Watercolor: Provence Cypress (& managing ego in the studio)

Provence Cypress, 3.25 x 6.75 Watercolor on paper (sold)

Where am I?

I’ll be traveling in a few weeks, so I’m pondering light weight art supplies. I’ve written about the gear I use  (read that post here) at art festivals and painting workshops, but I’d love to hear what you travel with… what’s your go-to brush set, or palette? How about your fave fold-up chair, or easel?

I’ll be at the San Diego Artwalk and the Sierra Madre Art Fair in back to back weekends, and then off to France the day after Sierra Madre. It’ll be a leap-frog train of destinations squeezed into ten days, so I’m list-making in earnest. Will you be in San Diego or Sierra Madre during the art festivals?

Free watercolor paper 101 download. In case you were wondering about the stuff. 🙂

Artist vs Hermit?

...managing a creative career requires a connection to one’s audience as well as a network of relationships with managers, clients, bookers, agents, and other industry personnel.  

~Ryan Holiday

I’ve been thinking about the way artists connect to the world by making and exhibiting art. And I mean all art; writing, music, painting, etc. The fruit of an artist’s labor is meant to connect with another person, or a whole group of people. Even if you paint, and only show your spouse, the baseline of our endeavor is to cultivate an understanding and kinship with the viewer of our makings.  We want the audience to “get” what we’ve created, right? In order to do that, artists from all genres might benefit from interacting with other people, observing fellow man, experiencing acquaintanceship first hand. Find your people. You won’t find villages of folks with similar sensibilities, unless you get out and mingle with them.

Paintings & sculpture of guns at an art show, and Daniel Greene painting a portrait

What Starts Your Engine?

There are historical examples of lone artists painting art inspired by dark dreams or conflicted souls, and others who rendered festive observations of everyday life, but we’d never notice either artist’s creation unless the work resonated with us. People who love art feel something from it, and that’s where the connection comes in.

Dip a Toe in the Water

If you’re feeling blocked, or stuck in your work, perhaps the antidote is to connect with others… to get out and feel a sense of camaraderie with other artists, or friends. Make a date with someone to see an exhibit, or sit in a public garden with a sketchbook, observing and drawing humanity for a few hours.

Big social gatherings or attendance to an event usually fills my tanks with remembered conversations, recollections of people’s faces, remnants of humanity’s colorful storytelling, and a desire for solitude and working with my hands. It’s entirely different from the one-way consumption of social media observations. I work more diligently after I’ve rubbed actual elbows, volleyed two-way conversations, witnessed real laughter and felt the connection of curious eye-contact. How do you fill your tanks before going into the studio?

Arm Wrestling with Ego

From the wonderful book: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

In the process of making & sharing our work, there are always considerations related to ego and pride. They are equal parts motivator and trap door.

“From this connection and understanding stem all the other important parts of the puzzle—for instance, we cannot reflect truth if we’re incapable of seeing any. We cannot take or receive feedback if we are too conceited to hear it or if our own reality overpowers the objective standards we need to measure ourselves against. We cannot connect with others if our attitude and approach pushes them away—or pushes us above them. We cannot recognize opportunities—or create them—if instead of seeing what is in front of us, we live inside our own fantasy. We cannot be truly confident unless we have an accurate accounting of our own abilities. And we certainly cannot relate to, reach, motivate or compel other people to follow our lead if we’re not able to grasp their deepest and often hidden human needs.”           ~Ryan Holiday

Read the full article excerpted above by Ryan Holiday on why ego is the greatest opponent of creativity, and I bet you’ll glean other keepers from his observations like I did.


Big Breath In & Begin

How do you contain and restrain your ego to make more room for an airier environment in your art-making? So much of our fear of making art is grounded in the need for praise – from ourselves, and others. Perhaps a more generous approach involves a plan to just paint or draw for the enjoyment of it, but we tend to have expectations of the outcome rooted in a search for being amazing. But here’s the thing: I think it’s amazing to just make something – anything, because it means we made time for that, and we found pleasure in the practice. And hopefully, joy & connection in the sharing too.

Here’s wishing you a creative, practiced, connected week!

See you in the next post –


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Art Quote

The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers & cities; but to know someone who thinks & feels with us, & who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.
~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

4 thoughts on “Watercolor: Provence Cypress (& managing ego in the studio)”

  1. I love the message that to just keep making things. I find that the best things happen when creating without expectations or an “audience” in mind. If you listen to your inner conversation you are always taking what you know and trying to put another step forward. Where will that piece you just finished take you in your nest one? Let that be the driving force and things get interesting!

    I SO love your blog! Beautiful work, both painting and printmaking (yay, another split sister!) and deep thoughtful musings on the how and the why. Thank you!!

    1. High Five, Sister! Thank you for stopping by, and thank you for sharing your AMAZMO printmaking experiments. I’ve saved your last two blog posts to pour over and really *look* at as soon as I’m finished with shows. I love that you’re hosting printmaking sessions so others can see what all the enthusiasm, glee and love is about! Sing it! Happy printing, and happy painting, in a no-expectations, playful state of mind! XO B.

  2. Hey Belinda,
    You make this world an “inhabited garden” for me. I love the painting. I’m reading Peter Mayle. I just finished Toujours Provence, and went out and bought three more books by him on Provence. Your lovely watercolour reminds me of an exhibition of poplars (not cypress) I saw by Monet in Stuttgart, Germany. I could feel the painter in the work, as I can feel you in this. In that instance I was by myself at the gallery while my husband was at work, and I sensed Monet so profoundly. I could almost see him. And telling my husband about the experience I started to cry.

    It is profound what you do, and you do it so easily it seems — such an amazing painting.

    I find these connections through the blog, and through conversations with artists to be a major help. Plus so much is going on in my life, that I give myself a pat on the back if I work, when I work, each time I work. Once I’ve started
    the work can carry me up to a point. And then I encourage myself to break it down and get back to work — in whatever small increments I can manage. That seems to work.

    Love your work, and your words.


    1. Hello my friend, I can truly imagine your experience in the Stuttgart exhibit. I too have teared up while describing a beautiful art exhibit. Such is the tender heart of an artist, I suppose. To be so moved by beauty. I bet neither of us would want it any other way. When you next make time to move your art supplies, my hand will be next to yours in that pat on the back. I hope the time you steal away for your art is restorative, hopeful, quiet and imbued with the stamina you need right now. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful visit. Cups of tea to you… xoxox B.

Write something.... pretend we're neighbors, and we’re painting watercolors together in the garden....