Giving up!I created a slogan for my business years ago that helps me overcome my worst days.
When times get tough, it’s really easy to drop the pencil or brush and walk away. That’s okay if it is just to give yourself a break; it’s not okay if you plan on walking away for good.
Back when I was teaching beginning drawing classes at Portland Community College, my first exercise called for every student to take a piece of paper from their sketchbook, crumple it up and throw it across the room (even at me!). Then, I’d say, “Good. You’ve done it. You’ve thrown your first piece of paper away. Now you can start again.”
Obviously I was trying to show my students that it’s okay to get to a point where you need to move on and begin looking at your project with a new eye. Is that quitting? Not at all. Notice I didn’t say walk away for good or give up. I emphasized staying with the subject, but trying something new.
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
Thomas Edison was an amazing inventor. He refused to succumb to failure. Instead he viewed his attempts not as failures but just learning what doesn’t work. As he said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” It’s attitude. In the creative process so many of us think we are a failure if we give up on a project. Not so, in fact, I believe it may help you. Why hit your head against a wall and get the same result. Of course, I’m not suggesting that when it gets hard, we should just give up. Instead I think we should first try all sorts of things.
First walk away, take a breather. There’s nothing like a break. Go for a walk, call a friend. One artist I read tells us to go wash dishes. The warmth and monotony of the process may help to nudge things along.
I’m a strong proponent of putting projects away. As a copywriter in my previous life, I had to write copy under extremely short deadlines. Sometimes it seemed I’d never make it or what I was writing was sheer hogwash (sometimes it probably was). That’s when I’d put the piece in a drawer. Yes, I’d even print it out and physically set it aside. Why? I needed to step away from the problem. The same goes for any difficulty. Sometimes you just need a new perspective, a new way of approaching what’s in front of you. Giving yourself some space helps you “noodle” around in your thoughts.
Fear is often a stumbling block. What’s holding you back? We all want perfection in an imperfect world. There’s that nasty internal critic who’s saying you can’t do it or you’re not really an artist. Let me tell you here and now, perfection is over-rated in art. I believe that art should not be imitation but interpretation. Unless you are doing commission work, your art is you.
I remember the scene in the movie Modigliani when Andy Garcia’s character is being criticized for the portrait he is painting. It’s actually sort of silly because the patron should have known his style. As someone who is committed to his own work, he simply continues. Yes Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) created
unusual portraits, but what magic. If he had listened to his critics, we would not have his magnificent work. In other words, trust your gut. Stop if you must, but be true to your interpretations—even break some boundaries.(Right: Blue Eyes, 1917).
Do something else
“Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.”
Another consideration is doing some drawing exercises to loosen you up. How about taking your subject and drawing it and then redrawing it at three-minute intervals. It’s amazing what you will discover each time you encounter the process.
A while ago, I was planning a class. I had already promised a subject that I found to be rather difficult—to teach and to accomplish. I was in the middle of a quandary. What should I do? Tell my students I couldn’t teach the subject because it was too hard for me? Nah, that wouldn’t work. So I spent hours trying to conquer it. No luck. I figured the only thing I could do was set it aside, try a new approach. I did.
A day later I came back to the project and just started drawing, drawing and drawing. Yes, the first two or three drawings were crap, awful. I persevered and kept drawing in short spurts. Guess what, the more I did, the better I got and eventually was able to teach the process. It worked.
Hang it up for now or throw it away
I have absolutely no problem with throwing away my work that I’m not happy with it. Yes, I have spent, perhaps hours on the piece. Even so, it hasn’t been time wasted. I’ve learned what to do, what not to do. It’s more the journey than the task. But I’m also big on revisiting my work. So for now, perhaps I’ll put it away and look at it months from now. If I still dislike it, then maybe it’s time to move on.
Whatever the case, give yourself permission to carve another path in your artwork, but also it never hurts to persevere just to see what happens.
Tuesday mornings: April 6-May 4
Wednesday mornings: April 7-May 5
10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
$90 per five-week session
Subject: Spring Flowers
Pencil, Pen, Colored/Watercolor Pencils
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