Too Much of a Good Thing

Remember the Christmas gift I gave to myself? It was a year’s membership at Artists’ Network. So, now a month later, am I enjoying my present?

Yes, I am, but I’ve had to step back a bit and really give a little thought to how I can best make use of it.

First, let me go back to the words I wrote when I shared my decision to join: “My one concern is that there are so many areas to explore, I might find myself getting overwhelmed!” Even though I had a plan of action — to pursue only features on graphite drawing, loose watercolor, and landscape oil painting — it’s still a challenge for me to stay focused on a site like Artists’ Network where there are so many different resources available.

While I’ve enjoyed the videos I’ve watched and have learned from the articles I’ve read, I was beginning to feel that it’s all too much of a good thing for me. Yes, I was getting overwhelmed.  But, instead of letting it happen and then struggling to deal with it, I’ve chosen to be a bit more proactive. I’ve searched out ideas on how to stop these feelings in their tracks!

The most important advice I’ve found is a need to know the WHY behind the feelings. Whether it’s stress from work, a feeling of having too many things to do, or having too much information to take in, once we can pinpoint the cause, we’re in a better position to deal with it. Once we understand the problems, we can look for solutions.

So, WHY do I find Artists’ Network so overwhelming? Mostly, I think, it’s because it presents too many possibilities for me. Even when I narrow my focus to specific areas — drawing, loose watercolor painting, landscape oil painting — I still have too many choices to consider as I scroll through the resources available. I have to take a different approach.

Here’s an analogy that might seem a bit odd, but it’s much like shopping for me. My husband and I have two very distinct “shopping styles”. He goes into a store and browses around, looking at this or that, comparing different items, checking out new things, and all the while enjoying the experience. Not me. I hate shopping. When I go to a store, I go in with a specific list. I know what I want, I go to it, I buy it, I leave. Going shopping with my husband overwhelms me — just as browsing through resources at Artists’ Network does.

What I can see from this is that I need to be even more specific about what I’m looking for when I visit the site. Instead of scrolling through dozens of different possibilities, I need to look for resources that will be most helpful. Instead of browsing through “watercolor” options, I need to decide beforehand what I want to find. I can then go directly to it, thereby tuning out all the other distractions.

Another helpful idea for dealing with “overwhelm” is to accept our feelings and acknowledge negative thoughts.

I sometimes find myself thinking, “Oh, I shouldn’t let this upset me,” and as a result, I become more — not less — upset. When it comes to art, especially, I do still have negative thoughts and feelings. Am I really an artist? Do I really belong on a site like Artists’ Network? Will I be able to learn new techniques that I can really use? Or am I just wasting my time and money?

Instead of trying to deny these feelings, it’s better to accept them. Yes, I sometimes have doubts about my art, I often feel inadequate, I know I’m not a “natural” artist. But, I know, too, that these are universal feelings. We all have our doubts, our disappointments, our uncertainties. Instead of feeling that maybe I don’t belong, I can relax and feel that I’m in the best place I can be, a place where I can learn and practice new techniques.

Another great suggestion is to do what we enjoy. While studying art, I’ve pushed myself to do a lot of things I haven’t really enjoyed. It’s been part of a learning process — following along with drawing exercises for perspective, forcing myself to try various painting exercises I didn’t like, taking part in challenges that didn’t really suit me or my “art style” — and yes, I have learned from all I’ve done. I’m now at a point where I’m defining my own style, making my own choices, and learning by doing. It’s important now for me to be more selective in what I do. I need to create art that I like, to draw and paint in ways that make me feel good.

Of course, there are other good tips, too, like taking a few deep breaths, stepping away from things now and then, and practicing “mindfulness” or meditation.

What I’m learning is that I’m in control here. Instead of sitting back and letting myself become overwhelmed with possibilities, I can step up and take charge. It’s wonderful to have so many possibilities and opportunities to explore art, but it’s still up to me to approach learning in a way that really works for me.

Now, before I begin my day in the studio, I’m going to sit here, shut my eyes, take a deep breath or two, and visualize myself closing all those open tabs on my computer — and in my brain. Yep, it’s working. I’m starting to feel more relaxed already.

11 Comments

  1. When I decided to get an MFA in design for the theatre, I was in my late 30s. I had plenty of practical experience in theatre but no art class experience. None. English major! At my interview for admission the man who became my major advisor reassured me that I could learn to draw. He said, “Drawing is a skill, like typing. It can be learned.” He was right, in that I learned to draw well enough to communicate my ideas clearly. I think it helped that theatre designs are always called sketches or renderings, because the actual work of art isn’t the costume sketch, it’s the finished costume onstage on an actor or dancer…. the drawing is just a communication tool, so it can always be torn up and done over. That really takes the pressure off! So a sketch for a painting doesn’t have to be a work of art…. hope that takes the pressure off for you.

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    1. Yes, making “sketches” is a different mindset, and that’s very helpful. I used to laugh at some of the crazy “sketches” I made for oil paintings. Mostly scribbles — but I knew what all those scribbles meant. You nailed it when you said it’s a “communication tool”. That’s what matters. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  2. you are so much more dedicated to most of this learning stuff than i am- at least as afr as videos and classes, etc. Several times now i have signed on for a patreon one and months later finally remember ive been paying for it and should use it. I just cant seem to stay focused. I learn one thing and then my brain feels satisfied or something..But i do put a lot of time into learning on my own , i paint daily. Right now, just really still liking watercolors but am tippy toeing into alcohol inks. I have a set of irridescent ones coming. Need to find the best medium. I have yupo paper and am thinking that may be my best bet as far as effects, but problem is i have only found one pen that will draw over it…

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    1. I would think a Sharpie would work on Yupo. I’ve read online that Posca pens will work. Let me know how you like the iridescent inks. I love playing with alcohol inks, but all I can do is make very random “abstract” paintings. 🙂

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      1. Good information to have! I remember soon after I got my set of alcohol inks, I did try doing a little “pen-and-ink” drawing/painting on Yupo paper. I had such big ideas… but they just didn’t work for me. LOL. Story of my art life. I do find the alcohol inks fascinating, and I love seeing what talented artists can do with them.

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      2. i am determined to learn…one thing i quickly realized is that alcohol inks work way differently than watercolor inks, acrylic inks and calligraphy inks. I have some of each and thought i could mix them easily, but not so..i have been reading that some work well in air brush set ups so maybe someday i can afford that. And a friend told me to try using the back side of photo paper as an alternative to expensive yupo. They are very intense colors so i really wanna get better at pushing them around and making actual shapes on purpose:)

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      3. Do you have a little hand-held air blower? They are really helpful for moving in around. I haven’t used alcohol inks in an air-brush, but I did buy a few very small spray bottles at Amazon to use with the inks. They create a very “misty” spray. If you don’t have the little blower, let me know and I’ll find the link to the one I purchased.

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