Thinking About It.

“Coastal Fog”
watercolor 22 x 30 inches
Recently, I read some thoughts by Chuck Close.  If you don’t know who he is, I would suggest you look him up and learn something from him.   His work is in every museum in every major city in the world.   So, I think he is worth paying attention to.
He said:  “Inspiration is for amateurs.”
What, do you suppose, he means by that?  There has to be some wisdom attached to that idea.   Let’s let it settle a bit while I move on to something else which is extraordinarily important.
Painting is one of the few activities in our lives where we must be, (and usually are) completely, totally in the present moment.    (Being in the moment is a gift.  That’s why they call it “the present.”)
In my experience of teaching other painters and guiding them in their quests to better their skills, I have found that many (most) of them are deeply concerned about many different things relating to their painting;   What other people think, the outcome (good or bad), their spouse’s likes or dislikes, their art education, whether or not they are ‘good enough’ and on and on and on.
Frankly, every one of these thoughts removes the person from being in the moment . . . .from being fully present with what is happening on the paper or canvas at THIS moment NOW.   More bluntly, every one of these thoughts sabotages the artist’s work.
These are not my original thoughts or ideas, but the wisdom of different eastern religions.   There is a sense of spirituality about this pattern of thought . . . . .and it all has to do with happiness and satisfaction in living.   For example, if one is concerned about how they were treated or abused as children and projecting their anger or disappointment with that treatment, they are clearly not living in the present.  They are creating every step of their life by focusing on the past.   The painter who worries about what ‘others’ will think about their painting . . . .or is upset because ‘it isn’t coming out the way I want it to . . . . is not being present in the here and now of making the painting.   Their thoughts are quite distant from being fully present in the process.
Some years ago, I read a book entitled “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior”  by Dan Millman. . . . .It has been a long time since reading it  . . . so, I think that was the title.   There followed a movie by the same name.   The story is about the gradual enlightenment of a young man about living in the here and now.   The story culminates with his performance on the horizontal bar in a gymnastics competition in which his team score is behind the leader.   Of course, he makes the performance of his life and his team wins the gold medal.
He was asked what is was that inspired him, or how he focused so well to pull out the winning of the gold medal.
He replied, “Make every move about the move, not about the gold!”   Fearing or focusing on the outcome removes you from what is happening right now . . . . it takes away from the present.
Watching him speak in the movie, I sat bolt upright in my seat at the moment he explained that to his teammates!    My Gosh!!   This applies completely to painting !!!!   “To make every stroke about the stroke, not about the outcome!”  
That realization has helped me so much in making  solid, fresh, spontaneous watercolor paintings.   You have heard it before:   Put the paint down and leave it alone!!!!   “Make every stroke about the stroke . . . . .not about the outcome!”
The realization grew more as I came to know that there are no ordinary moments.   Every one matters.   If our complete attention is to what is happening in each moment, then our perceptions multiply as our enjoyment of life also grows.
If our attentions are put onto whether or not this “picture is going to come out right,” then we are missing the necessary focus to have that actually happen . . . . . .to focus on what is happening on the paper or canvas right NOW and being in complete presence with it. 
My philosophy about painting is centered not on WHAT we paint, but HOW it is painted.  Making a painting is not about WHAT!   It is not about anything but that one moment in time when the brush hits the canvas or paper!   It has to be with focused attention.
Mumbo Jumbo you say?   Well . . . . .maybe one day the dawn will come.
Now, to Mr. Close’s comment . . . . .it’s simple!    It is sort of like “tomorrow never comes.” . . . . .that is waiting for the “right inspiration” or the right moment to paint . . . . . .or the right mood, etc. might not actually ever come.   What he means is to just show up!!   Go to the easel and go to work, regardless of how you feel.  PAINT!!!   Be in the moment with what the paint is doing on the canvas.  Make every stroke about the stroke!  Raise your consciousness to its ultimate awareness!
That is far from being amateur!
Think about it.

5 thoughts on “Thinking About It.”

  1. I love this advice.
    I know that if you can be in the now, it's the most satisfying & worthwhile experience.

    But…Do you think it's easier to work this way after years of learning technique?
    Just wondering from the perspective of a relative beginner.

  2. Hi Cynthia!

    All I can say is that for most of us, being in the moment requires conscious effort . . .until it becomes habit.

    As for beginning painters . . . . .Just paint . . .and paint often and a lot. As you do this, you become more relaxed and at home with what the paint does.

  3. What a wonderful post! This has been the only reason for me to paint, I am totally in the present when I sit to paint and that is a very important aspect for me to grow.Thanks for the thoughts.

  4. One of my favorite quotes and a wonderful series of thoughts about it. I painted pictorial (scenic and advertising displays) for twenty plus years. Had to show up every day and produce commercial art. It is amazing when I look back at that work how good some of it is. I think I just went for it, did not think about it just did the work. Today as I work on my art, the, is it stinker or seller thinking always sneaks in.
    Thanks for your thoughts.

  5. This is such an important idea for us painters to understand, being present in the moment and thinking only about that next brush load of color. The habit of concentration and painting often as we can is the key to making more satisfying work. Thanks for another thoughtful post. Jody Bryan

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