Words as Art Supplies

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Wrestling Your Naysayers

When an artist’s practical ingredients are missing (supplies, space), that’s a legitimate road block to creativity. But the most important foundation to making art is not as functional as brushes and paint – it’s in our heads. Words as Art Supplies.

Wrestling with the mental side of being a creative person requires observational stamina, and conviction to re-write our own scripts.

Anyone who wishes they were making art more often knows the struggle.

What are the ingredients of the blocades on repeat in your mind? Unpack that box of tapes, dissemble them, and re-label each message with the words ‘This is just for me.’ Making art is mine. Painting is a practice. Literally.

It’s not for anyone else but you.

Experimenting with watercolor on a sketch pad coated with clear gesso. Just for me.

Failed Paintings

Some of the roadblocks to creativity are related to being a beginner.

Folks in need of accolades have to be willing to make bad art now and then.

Perfectionists have to try looking away from instructions, so they can experiment, and absorb the experiences of trial and error.

Artists who are risk averse have to shrug it off when art misses the mark, and simply make another one, right then and there.

Failing on a painting is the most common thread shared between each and every artist, from all varieties of skill levels.

And the gifts in our failures are the lessons about what NOT to do in the next painting. Failures should not be punitive.

Put a figurine in your art-making space, and call it The Encourager. Each time you hear the naysayers in your head, look at your Encourager, and flip the message to one of Keep Going, Try Again, Make More. This is how learning works.

Art is Fun – Unless You Thwart It

Being a beginner as an adult is hard on the ego. We want to package new information in a way that has the shortest time line and the most efficient path to Mastery.

We collect paint color recipes, step by step instructions, and video tutorials for weeks, and months – even years, without ever picking up a brush!

They’re all great resources for learning something new. But making art is just like writing, playing piano or running marathons; you have to DO IT to improve.

If every attempt to paint or draw is cinched by pressure to be perfect, or darkened by the doubtful naysayer in your head, you will not have fun.

You may as well mop a floor. Take a little time to ponder your relationship to art-making, and your own words about art. Rearrange the narrative so that you’re encouraging yourself.

Testing inexpensive watercolor paper with a loose color sketch of grading equipment on a dirt hill. Experimenting.

Words as Art Supplies – You Decide

If you catch yourself saying I’m afraid to use my new paints, or I’m not skilled enough to finish my painting – you will slow your progress by repeating unhelpful messages. You’re undermining your own progress with discouraging marching orders.

Remind yourself that this is paint and paper and pictures. Be in first grade, excitedly looking at a table of fresh new art supplies. Dig deep for your anticipation, and hold onto it.

The message in your mind when it’s time to make art should be about just getting better.

Art is only for you. The practice is all yours. Be encouraged, and try to keep it that simple.

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you in the next post –


P.S. In this podcast, neuroscientist Andrew Huberman talks about ways to increase tenacity and willpower. Always thought provoking, and relevant to obstacles many artist’s struggle with.

Sketching inspired by scanning vintage photos of my family for genealogy research. This is my great Aunt Lil. I never met her, because she died in 1946 at age 40, but I feel like I know her now.

Art Quote

Yes, I’ve always been a dreamer, and yes, I have always tried. And dreams are special things. But dreams are of no value if they’re not equipped with wings and feet and hands and all that. If you’re going to make a dream come true, you’ve got to work with it. You can’t just sit around. That’s a wish. That’s not a dream.

Dolly Parton
Part of your art supply stash is words: the message you tell yourself about art. Words as Art Supplies.

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9 thoughts on “Words as Art Supplies”

  1. Your paintings are wonderful! What does the clear gesso do to the paper, make it more amenable to watercolor?
    I wandered off to play viola for a couple of years, but I really miss drawing and printmaking. A spring resolution?

  2. Genevieve Seguinot

    Thanks for the inspiring message. For me, I try to do too many things as well as art. I stopped that yesterday. I can’t do it all. Art is my number one priority and let someone else do other things that I consider essential. Thanks for your blog.

  3. Thanks for writing this, Belinda – all very true and helpful. Well said. I’ve shared the link on twitter, where 99% of my art community lives 🙂

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