You Enjoy Painting And Then You Get Lost

Pastel painting of a deer looking towards a gap in the trees.
Passage by Tracey Maras

It happens.

You are comfortable with painting.  Yes, you know you have room for improvement and growth.  But you enjoy painting.

And then you get lost.

It happens to me, most often, after attending a workshop.  I come back to my studio with so many new and exciting ideas.  I begin incorporating all I’ve learned.  But before long, I grow increasingly frustrated because I can’t get anything to work.  I can’t even seem to remember how to paint.

Has it happened to you?

Recently, I gave myself a triple whammy.  While I have a “style” of a soft touch of layered colors, leaning towards Tonalism, I love to experiment.  Recently, I’ve been working on a textured ground (see my April Pastel Academy tutorial “How to Paint an Elephant on Textured Ground”).  Adding to that, I’ve begun a new and exclusive series featuring mixed media for a specific gallery.  And then attending a wonderfully informative and inspiring workshop with Barbara Jaenicke.

When I settled back at my easel, nothing was working.  Attempts at beginning painting after painting, and I ended up brushing off all of them.  I found myself yelling at my easel, as if somehow it was to blame.

Then it clicked.  It had been a while since I last experienced this predicament.  I was like a kid in candy store.  “I want this, and this, and this!”  Because I subconsciously wanted to “do it all,” it all turned to a mess.  I overwhelmed myself with trying to change too much, too quickly.  I got lost.

How I have handled this in the past, particularly after attending a workshop, was to select one new technique or approach and try to incorporate it into my work.  Play with it awhile.  Experiment.  See if it is a technique I want to continue to use.  Then, try another. 

Not only does this keep me from getting overwhelmed and “lost,” but it is a great opportunity to go back and revisit information that was provided by an instructor, reinforcing the material I learned, sometimes months or years earlier.

So, I took a deep breath to calm my fraying nerves.  I slowed down.  I began a painting as I normally would.  I began to relax as familiarity settled in.  I incorporated one principle from the workshop.  The rest, I’ll get to later.  I need to remember to enjoy the process.  I don’t need to “do it all”…..yet.

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8 Responses

  1. OH my gosh! Yes, yes and yes. I get excited about painting and then quickly frustrated, mad and then sad. And I forget! You nailed it. Why do I forget what I learned?? I need to slow down and go back to painting apples!

    1. Kitty – I love your enthusiasm! Even in frustration! That enthusiasm is what gets us through frustrations and helps us learn and grow. Paint what you love and always embrace your enthusiasm!

  2. I loved your previous blog on painting boulders and have saved it for review! Also, loved this one – I’m committed to growing, but I know my style as well and try not get sucked in when another artist “suggests” I should be trying something different. For me, it’s important to grow, but also be the artist I am!! Thanks for a great article.

    1. Lori – You are absolutely right. It is all about trying to find balance. It is good for each of us to strive to grow and improve, but we also should embrace who we are as individuals. Find joy in your journey!

  3. Read your blogabout inspiration, and then spotted this. I have been in a wasteland for a while, but the way forward is coming, I think, your words give me comfort. Thank you.

    1. Rod, I hope finding your way forward comes soon. Even the act of allowing ourselves to simply play can break through that wall that sometimes confronts us. Give yourself permission to play with no expectations.

    1. Thank you Susan. I’m so glad you found this blog to be helpful. As I mentioned to Rod, give yourself permission to play. With placing no expectations on yourself to create a “masterpiece”, simply play….with materials, with pastels, with papers. Oftentimes, you will discover a direction you may have never considered.

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