For the most part, my “journey of discovery” in art has been a good one. In five years I’ve gone from an untalented old woman who couldn’t draw a straight line to an award-winning landscape artist. I’ve had lots of interesting experiences along the way. I’ve made many new friends. I’ve developed skills and abilities that I never thought possible.
Yes, it’s been a positive experience — most of the time.
Earlier this morning I was cleaning my oil palette, patiently scraping off old paint. Not a chore I like, but a necessary one. As I scraped, I thought a bit about the frustrations that are part of art, because, let’s be honest. Everything in life has good and not-so-good about it. No matter how much we may love what we do — in any field — there are always a few things we just don’t really like.
So while I love art and love being an artist, I have to admit that there are a few frustrations I’ve found. Here are my top five:
Number 1: CLEANING MY PALETTE
While I love starting fresh and working with a clean palette, I really don’t enjoy the process of scraping off old paint. I’m dangerous with knives of any sort, and scraping off dried paint requires a bit of muscle. I know, if I cleaned it more often, it probably wouldn’t be quite such a hassle… which brings me to my second frustration.
Number 2: WASTING OIL PAINT
I’m not an alla prima painter. I don’t complete a canvas in a single session, or even in a single day. I prefer to work a little slower, blocking in shapes one day, working on the sky another day, choosing specific areas to complete before moving on to the next. And so it is that once I put paint out on my palette, it remains there. Like putting a genie back into a bottle, there’s no way to “unsqueeze” a tube of paint. Once it’s on the palette, it’s on the palette. Yes, I’ve tried a few different methods to save paint, but I haven’t found a practical solution yet. So as I go through the frustration of cleaning my oil palette, I also endure those awful feelings of wasting paint.
Number 3: TRANSPORTING SUPPLIES
In some respects, as I’ve learned from my recent hospital stay, we can always take art with us wherever we go. As fellow blogger, Robert K. Rehmann (The Quiet Photographer) commented, “art is inside us.” I loved that comment. It’s so true. Yet, at the same time, some situations require more materials than what we carry inside our hearts and minds. Attending a workshop, going out for a plein air event, taking part in a club meeting — all are situations that can involve transporting various art supplies from one location to another. Sure there are backpacks, portable easels, and lots of other convenient storage methods, but all that storage still has to be picked up and moved! It’s not such an easy task, especially for us older artists. Plus there’s the added worry about bringing completed artwork home without ruining it or the interior of a vehicle! My husband is supportive of my art, but I doubt he’d be too happy if he ever found paint or pastels staining the backseat of one of our cars.
Number 4: WANTING TO TRY EVERYTHING
We’re artists. We’re creative. Of course we want to try new things, and in the world of art, there’s always something new! Recently I learned more about cold wax medium. I really want to try it. I’m intrigued by embossing powders, but have no idea how to use them. I’ve watched lino print demonstrations. What about gelli plate printing? Yes, I’d love to do a little calligraphy again, so I really need a few basic supplies. No matter where I turn, there’s always something exciting to discover, and oh, how I’d love to try everything! But trying things in art means making investments of both time and money. It’s not always possible to “dip a toe in” to test the water out, figuratively speaking. Art supplies aren’t cheap, or if we find them cheap, they’re probably not worth buying, so we have to make a few choices about where we’ll spend our dollars. Do I really want to buy supplies I don’t know how to use? Do I really need to try every different mixed media technique I see demonstrated? Tough questions. Tough answers.
Number 5: FEELING FRUSTRATED
Yep. Frustration itself can be a real frustration in art, and I know I’m not the only one who experiences it now and then. Sometimes drawings and paintings just don’t turn out the way we want. We know it’s all right. We know it happens. We feel frustrated all the same. Sometimes we get overwhelmed by having too many things going on all at once. Other times, we seem to be all out of creative juice and can’t get started on anything. It’s definitely part of art, part of what it means to be an artist.
I came across a quotation about frustration:
Frustration, although quite painful at times, is a very positive and essential part of success.
Indeed. I might not enjoy cleaning my palette, but it’s a necessary part of oil painting. Sure, I hate wasting paint, but that, too, is an essential part of the process. Carting art materials around isn’t fun, but it leads to new opportunities through workshops, meetings, and various art events. And of course, it’s good to learn about new things, even if we can’t try them all. So, all in all, frustration is something we need, not just something we have to learn to live with. Frustration can be… frustrating! But it can lead us toward the success we seek.