How do you make a painting that is totally you? How do you keep an ear out for your own voice?
I was asking Stuart Shils some of these questions recently and he told me to be strong and brave. He said that it’s most important to paint from the gut, to dig deep inside oneself and to make work that is YOU.
1. Be strong and brave.
It’s hard to make the work that you feel called to. What if no one likes it? What if it just seems crazy? What if you get criticized for it? Brutalized even?
I like what Jimi Hendrix said as an antidote to those kinds of fears:
“You have to go on and be crazy. Craziness is like heaven.”
Another quote that comes to mind is from Brené Brown who writes about courage:
“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor - the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant "To speak one's mind by telling all one's heart." (thank you Frankie Gardner for posting this on Facebook)
It takes courage to go on and be crazy. The world may criticize your work, but it will be like heaven because it will be recognizable, familiar, weirdo you. Tell all your heart, the world needs it.
2. Dig deep inside yourself.
When I went to school at James Madison University and I didn’t know what to paint, I asked myself “what do you care about?” I would make a list of passions. I would write them down and the imagery flowed from there. I still do this from time to time - it helps to keep me grounded.
Other ways to dig deep?
Ask yourself questions
Keep your eyes open
Keep your hands open
3. Paint from the gut.
Trust yourself. Remove the ideas of right and wrong and flow with the rhythm. Let strategies and rules fade away. If you think something won’t work but you want to try it anyways - do it! What do you have to lose? Stuart Shils said to me that you can’t take enough risks.
So how do you find yourself in your work?
Have courage, passion, and guts! <3