Good Days and Not So Good Days

More than with any other creative activity I’ve pursued over my life, my experiences with art seem to be the most variable. By that, I mean there are more ups and downs, more uncertainties, more questions each time I start a new project.

With music or writing, by comparison, I always possessed an inherent confidence. I knew I could complete whatever assignment or task I undertook. But those are areas in which I have natural strengths as well as years of practical experience.

Art is different. I don’t have any natural talents or gifts for art, other than an appreciation for colors. I’ve doodled a little over the years, but until four years ago I never made any serious attempt at drawing or painting. It’s all new to me. I’m still learning — through that marvelous process known as trial and error —  and each time I attempt a new drawing or painting, one question always nags at me: Can I actually do this?

One of my rules for 2020 is that I can’t give up and wipe away a painting I’m working on, and that’s an important rule for me. It’s forcing me to come to terms with my art in important new ways, to look at all my mistakes, to admit my weaknesses, celebrate my strengths, and most of all, to find ways to deal with problems in my painting.

Still, all those doubts and uncertainties remain, taking me off on a roller coaster ride of emotions. In anything we do in life, we have good days and not so good days, but for me and art, the good days are really good and the not so good days… well, those are the days when art isn’t fun, the days when I’m frustrated and discouraged, the days when I want to simply pack up all my paints and brushes and never look at another canvas.

Good dayAll right, so I’m exaggerating just a bit. The point is that some days are better than others, far better. My abilities are erratic, my mood quite changeable. When I go to my easel each morning, I never know for sure what sort of day it’s going to be.

Browsing around a bit this morning, I found lots of quotes about good days and bad days, chiefly ones that say unequivocally that the only difference between the two is attitude. I don’t think that’s true where my art is concerned. Yes, of course, attitude does make a huge difference when it comes to art, but I tend to begin each day with a fairly positive approach. The bad attitude comes along after I start having a bad day at the easel or the drawing board.

Other quotations insist that it’s merely a matter of choosing good days over bad ones. That can be true to a degree, and I’m learning a little about how to do that. I’m learning that I don’t have to have those really bad days.  Thankfully, as the title of this post says, I can count my days as good or not so good. I’ve found ways to avoid the really awful ones, and that’s a step in the right direction.

On good days, I feel as if I can do anything with my art. The skies I paint are brilliant, my trees and bushes really look like trees and bushes. My compositions are balanced and harmonious. My color choices are just right. On really good days, I can even go back to paintings that haven’t gone quite the way I’d hoped. I can look at them, spot the flaws, and actually go back and correct my mistakes.  For me, that’s huge.

Those good days are the fun days. I can be silly, I can be free. I can try new things and who cares how awful they are!

The not so good days are different. On those days, things just don’t go my way. I start with the same positive attitude, the same good intentions, the same hopes of learning something new and creating something beautiful. But on those days, the brushstrokes just aren’t right. The colors aren’t right. My lines are crooked, my compositions are unbalanced, and I often get a bit clumsy. One day last week I spilled linseed oil all over my palette.

I’m learning to deal with those not so good days just as I’m learning, too, to take advantage of the good ones. It usually doesn’t take long before I can see which way my day is heading. If it’s turning out to be a good one, I smile, listen to some classical music or nature sounds as I’m painting, and I tackle some of the more challenging things I’m working on. I feel good about what I’m doing.

But if a day starts going wrong, I don’t fret about it. I use that time for the more routine aspects of art. I clean my palette. I give my brushes a thorough washing. I organize my canvases. I varnish paintings that are ready to be framed. And I make plans for what I’ll do when the next good day comes along. I look for inspiring scenes I’d like to paint. I read about famous artists and their paintings. I grab all my old paint shirts and throw them into the washer. Yes, there are lots of productive things I can do even on those not so good days.

In all my browsing around, I did find one quote about good days and bad days that I can fully agree with.

Sometimes bad days are there to remind you that you have good ones to look forward to. 

I like that thought. It makes having a not so good day all right, not something to be upset about, but something to accept as what it is — a part of life.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a painting that needs another coat of varnish.

 

5 Comments

    1. Just learning how to keep a “not-so-good” day from becoming a “bad” day has been very important for me. And, yes, I like that quote, too. When things don’t go right, I can always remind myself that there will be better days coming. 🙂

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