My husband is an advocate for fun. “If it’s not fun, don’t do it,” he tells me often. To say that he’s lived his life in accordance with that philosophy might make him seem irresponsible or careless. Quite the contrary. He’s a highly responsible man dedicated to helping others.
What he means by having fun might better be described, I suppose, as doing what you love, or at least, doing what you enjoy. He enjoys the work he does; he loves to help those in need, and he is dedicated to making life better for others.
He encourages me to come to my studio each day and have fun. Recently he added two drying racks for my oil paintings, and he’s re-painted the walls and fixed the lighting problems.
It’s good to have such a supportive husband, one who encourages my art and who is willing to help out in many ways. To him, all these things are fun.
On a recent Monday morning, I found myself eager to go to my studio. It had been a very busy weekend. The day before, I’d had no time at all to draw, to paint, to even read anything about art. Other than spending a few moment replying to comments on the blog, I was away from the studio all day.
As I finished breakfast and hurried downstairs on Monday morning, I thought about how much fun I’ve been having with art in recent weeks. Of course, I’ve had a few frustrations — gesture-drawing seemed impossible, everything about oil-painting seemed to be complicated — but even those complaints were part of the fun. It’s fun to work through drawing problems, fun to learn new techniques, fun to finally be putting things together and turning out paintings that make me proud. Yes, that’s fun.
But over these last five years, art hasn’t always been fun. There have been great moments, of course, moments — like winning my first art awards — that have brought me to tears. Those were happy tears.
At other times, though, frustrations have brought me to the point of not-so-happy tears. I get emotional at times. Yes, I’ve occasionally cried in disappointment at something I’ve painted.
Now and then I’ve gone into one of those artistic funks — hating everything I did, feeling that it’s all pointless, and having to walk away from art for a time. Usually it’s been a short time, but other times I’ve stayed away longer, afraid to come back, feeling that it’s foolish to even try, wondering what ever made me think I could be an artist.
Glad now to have those feelings behind me, grateful now that art has again become fun, I began to wonder what causes such different feelings. Precisely what is it, I asked myself, that makes art fun?
- Art is FUN when I’m learning.
Art is most fun for me when I see it from a learning perspective. I’m one of those individuals who might be called a perpetual student. To me, life is all about learning, and if I’m not learning something new every day, I’m not fully living. The more new things I can learn about in art, the happier I am.
- Art is FUN when it’s experimental.
As I learn new things, I try new things. I love reading articles in Artist magazine and making up little activities to reinforce what I’m learning. In this way, I’ve tried abstract painting, done a few self-portraits, and explored the “experience of art” by using a famous painting as a starting point for my own expression.
- Art is FUN when I play with different media.
When I first began pursuing my studies in art, I learned to use many different media. I started with graphite, then learned to use charcoal and conte. I did drawings with colored pencils, tried pen and ink, and used both oil and soft pastels. I toyed around with watercolor; I tried acrylics. I did scratchboard. Everything was new, and it was fun. But then I bravely tried oil painting — what I most wanted to do — and after realizing it wasn’t as difficult as I’d imagined, I became hooked. From that time on, I did almost nothing but paint with oil. I learned a lot. I improved a lot. But little by little, the fun began going away. In looking back, I can see now how the occasional graphite drawings I did and my participation in Inktober — which forced me away from my familiar oils — somehow made me feel re-invigorated with my art. I need variety. I need to change things up and not get stuck in the oil-painting rut.
- Art is FUN when we see improvement.
Maybe this is when art becomes the most fun. It often happens to me after I’ve gone into one of those aforementioned funks, times when I’ve become disillusioned and discouraged. Fortunately I’ve learned that enlightenment will follow, so I can take a deep breath and wait out those disappointing and disheartening days. Then, it happens. I look at something I’ve drawn. I step away from the easel and see something I’ve painted. My jaw goes slack. I gaze in wonder. “Did I really do that?” Those moments are fun. I’m not going to say that we have to go through that dark valley of despair in order to see improvement. That’s just how it often works for me. We can have fun and see consisent progress in our work if we practice often. Drawing and painting every day is definitely a path to improvement, and improvement is always fun.
Other things that are making art fun for me now include having my own art studio, having time to come to the studio to play, doing this blog, sharing my art, and being part of a larger art community. Doing art projects with our grandchildren is also fun. Taking part in art events can be fun.
That’s how it should be. Art should be fun.
I sometimes take myself too seriously. I sometimes expect too much of myself. I sometimes get frustrated when I run into challenges. I sometimes lose sight of all the fun that art can be.
Hopefully now, having considered what it is that makes art fun, I’ll be better able to follow my husband’s admonition to have fun each day.