The Bold and the Subtle

I was working on a painting today and was having a bit of difficultly figuring out where to go next…and then the solution hit me!

Click on the image to watch the video and let me know what you think – how do you get past potential roadblocks in your art?

Best, Nicholas

Mindset Over Matter

I just returned from a 3 day conference that focused on entrepreneurs and people starting small business. While there I had several realizations that are proving to be major game changers for my art practice, and now I’d like to share them with you.

Watch the video to see what I learned, and let me know what you think. What realizations or revelations have you had about your art practice?

Best, Nicholas

How to bring back the joy in your art.

How to bring back the joy in your art.
It seems like wherever we are in our art making, we always want to be someplace better. Often, our art or our ability to make our art feels inadequate.

And it doesn’t feel so good. The real problem, however, is that this discontent sometimes never goes away. If we are not careful it can follow us around. It sits just out of sight with us in the studio when we are making our art and it even can follow us home if we let it.

Never feeling good enough is pervasive. Lots of people have this feeling.

It takes time to change this habitual way of thinking. But it is worth it if it even partially brings back the joy, and the ease of making your art again. If we can, then there exists the real possibility of bringing amazing, personal artwork into the world. This issue, this feeling of not being happy with where we are presently, needs some attention.

Here is how I like to reframe the narrative so that I can feel more content with where I am…

There is a very, very long road. It starts at the bottom of a valley and gradually winds its way up hills, and then eventually, it goes all the way to the very tip top of the mountain.

This pathway or road represents the entire creative journey you may take in your life. When you start exploring the possibility of making art you are in the very beginning. As one climbs this pathway the view becomes greater. The experience is heightened because it is more expansive in beauty and vistas the higher you go. You can see more and more. It can take years, decades, a lifetime even to climb this road.

The most fantastic thing is to be on the road. It doesn’t matter where you are on the road, only that you are on it. Some people are further up the road and others are further down the road. Your place on the road has more to do with time spent walking, not talent. Even though the road slowly gets better the further along the road you go, you don’t want to short change yourself by magically appearing someplace further up the road than where you are right now.

Each and every step forward is to be savored, because you will never get to move through this part of the road again. You get to do each part only once in your lifetime. You never get to go backwards. Only forward.

Here are just a few of the first steps possibly encountered along this path:

The first time you realize you can make art, the first time someone that matters loves what you have made, the first time it feels hard then incredibly easy, the first time you have a show or you give something you made away as a gift, the first time you teach someone something you have learned, the first time you get interviewed, your first solo show, and especially the unforgettable moment when for the first time, you know in your heart of hearts, that you are an artist

There are of course infinite steps you get to take but the most important thing to remember is that you don’t want to miss any of them.

The value of the next step you are about to take or discover is in part determined by the prior step.

So in this scenario, if you can imagine wherever you are on the road right now, then why would you feel you want to be anywhere else? The reason you are not at mile 50 is because you are only at mile 25. It has nothing to do with talent, lucky breaks, tailwinds, money etc.

What has helped me is to take all my dissatisfaction, my impatience and all the limiting negative thoughts about where I think I ought to be and re focus back to what I am making and where I am right now. Not surprisingly, this frees up a lot of energy, which now can be channeled back into your art.

So if you feel that sinking feeling of judgment or dissatisfaction creeping back in, take a breath and re look at what you are making right now. Take a chance, re commit to making it the best thing you have ever made so far. Savor this moment, this opportunity because it actually will never be here again in this certain way.

Do you sometimes feel dissatisfied too? What do you do about it?

The Stages of Learning

In my efforts to become a better teacher, I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading on how people learn. What I’ve discovered is that there are basically 4 stages of learning, each of which presents their own challenges and opportunities.

Which stage are you at? Watch the video and let me know!

Best, Nicholas

Stay in the Driver’s Seat

I’ve recently had a change in how I think about my work when it is not going as well as I want it to. This change has helped me regain control of my creative process and has made it so much easier to paint.

Take a moment to watch the video, and let me know how you stay in control of your work.

