A Different Frame Of Mind

I recently tried something new – I started working on a piece of canvas pinned to a wood panel. What ended up happening was totally unexpected and so cool!

Watch the video and let me know what you think – what happened when you brought something new to your practice?

In gratitude, Nicholas

Three Words That Can Save Your Life.

One of the challenges I have found in making my art is to remember where it is all headed. One day I catch glimpses of the direction of my art and this informs each individual painting I am working on. It infuses them with clarity and potency. But then a few days go by and I come in and work for a while and I simply forget for where I am going. A whole day might pass before re-remembering what exactly I am after in my work.

So I came up with this little trick.

One day I spent about an hour writing down every conceivable word that relates to my work. They describe aspects of your work presently or even in the future. For example I started my list with these words…nature, weathered, erosion, universal, abstract, spiritual, vulnerability, saturation, subtlety, poem, quiet, joy, primitive, line, drawing, symbols, etc. In about 25 minutes I had over a hundred.

You can do this too. It is easier to come up with your words while looking at 2-3 paintings you particularly love.

Next, go over the list and choose about a dozen words that are particularly relevant. The ones that say YES! to you. And this is an important step…these 12 have to really resonate with you.

Pin these words up somewhere you can see them in your day. After a few days of looking at them some will emerge as more potent than all the others. And then, have a second go at this editing process. Try to whittle the 12 down to 3 words.

When you read these three words your energy level should uptick. You should feel slightly more energetic. They should bring you alive. They should make you want to make art.

In a way, these 3 words are your simplified mission statement. They are your “Uber” words.

Next, make a bold sign—in fact make several. Post one on your studio wall. Put another one in your house somewhere you will see it. Make it the background of your iPhone. Consider adding these 3 words under your name on your website.

Now when you wander into your studio, possibly after doing random errands, possibly already distracted by whatever life has thrown at you, you can simply glance at your studio wall and read three words.

Three words that remind you of what is meaningful to you. They are why you stepped up to make art in the first place. These words are why you choose, against all odds, to make a life centered upon creativity. One filled with boldness, risk, faith and joy.

Three words that instantly bring you a little bit more alive and upon seeing them delicately deliver you, once again, back to your art and of course your life as well.

Be Bold

I just started working on a painting and already it’s looking pretty good. The problem with this is that it’s too early for this piece to be anywhere near finished. In order to move forward I’m going to have to push the composition and in effect ruin the piece a bit. It’s always a bit scary to do this, but I know in the end it will make the piece stronger.

Do you ever have this with your work? What do you do when the piece starts to look good before it is truly finished?

In gratitude, Nicholas

The Biggest Reason To Make Your Art

I have just one thought this week and it keeps coming up again and again for me. It has to do with one of the primary, worthwhile reasons to make your art. It has nothing to do with what you hope to get out of it. Not monetarily. Not even notoriety. None of that.

And even though art making is what brings you alive it isn’t even about that part either.

Sometimes Art making is super hard and pushes you to your edge. Some days it feels like you are totally ill equipped to be even trying. Other days you feel like you and your art are on top of the world. But that isn’t the reason I am talking about either.

The reason is entirely outside of ourselves…

And this is it:

Making personal, authentic art gives the rest of the world permission to do the same.

If we have the courage to step it up, to actually investigate what, who and why we are, in connection to our art, then it offers, by example, the possibility for others to do the same. And this has a huge impact in the world.

What begins quietly in your studio by no means stays there. It becomes part of something moving, something bigger.

This shared momentum; this rising tide of creativity and possibility is the best place to be as an artist. I think most of you have experienced this place. The support and inspiration found by witnessing the success of others makes anything possible for the rest of us.

I know first hand that I first make my Art firstly for me but I also know that it is not just about making art for myself anymore. I also know I need to make it for you too. We need to make it for each other.

And that, makes it all even more worthwhile.

Remove to Refine

Art making is so often a process of adding, removing, and then adding again. I do this constantly with lines, which are some of my favorite marks to make.

Watch the video and let me know what you think – what are some of your favorite marks?

In gratitude, Nicholas

It Takes A Long Time To Become Young

It Take a Long Time
Have you ever noticed that when you are making your art and it is all working out that it is almost as if you are not entirely there? You are driving the bus but it seems like you do not have to try very hard. Almost like it is driving itself. Art making sometimes can feel that easy.

I love it when that happens but it rarely stays that way for long. If I overthink and concentrate too much I lose that ability to just let the art unfold naturally. Instead it feels hard and somewhat forced.

I realize I tend to tighten up when I am over focusing on a new technique or, perhaps, trying something I haven’t before. It seems like the making of the art just goes slower. It becomes more effortful.

However once I have learned that new something, once I have done it a few times it starts to become second nature again. I think it just takes time to integrate new information. And then I start to get those days that art making feels super easy again. It is like I am not even trying.

It reminds me of how I did things as a child. I remember just naturally getting involved in something, following my curiosity wherever it wanted to lead me. There was no agenda. No particular reason to do anything except for the simple joy of doing it. Everything was approached that way.

