After my discouragement yesterday, it was hard to come back to the studio today. I knew that awful acrylic pouring would still be there. The disappointing art journal pages would still be on my work table, and as for the scary skull — well, it’s easy enough to simply close the sketchbook so I don’t have to look at it. Not that it’s really so bad as far as drawing goes. It’s just depressing, I guess.
But we have to face up to our art demons. If we don’t we’ll never move beyond them. So, I came into the studio this morning with a better attitude, an attitude of “Some days are better than others,” and a determination to make sure that this was one of those better days.
I began by looking at the acrylic pour and having a good laugh. It didn’t make the pouring look any better, but it made me feel a lot better. I acknowledged the things I did wrong, chalked it up to experience, and set it aside to finish drying. Lesson learned. The next pouring will be better.
I moved on to the art journal. I sighed, sprinkled a bit of gold glitter on the page and pasted a few yellow strips randomly across the page. Originally they were going to be rays of the sun, but I shook my head at that idea and just pasted them on here and there. On the facing page I did my best at lettering — which isn’t great — and added a simple quote:
Sunshine is the best medicine.
The pages are not pretty, but for me, that’s part of what art journaling is about. It’s about me and my art. It’s about my feelings, and about my life. Sometimes things aren’t pretty, and later I’ll be able to look back on that very bleak day when everything around me seemed ugly, and I’ll think, too, to the strength I’ve gained because of it.
Yes, strength does come when we face those dark, discouraging, disappointing days.
So, with a bit of resolve, I closed the sketchbook where I’d drawn the skull, and something amusing happened as I did. I picked up the sketchbook, then as I closed it I caught sight of another drawing. It’s on the facing page beside the skull. It was a drawing I’d attempted several years ago using conte for a portrait. It’s not very good. At the time I was rather pleased with it, but it was interesting now to look at the portrait and look at the skull and see that even if I don’t like the skull, I can definitely say that my drawing abilities have improved substantially.
I moved on then to reading, studying, and practicing painting techniques. Since consistency is my biggest problem, that’s where I’m focusing. As I get ready for my 100-day creative exploration, I wanted a chance to play with consistencies, play with different brushes, and play with colors a bit.
I took out my new pad of canvas sheets, opened to the first page, and spent a little time just doodling a bit with paint. I wanted to practice consistency, so I started by making several different lines. I wanted to work on drawing with paint, so I used a brush to sketch in a tree. I wanted to practice on making fine lines — still a struggle — so I grabbed a small brush and played a little more. I wanted to practice on lights and darks, so I added a bit of light to the trunk of my tree.
I doodled in a background, doodled in lots of foreground. There was nothing planned about this little practice painting. I just let it evolve as I went.
For this practice, I used oil as a medium, and played with several different consistencies of paint. In some places I used a lot of oil. In other places, the paint was thicker. I simply used the colors I already had on my palette — an olive green, lemon yellow, and a bit of vermillion — and at the end I reached for titanium white and dabbed it here and there.
I played with paints. I played with brushes. I played and I had fun. Even without consciously trying, I did create a painting that is, I think, interesting. This practice time gave me renewed hope, made me feel that I can call myself an artist. It served as a good reminder that even though I make a lot of bad paintings, bad pourings, and drawings I don’t especially like, I can also create pretty things. I can make pretty swirls of colors, paint pretty scenes of skies and fields, and draw pretty pictures now and then.
The moral of this story is that ugly days will come along. But they can be followed by prettier ones. Bad days go away. I’m looking forward to better days ahead.