These are the words I kept telling myself when I started painting again: “Just play with the paint”. It was a way for me to overcome the pressure I put on myself every time I sat down to draw or paint something.
Starting something new is often terrifying for me. It’s not just art, it’s life in general. I worry a lot about failure. I seem to want to be an expert at everything I turn my hand to. So the condition I found myself in my mid forties was terrible: A desperate desire to paint again, and a paralyzing fear that everything I made would be garbage.
The solution came from running. A while ago, I learned that the cure for inertia in my running was to just get out and do it. Get rid of any pace or distance goals, lace up my shoes and run. By relieving the pressure that goes along with expectations, it became possible for me to rediscover the joy of running and turn dread into anticipation.
So I applied that approach to art-making. “Just play with the paint, Stefan”, I told myself. “Don’t worry about whether or not you end up with something beautiful, just do it.” I didn’t even need to have any idea of what I was going to paint, I simply had to start making marks on the page and trust to intuition from that point on.
Painting really is like running in that way. The biggest obstacle to doing either is my mind. I find if I can muster enough willingness to lace up my shoes and get out the door, everything else takes care of itself. Some runs are good, others aren’t, but at least I’m getting out the door and being active. Waiting for motivation or desire almost never works for me, and I end up doing nothing at all.
I like Picasso’s take on it: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.”
So, I try keep working whether I want to or not. Now I paint or draw every day, no exceptions. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, it doesn’t have to get finished that day, but I must do something.
The interesting thing is that, like running, it’s hard to get started. But when I lurch into motion, however haltingly, I seem to enjoy it and inspiration does pay a visit eventually.