This is actually how I wandered into art in the first place. It was simply enjoyable.

I found this quote the other day by Pablo Picasso “It takes a long time to become young”

Which got me to thinking.

Maybe that is why it feels so refreshing to occasionally get totally in sync with our creativity. When our art just flows. It feels good, especially now, as busy adults with a world of concerns and long to do lists following us around. Maybe when we fall into that easy place where art making is simply effortless it is a reminder of what is still possible. The way it is supposed to be. Or rather the way it all started out being in the first place when curiosity and joy were simply enough.

The Work of Clifford Wilton

The Work of Clifford Wilton

My father passed in October of 2016 and in honor of his life and his current show at the Schneider Museum of Art in Ashland, Oregon, I put together this little video. I thought it would be nice to share with you a little about the man, and his work.

If you’re interested in attending the show, it will be up from October 6th to December 16th, 2017. You can learn more about it by clicking here.

In gratitude, Nicholas

How to Happily Make Art for Someone Else

facebookpostThe wonderful thing about fine art is that you get to make what you want. Making Art at its best is unbridled personal expression, free of concerns for making it a certain way or pleasing anyone beside yourself. There are very few things one can do in life that carry such freedom.

It is no surprise then, that when Art is made for someone other than yourself it becomes trickier. It could be a friend, an institution or a collector. Anyone peering over the shoulder of the artist, who has a vested interest in the outcome, can often make the creative process more challenging. It no longer becomes just about pleasing yourself, but becomes about pleasing others as well. If it seems hard sometimes to please yourself, then it becomes doubly so when others are on the sidelines waiting.

You might have guessed by now that I am mostly talking about commissions. Those projects that are often instigated by someone who has seen something you have made before, that they love. And of course it is no longer available, which makes it that much more desired. The only solution is for them to commission you to recreate it again – not as an exact copy, but something usually close.

The artist must now create in a different way. This new way of creating, this thinking is no longer solely the artist’s. It is easily affected by the wishes and concerns of the waiting patron. It can be very difficult to not think about the comments and concerns of the interested party who has possibly put thousands of dollars on your studio table. We all want to please. I know I do. Unfortunately this can stifle the creative process.

It seems so easy to point at something done previously, probably something done effortlessly and without particular thought, and think it can be remade again. This hasn’t been my experience. The second time around almost always becomes tiring or even worse, incredibly rigid and stiff.

Usually it is both, but since it assured a sale where there wasn’t one, I usually agree. It always seemed so possible, such a reasonable request. I am, after all, an artist. What is the big problem?

Over the years, however, I have become better at doing commissions. I actually enjoy them now. What really helped me was coming up with two rules, commitments to myself actually, that I now follow. If I do, then everything is much easier. Maybe they can help you too.

You have to be excited.

 I never accept a commission unless I genuinely want to make this particular piece of art. I have to be somewhat engaged and in alignment with the premise. For example, if it is making something derived from very, old work I probably won’t accept the commission. I no longer make Art in the way I did 10 years ago. I don’t want to go backwards, so this is a definite no. It has to be current. In short, I have to be able to become excited about it. I know for certain if I am not excited, the art will fall flat.

Make it yours. Always.

The second commitment to myself is my personal guarantee. I tell myself that at any point and for any reason, if the client is not entirely happy, they are under no obligation to purchase. If they are not totally happy with the commission then I will keep it. This puts me squarely back in the driver’s seat of making the art according to just my sensibilities. It doesn’t matter at all if the client accepts it or not. I just have to like it so much, it must be so strong, that I would gladly send it to one of my galleries, or better yet, keep it myself. This painting, in other words, is made to please myself.

It becomes almost incidental that there might be a buyer waiting for it – or perhaps there is not. Strong work sells. If I love it, then someone else will too. And in the end the primary experience, the lion’s share of the value is not the price but the experience of creating something you actually really, really like. I get that regardless. It must be a win for me no matter the outcome.

Interestingly, if I truly love it, almost always the waiting buyer will too.

These two commitments seem obvious but it took me years to figure it out. Maybe you have a knack for doing commissions, a way that makes everyone happy. Especially you.

If you do I would love to hear about them.

In gratitude, Nicholas

Discovering Miro

I just had the pleasure of visiting the Juan Miro Museum in Spain and I wanted to share the experience with you. I was practically the only one in the there!

Such an amazing artist, and getting to see his work in person was better than I could have imagined.

In gratitude, Nicholas

Finding Your Way

As I’m getting ready for the next Art2Life workshop in Mallorca, I’ve had the pleasure of being able to ride my bike around a bit. I haven’t been riding with any kind of plan, and have just been going from one place to the next, enjoying things as they come along.

It strikes me that there is a parallel between riding your bike this way and art making, about the importance of being in the present and not dwelling on what’s next.

Watch the video and let me know what you think – when you are making art, do you find yourself in the moment, or somewhere else?

In gratitude, Nicholas