Meeting Yourself Where You’re At With Art

July 2nd, 2009

elephant night
elephant night

Art is one of the most soothing things I can do when I'm feeling cruddy. And yet, I still forget or I putter around without picking up the paintbrushes. It's a fairly simple task to pick up your pen and write or pick up your paintbrush and paint, but the starting can be hard. Especially if you have any voices in your head saying, "I want to make something good."

Phooey, I say. Let go of the making-something-good or making-something-special voices and meet yourself where you are, right now, in this moment.

It's true, it might not be pretty. It might not be what you expect.

elephant night detail

Allow yourself to be surprised.

Simply show up and begin. Begin with simple tools. A few colors, a piece of a paper, a pen. Leave your fears of failure at the door. For just this moment, it doesn't matter if what you create is "good" or "bad." Just let something flow out. A few brushstrokes. A few lines. Where does that take you?

Last night, I started with a scrap of paper that I'd done some playful marks on previously. I wet part of the paper and grabbed a bottle of ink that my cats had playfull rolled down the hall earlier. I squirted some ink on the wet paper and delighted in how it spread and curled and formed fantastic shapes. I then squirted blue paint directly onto the paper, shapes began to develop. Orange came next, a field. And ink spots looked like houses. A figure appeared on the right side. I stepped back, looked from a distance, then peered closer. One of the house shapes looked like an elephant, so I made it appear. The sky was lit with stars.

Before I started painting I was feeling some angst about a variety of things, including the weather. But afterwards, I felt light and alive and more free. That's some of what expressing yourself can do for you. When you allow yourself to create, not what you might wish you were creating, but what you need to create now, in this moment, you'll feel more alive, more connected, more at peace.

This is what I aim for when I'm creating, this connection to where I'm at in the moment. It's the way I found myself creating in the art picnics I developed and it continues to be a magical experience that I just adore having.

How can you meet yourself where you're at in your art?

p.s. The next Art Picnic workshop has been scheduled for Saturday, August 22nd, from 1-3 pm EST. You can get all the details and sign up here!

16 Responses

Lately I have been wanting to break out the paints and canvas. It has been bothering me that I keep putting it off due to anxiety about what might happen. I like how you can be so spontaneous with your work. I may need to take another Art Picnic Workshop in order to feel free to paint.
It is a safe environment in which to paint.

When I feel cruddy, many times (not all) I will pick up the paintbrush to help me feel better. What usually happens is garbage that I then cover up with a layer of paint. Next round will usually be garbage too and I cover that up also. The pattern of garbage and cover-up keeps rolling and I almost 99% of the time start to love what the layers are doing that my piece of endless garbage turns into something that makes me happy! That’s the cool thing about Art…it likes to trick you into making something good!

Beautiful painting Leah. Beautiful! I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been looking at a lot of Chagall…but this painting reminds me very much of his work. Lovely!

Peace & Love.

This is so perfect for today for me Leah. I have been away from my toys for a few days and I miss the escape of my art play. I am feeling “cruddy” about this weather too – how much rain can we get in one month ! Yikes ! Anyway, I am off to find the light in my art playing self !

Love the ink blobs growing into something so Leah…

Reveal in the freedom of creativity. How fortunate are we who have this as an outlet. Beautiful work, Leah.

I’ve been feeling like this lately too. But I also feel like I need to be doing some creative destruction. Like pushing my materials to the edge (or beyond) and seeing what happens. This seems a little scary to me, so I’ve been keeping away from the studio (plus my other job has taken up a lot of time this week). I think that this week end might see me pounding the life out of my metal, at least part of the time.
PS I love this piece. The red and grey really complement each other and remind me of thunderstorms and tornadoes. Really excellent!

Oh my – this is inspiring! I seriously need to find/make some time for creative play!


This is really inspiring for me! Since I’m not an artist, I’m always pleasantly surprised when I get something out of one of your posts that directly helps me in my life. For me, the same thing holds with other creative things I do, like writing microfiction or working on another creative project like my random music generator or my ontology of video games. Except that art and writing are so much more unconstrained… the more constrained forms or creativity don’t have that same sense of freedom.

Your post has gotten me thinking in ways I’m sure you didn’t expect. It’s neat. (:

I love how fantastical it is!! I’m so there with you-even knowing that it just takes the starting to get in the flow…the starting can still be hard. rock on for inspiring us to just see what comes up.

You go girl!
I am working towards a two day show…so I NEED to be in there working. I just tell myself to be there..even if I just paint tissue..I tell myself to just step in the studio for a minute and fortunately I am usually in there for a lot longer…and if I’m not then at least I made an effort.
You rock it girl…you get in there and fiddle around and create masterpieces! We are lucky to have you share this with us!

Thanks for this post Leah! I needed to hear your message!
I tried to do do a simple sunflower last night and I just could not get it! But I persisted and just did it.
I’m still not happy with it, but it is a start.
I will try to post tomorrow – I’m hoping the computer at school is still working! It will be my last time in for a while – then I will have to try a different route to posting photos!

Great post, Leah, and I love your painting. It’s so dramatic! I love painting this way. I’m always amazed at what images emerge. :)

Wow, Leah – your post so well describes what I am going through at the moment. Sometimes I approach it the way you have by just letting the materials spontaneously appear in shapes and colors on the paper. Sometimes I decide to just tackle something I have been putting off. Your painting is so beautiful and your spontaneity is so successful! I love it. I am glad to know I am not the only one sometimes experiencing this angst about what to paint and how it turns out. Very inspiring! Thanks so much for sharing this.

Your entry really spoke to me today. I lost my job at the end of May, and I just haven’t been able to make any art. The thought of washing out my brushes exhausts me. I will try to just “make marks” and see what happens. Thank you for sharing this with us all.

I just love your creations..and the colors too! They’re unique and inviting. And..the creative process you describe is the same way it works for my mandalas. Just putting the color on the paper and seeing what takes shape, and going from there. It’s a treasure to see things unfold…listening as the art tells us what it wants to be. Love it!

the act of quietly cutting shapes is therapy for me most times
they may not be pasted for some time but each step has it’s own merit ~ elk

Wow, talk about a lesson in *being in the moment* and letting go of the focus on outcomes. (Ironically this often brings better outcomes! constantly shaking my head over that conundrum :P ) Love it.

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