Questions and Answers

I’ve previously written about Julia Cameron and her series of creativity-increasing books. I’ll admit I haven’t followed along faithfully week-by-week with her suggested exercises, but one of her recommendations — morning pages — has become a regular part of my routine, most days, at least.

Morning pages is a term Cameron uses for creative journaling. We should sit down each morning with pen and paper. We should write three pages. As a writer, I enjoy this, of course. Filling three pages is a simple thing.

Does it benefit me? Does it increase my creativity? I think it does, because the practice of sitting down and — in a sense — talking to myself every morning gives me the opportunity to look at what’s going on in my life, in my home, in my heart, in my art.

I write about the Dutch language I’m learning, I write about books I’m reading, I write about what I’ll be cooking for dinner. And, I write about my successes and my failures in oil painting.

My morning pages journals are filled with many questions, especially when things aren’t going the way I’d like where my art is concerned. I whine. I complain. I sometimes wonder if I should just give up trying.

Questions, questions, questions.

I’ve learned, though, that questions are valuable because questions require answers. Writing out the questions I have forces me to think, to search, and happily, as often as not, I find the answers I’m seeking. In this way, I’m learning a lot about myself and how the creative process works for me.

Today I’m sharing a few questions from a recent morning.

Hals (2)Painting yesterday was a disaster. I painted Franz Hals — badly — and attempted a huge impressionistic winter scene. I think I need to start over on the landscape. It’s too awful for words. But it’s all good practice, I guess.

Right now I’m feeling very discouraged with art.  I don’t know if I’ll do any painting today or not. Everything I’ve done lately has been awful.

Have you ever felt this way about your art? As I sat at the table writing these thoughts, I was surrounded by less-than-lovely “works” of art. The portrait of Franz Hals with its awful, misshapen nose — so sorry about the nose, Franz — the simple little orange that seems to be floating in some indefinite space, my over-size winter landscape that didn’t know what it wanted to be, and other projects that simply hadn’t turned out the way I’d hoped, or which — while still in progress — aren’t looking too promising.

At first, it felt awful to look around and see so much bad art. But then, as so often happens during journaling, I had a bit of an epiphany. I continued writing.

I suppose it’s a good thing, really, because it shows that I’m trying new things, taking chances, and pushing myself in new directions. It’s part of the process, and I should try to appreciate the experiences I’m having.

Yes, it is part of the process, part of learning to be an artist. I may see myself primarily as a landscape artist, but it’s good to develop skills in other areas. In  Oil Painting EssentialsGreg Kreutz writes:

“…insights can best occur when the artist explores different kinds of subject matter. Portraits, figures, still lifes, landscapes, and interiors — each of these genres teaches important lessons about accuracy, design, depth, and drama.”

And so it is that I will continue pushing myself in different directions — which means you’ll continue to see a lot of really bad art here in this blog. It’s a learning process for me, one that is teaching me not only the fundamentals and essentials of oil painting, but which is also teaching me patience and persistence. Although there will be days when I do feel discouraged and wonder if I should simply give up this crazy pursuit of art, there will also be days when I love what I’m doing, days when I feel I truly am an artist.

There will be days when I’m faced with one question after another. Fortunately there will also be days when I have answers.


  1. I love the Cameron’s book and I found the morning pages a useful exercise. Trying different directions is a good things, it opens the views and for sure it increases the knowledge we have. In mi case I see the risk that trying too many thigs will not allow me to get much experience in one field. I have the tendence to look for something new when I understand the basics of what I’m doing without leaving myself enough time to make more experience. Sometimes I force myself to keep doing what I’m doing 🙂 actually this is pencils work !

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