In the middle of the road of my life I awoke in a dark wood…and the true way was wholly lost.

Dante Alighieri

Do we create because we have art pouring out of us and are true to ourselves or do we do it because we need the money and want to please the masses.  I did the latter.

I checked out Pinterest.  Found the most on trend, appealing colour palette.  Grey and pale pink.  Went and bought the ‘specific’ colours, which I have never done before ( I usually blend my own), and began to paint a commercial, ‘easy’, piece of art.

My personal style is pretty messy.  Involves lots of paint and texture.  This time I thought,  I need the  money, so keep it simple stupid.  Just make a piece that you see in every magazine lounge room.  Simple, plain and easy to make.  I can do that.  

As I spent the week tearing my hair out I learned the hard way that: it is not a good idea to go against your ‘creative grain’.

Heres what happened:

So I start to paint ………….easy.

Paint the three colours onto a large canvas.  Done.

No texture mould, no collage, no  impasto.  Just very simple.

But I am not happy.

I am not happy and I am frustrated.  So I paint over it and start again.

I get more frustrated so I start to add colour and it becomes muddy.  It becomes Ugly.  The family is tip toeing around the Frankenstein – very quietly. Finally after a week of this I decide to give up, throw it out.  Put it down to a financial loss of canvas and paints and move on.  Pastels are not for me.

But it keeps staring at me.  Annoying me.  Irritating me. argghghhhh….  So I google.

“How to fix a bad painting”.  “How to save a bad piece of art”.   Doing so I come across a genius woman, Nancy Hillis.

She talked about the problem that artists have when they struggle with what she calls:

ugly” painting…This is when you create a painting you don’t like…a painting that feels chaotic, frenzied, fussy or messy. A painting you deem unfamiliar and unrecognizable

“I believe “ugly” paintings threaten us because they’re unfamiliar, unruly and emerge unbidden without our consent.  They subvert our need for control.”

BAMM and there it was!!!!!

Every piece of art, whether it is writing, painting, singing or dancing comes out of who you are.  You create a reflection of yourself.  I was literally struggling with myself on the canvas.

Several things were happening:

  • I felt out of control in my own life and this was coming out in the art
  • I had tried to conform to something that I was not
    • to be someone who I was not
  • To please for commercial gain and not for creative truth

Wise woman Nancy says this: if you are going to paint. Make your marks and leave it alone!

” In other words, don’t lick the paint!

You don’t want your painting to be gummed to death. Bite into It ,Baby!

We want our paintings to be alive, we want to breathe life into them”.

You can’t breathe life, your life, into your art if you are trying to be someone else.  Doh..

Ultimately, it’s your painting.

Will you paint for yourself?

Nancy Hillis

Ouch!!! So I talk to myself and we agree that I will try for the third time to make something passable out of this poor canvas.

Nancy goes on to say in the third article of hers that I am now devouring.

There’s a concept in evolutionary biology that’s comparable to what happens to us on our artist’s journey.

“The idea of the adjacent possible is that the act of moving forward creates a new set of next steps that would’ve been difficult or impossible to predict beforehand”.

“Just as the chrysalis is the nascent form of the butterfly, the “ugly” painting is the raw essence of new, experimental work… Nancy Hillis”

The act of moving forward creates a new set of steps – profound.  Hold that thought.

So – being true to myself I quite literally went back to the drawing board.  Art 101.  My art teacher always said make sure that the painting composition aligns to the rule of thirds.

No matter how beautiful the subject matter or impressive the application technique, if the composition of visual elements within a painting is not strong, it will ultimately be considered a failure.

So I took a photo of my SECOND attempt and added the rule of thirds graph.

(I’m laughing my head off when I look at this because what was supposed to be soft puffy pale grey clouds, have come out as a black storm cell).  sigh…

I went back to the easel and pencilled over my work and realised that:

  • I was out of balance
  • I was scattered in focus
  • There was too much going on
  • I had no direction

Pretty accurate description of my life this week. 

When I stuffed up the first time my inner critic showed up, full of self-doubt and over thinking.  When I couldn’t control the painting, my first reaction:  throw it out,  throw my hands up in the air and give up.  A quite, passive aggressive tantrum.

How many times do we do this in our lives.  When we are out of our comfort zone, when we feel out of control.  Things get muddy and we are ready to bail.

I would encourage you when you get into this space.  Go back to the drawing board.

Line your life up with some basic values and foundational structures.

Wipe away the tears of frustration, and start again.

Stay true to yourself.

Stop trying to be someone else.

IMG_1847 2

This is my third attempt after I, took a day off, had some me time, then went back and restructured the piece.

It is not finished yet but neither am I.

We are both a work in progress.

A painting is like a river…it’s never finished.

Anselm Kiefer

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Love Lisa

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2 Comments on “When It Gets Ugly, Move Forward

  1. Well said !well done !keep growing moving on life is exciting and full of learning 😏

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

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