Focus On Your Work, And The Rest Will Follow

As artists, there are always distractions; maybe your work is not progressing how you would like it to, or perhaps your show didn’t go as well as you expected – what is important to remember is that in the end it all comes down to your work. As long as you are producing and developing your art practice, you will get to where you want to go.

Get Yourself Unstuck

Sometimes you just get stuck. You are painting along fine and then you reach a point where you don’t know what to do. It might be because you have fallen in love and have lost objectivity. It might because the color is off somehow. But usually you stop and pullover because you just actually have no idea what to do. You truly have never been here before.

This is a good strategy in most circumstances. But in art, sometimes you think you can figure it out if you think hard enough, but in actual fact you can’t. It is hard to imagine too many steps ahead in a painting. Having no clear image to shoot for is somewhat terrifying but there it is. You have come to a place in the road that you can go no further. So logically we stop.

And then, since no new clear information is conjured up, we tend to stay stopped. Stuck.

So I don’t know the full answer but I think I know a small part of it.

And here it is…

When you hit a roadblock, when you can’t keep moving in one direction, instead of stopping, you just go left or right. You pivot. In other words you keep moving in a way that is different even though you might not know the outcome. The important thing is to just keep moving. You might even be pretending to be moving towards something but if you can keep moving, if the dance can continue, the answer, the solution to what was stopping you arrives more quickly.

Interestingly, questions that arise in the process of making your art are often best answered from doing instead of thinking. If you can just keep mark making, faking it almost, then your art continues to change. It is this changing that actually starts to give you the crucial information about what you might do next. The changing art seems constantly new and fresh and as a result you can remain objective. And being objective allows you to see your art and what to do next, more easily.

So next time you find yourself just staring at your art not knowing what to do and minutes are turning into hours just remember…. Move. Take action even if you don’t know what to do. Do anything. Trust your intuition and simply dance.

That is a pretty good answer till a better once comes along.

And from my experience, it always does. Do you ever get stuck? And when you do how do you get unstuck?

In Gratitude, Nicholas

The Power of Difference

In life, it is important that we remain open to different experiences, just like in art. And as we absorb those new experiences we grow as people, and in turn so does our art. The two are inextricably connected.

In keeping with this theme, I have put together a list of differences into a free downloadable PDF; I keep this list close by when I am painting and often look to it for inspiration. Hopefully it will help you along in your artistic practice as well. Just click the link below to get your free downloadable PDF.

Best, Nicholas

Why do you make your art?

The answer to this question, for me, has never been entirely clear. I made art as a child because I loved getting lost in my imagination. As I grew older, as fewer and fewer of my friends continued with art, I know I liked the attention. It made me feel different from everyone else. I felt valued which, when you are growing up, is especially important.

But as one matures and grows older these reasons become less sustaining. If you happen to find yourself still making art some 15-25 years later, eventually one does have to ask and ponder the simple question why?

The answer to this question seems to become more nuanced over time I still am not entirely sure why I love to make art, however it is becoming clearer the more art I make. So maybe this question is answered by the progression of one’s art making. Maybe, if we understood the “why” from the very beginning it would not be such a seductive inquiry.

It is difficult to always know our “why”. However, there are clues. Practically every decision in your art making is made by a simple yes or no. Often these are intuitive. A choice between a color, a shape or a direction in your art that can be made just on the basis perhaps of what feels right to you.

The sum total of all these yes’s, in the end, culminates with your finished artwork. It is also the reason that your artwork becomes more and more unique.  The somewhat repeating pattern of yes’s and no’s is what gives artists that much sought after “style” or individual distinction.

As the work becomes more clarified, I believe the answer, the “why,” becomes clarified too. We just have to trust that even though the answer is not evident now, in time, by the making of our art, it will be.

What is your Why?

Opposites Attract

When I’m at the beginning stages of a painting and deciding where to go next, I first try to figure out what I like about the piece. I then do the opposite of what I like about that piece – it’s a great way to move forward when you’re looking for a little inspiration.

What do you do when you’re stuck?