A Different Perspective . . .

“Abstraction in Whites”

Recently, I completed giving giving a workshop and acting as a juror and awards judge for a large watercolor exhibition.   While I was ready for the task and the possible embarrassment if I failed, a realization came upon me that I have changed my perspective.   That is to say I have entirely revised my attitudes about being a painter.   For many years, I lived the part, but all the while chewed on the notion that I was still an amateur . . . . .and didn’t want anyone to discover that fact!!

I am not sure when the shift took place.   Somewhere, sometime my attitude was one that I had never carried before . . . . .I didn’t give a darn about what anyone thought.   Okay.   If I make a mistake, I made a mistake!  Get used to it world.

Yikes!   That is awfully cavalier!! . . . . Or, is it?

I cannot account for how the mental change happened, but I became aware of it in the midst of my recent workshop.   One of the participants was painting (obviously) and was loudly voicing her displeasure with what she was doing.   She attempted to start over again . . . .and I advised her NOT to begin a new painting . . . .to stay with and finish what she had begun.

Of course, she was even more upset.   I could not verbalize to her what I was feeling and thinking (not about her!).   What my mind was doing was quietly trying to comfort her and let her know that she was experiencing exactly what she should be experiencing.

Eh?  What did you just say, Mike?

She was rejecting the fact that she was confronting obstacles to her hoped for success.   She refused to accept that the obstacles were part of her training to become a better painter.

A great philosopher once said something to this effect:   Obstacles in your path?  The obstacles ARE your path!

That statement totally sums up the current state of my attitude!   I have accepted that mistakes, failures, blunders, faux pas, etc. are the the very places from which our best lessons are learned . . . .and that it is not only ‘okay’ for them to be out in the open, but that they are expected and welcome!

Think about your path to becoming a painter for a few moments . . . .

Was it an easy journey?   Did it happen over night?   Were there acres of canvas or paper wasted and ruined along the way?    Were you ever embarrassed about a painting?   Did you ever find that a painting simply would not come to fruition?   And . . . .did you ever experience one painting just falling into place so automatically that you didn’t know how it happened?

And here is another question . . . .Aren’t you proud of how much you have overcome to become the painter that you are?   Aren’t you looking forward to the rest of the journey?

Of course the answer is an unqualified “Yes” to all the above questions!

Somehow, somewhere and sometime we not only accept that struggle is the formula for success as a painter, but we eventually relish the delicious challenges that confront us along the way.   Our perspective changes from resistance to acceptance.

And so it is, my friends.   Be with the obstacles !!


4 thoughts on “A Different Perspective . . .”

  1. Excellent blog! I totally agree with working through the stage you are struggling with. A couple, well, maybe more than a couple years ago, I hit what I call my “what if” stage. It was when I heard myself saying “I wonder what would happen if…” and the rest is history. I finally reached that stage in my journey to push through and it paid off. I’ve learned so much! Now having said that, on to the next dangling carrot! Thanks Mike!

  2. Great thoughts, and something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as I’ve recognized that while I may be considered a “professional” artist, I still face the same feelings of not really knowing what I’m doing. I’ve been teaching a class of high school students and they can spend the entire class time focused on creating one perfect line, erasing and redrawing, rather than working with what is happening on the paper. I’m going to read them your post as it’s such a good life lesson to make peace with the reality of obstacles and learn how to live with imperfection.

  3. Mike, I couldn’t agree with you more. Some fears are rational, and some fears are irrational. I am clear that putting my hand on a hot stove, sleeping on the RR tracks, and teasing large carnivores are reasonable fears, and so I generally avoid those things. My irrational fears are more elusive and have been with me since I was a boy…fear of coloring outside the lines, fear of not making my tree look like a tree, fear of the comments of teachers, colleagues, clients, or anyone who does not instantly praise my work (ok, that’s difficult to admit, but it’s true), fear that I will forever do “safe” art…not taking that risk just to see what will happen, and most of all, the fear that I will die without summoning the courage to try. As an old surfer I have faced death by drowning a number of times, and I have never regretted it. Now I call upon the same courage when I’m alone in my studio or outside doing the artwork with witnesses! Isn’t life funny? How can anyone compare fear of sharks with fear of errant brushstrokes or questionable color combinations? But I do. Onwards and upwards, my friend. Your comments are wise, you’re a fine teacher, and your painting just keeps getting better, dude.

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