task that, with striving, is within our reach, is one of the pursuits that give life meaning and depth. We all once found tying our shoelaces difficult, when we were little. Learning to write legibly and to climb trees (back in the days before the culture of “safetyism” took over) were difficult and sometimes painful tasks that we mastered. I see art making as no different. It’s all about learning the right skills and practising them, in a way that can provide the necessary feedback to guide us forward. It’s not just practise, as common wisdom would have it, but study plus practise plus feedback.
Growing up in a household where art materials were plentiful–thanks to my mother’s vocation as an artist and art teacher–I started drawing at the age of 2. I was lucky that my parents were somewhat bohemian and didn’t mind a bit of mess. Parents who are overly concerned with cleanliness must, over the centuries, have deterred so many budding artists!
My father was a musician, from a long line of musicians, so there was plenty of artistic temperament to go around in my family, going back generations! Too much in fact–3 of my father’s close relatives committed suicide. In at least 2 cases, it was music–or rather their frustration with it–that helped drive them in that direction. I’ve since realised how important it is to take a mindful approach to art making. The good news is that we don’t have to drive ourselves mad !
I’ve had a passion for all things art related since childhood. In this life, however, we have time enough for only one overriding obsession. As the ancient Chinese saying has it, if you try to chase 2 rabbits, you end up catching neither. After flirting with acting and writing, visual art has been the pursuit into which I’ve invested the most time and determination.
Along the way, I’ve had to make a living and was directed into nursing when I was 25. By that time, I was tired of being a starving artist. It turns out that being hungry and living in an attic is not so inspiring after all!
More recently I’ve studied Counselling and Psychotherapy. I run art therapy groups which I enjoy though it can be challenging trying to divert people away from self-defeating perfectionism. The inner critic is generally not constructive.
The famous Australian artist Brett Whitely called painting: “a difficult pleasure”. There have been times when I’ve had a love-hate relationship with it but in the end, I think the best way to keep going is to be motivated by a love of learning for its own sake, to quote Robert Greene from his excellent book: “Mastery”. It’s not something that can be driven by a desire for praise, approval or success, but is instead energised by that irresistible urge to create and to learn more.