As an artist and designer, it is sometimes difficult finding a balance between ‘work’ and ‘play’. I am fortunate enough to be able to make a living from doing something that I am passionate about – creating and teaching art. But sometimes it is difficult to be able to draw a clear line between the business side of art and the creative side. It is a fine line to walk at times.
I find that the more successful my business gets, the more careful I need to be regarding keeping this balance. It is easy to allow the business side of things to consume every waking hour when things need attention and things are rolling along. After all – we work hard to make our businesses successful. Everyone who has their own business knows how true that is. Add to that many of us are working from our homes, which means we never really clock out or call it a day. Not until our head hits the pillow on most days. We work extra hard for the privilege of being able to doing what we love. And to me, there is no other option. I am so grateful to do what I do that I never mind putting in that extra time that is needed on a daily basis. It is truly a labor of love.
With that said, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take some time to ourselves. Otherwise, it would be easy to allow ourselves to be run down and burn out. Any artist knows that it is difficult to be creative when we are exhausted. Not only when we are physically tired, but emotionally as well. As for myself, I need to have some emotional room in my head to allow myself to think creatively. I need that time to feel as if I can relax, be creative and – yes – learn, as every new piece that I create teaches me something. I believe that is what helps me continue to be excited and productive.
So lately, I have allowed myself to have one “Me” day per week. I have taken to designate every Wednesday as a day when I can take the day off from the business side of things and use it to do whatever I please and just ‘play’ with my supplies and explore different mediums and techniques. While to some non-artists it may seem as if I am doing pretty much the same thing that I do every other day, it is quite the opposite. For the emotional, unseen part of the process is one of freedom to create for the sake of creating. Not for anything that has to really do with the business. This means a world of difference to me. I have come to look forward to these “Me Wednesdays” quite a bit. Especially when I feel overwhelmed or stressed out. It is nice to know there is going to be a definitive break a little down the line. A chance to take a breath and remember the reason I do this. An opportunity to truly enjoy creating with no rules.
I have been following this process for a couple of months now. At first it was difficult for me to not feel guilty about leaving ‘work’ and playing. But as each “Me Day” passed, I saw the positive benefits far outweighed the ‘missed’ day of work and I came back the next day feeling emotionally rested and revived. I am now at a point where it has become routine and something that I look forward to every week. I am glad I decided to do this for myself.
During the past few “Me Days” I have been working on something that is relatively new to me – painting with watercolor. While the beauty of watercolors has always fascinated me, I have found them to be a challenge to control and get to do what I would like. There were several times when I began working with the medium and moved away from it – back to the safety and control of acrylics and pastel pencils. But somehow, they kept calling me back, and as I looked for self-challenges so my artwork would progress, I knew that I wanted to again attempt to ‘tame the beast’ of watercolors and paint with them.
Last evening, I finished my latest attempt at painting using watercolor paint. This is “Joya” – a portrait of a cougar.
“Joya” is created in my Bee Paper Watercolor Sketchbook on 140lb cold-pressed paper. I used Mission Gold Watercolors for the paint, and I used Dr. Ph Martin’s Bombay India Ink for some of the details. The reference photo is by Emmanual Keller who goes by the name of “Tambako the Jaguar” on Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/tambako/) and was used with his permission. Mr. Keller has absolutely beautiful photos and I had written him for permission and guidelines for using his amazing photos. I am a true believer in accrediting photographers, as I would not be able to create art without them. 🙂
I am pretty happy with the outcome of this painting, although I do realize it is not perfect. (What art is, actually?) One friend asked if I was going to frame it and hang it and I am still uncertain. I have been trying to keep what I paint in my sketchbook there, so I can see just how much I improve over time. This really was kind of an exercise for me to practice some of the watercolor techniques and also to work with the inking accents.
I had a comment made to me that “It doesn’t look like watercolor SHOULD look.” I don’t know what to say about that. It was described to me that watercolors ‘should’ have a loose and more – well – watery effect. Perhaps that is what most think of or expect when referring to watercolor. But does it have to be so?
It got me thinking . . .
Are there really ‘rules’ when using a certain art product or medium? Do we have to follow those rules if they do exist? Are the pieces of art that we remember most those that follow along with what is expected from creating, or are the most famous and most treasured pieces those that took a step away from ‘normal’ and took the chance to be different?
As a teacher, I often encounter many pupils who feel the need to recreate the sample project exactly. They stress over things to the point of having to use the exact colors and look of the teacher’s pieces, or they feel that they failed.
That, to me, is quite sad. As art is as individual to each human as their fingerprint. If we wanted things to be exact replicas of another thing, we may as well have pieces that are computer generated. While many things like that can be pleasant to look at, to me they lack emotion and a soul. And I do believe that each piece of art has a soul. It is an extension of the artist. The emotional part that can’t always be seen, but is often felt in looking at a well-done piece.
As artists grow creatively, I see that they tend to travel off the ‘path’ if you will, of the sample piece or reference. As they develop their skills and securities, that is the part of them that they are gifting you through their art – peeking out shyly at first and as they gain confidence and ability, it becomes more evident with each subsequent creation. I believe it is a sign of learning and growth.
With that said, I hope you enjoy “Joya”. I painted him for no other reason than for myself, and because of that, the journey was pure pleasure. I will think of that pleasure every time I look at him – no matter how imperfect or unexpected he may be.
I hope that those of you who follow me who are creators consider these things I mentioned. You don’t have to follow instructions to the letter or restrict your creativity to what is deemed ‘expected’.
Breaking rules will be what makes your art unique. Be true to yourself. ❤