Art-making mantras

One Painting, Many Stages (or Trust the Process)

I'm not usually the most patient person. I like quick results, especially when it comes to making art, and when I say quick I mean the piece is done at the end of one art-making session.

Um, really? Though sometimes I manage to do just that, it doesn't always work that way.

Allow me to indulge a little and offer you a glimpse into the making of one of my new favourite pieces...


One night I created a background with my brayer, a quick art-making session that resulted in this:

I saw a woman meditating in an urban oasis. I liked the colours and almost left it as it was, but I knew it wasn't finished so the next night I did this:

I kept the woman and meditation theme but ditched the urban feel in the background. The dark "eggplant" colour was a pure accident that left me frustrated. Interesting, yes, but certainly not finished.

Feeling stuck and tapping into my art mantra #2, Can't Be Too Precious, I spent the next day flipping the piece around on all sides to see if anything jumped out at me. Seeing it upside down triggered something:

 I saw abstract figures in a snowy landscape so I moved on to this...

... and finally to this:

The Gift, 9 1/2" x 12" acrylics on mat board


The moral of this story?

Don't be afraid to explore a piece from a different perspective. Trust the process, it usually knows where to take you.

Art-making Mantra #3: Just Play

"Curiosity gets us further than curriculum. Serious art requires serious play - and play, by definition, is anarchic, naughty."

~ Julia Cameron, Walking in This World

Every time I channel this mantra I hear the sing-song voice of my first abstract painting teacher: "Just play", she'd say when I got too stressed out about a particular piece.

What does that mean?

the result of anarchic, messy, play - a piece in progress

In the context of working on a specific project, it means loosening up.

Play is letting the brush dance lightly on the canvas to the chaotic rhythms of Coltrane. It's spending half an hour following the evening sun with your camera, guided only by shadows and light. It's making wild and crazy marks on the page with your palette knife because it feels good.

Play means not thinking, not trying, not striving. It means suspending the censor and not worrying about where the piece is going. There'll be time for that later.

Play means being in your creativity.

Art-making Mantra #3: Just Play.

How could you let yourself play in your art today? Whatever your medium, I dare you to let your brush dance.