6 Ways to Make Art with Abandon

Since October 2011, I have been painting like a wild woman.
There have been some breaks, since I do teach full-time
and don't want to ignore my family--but this has been
an incredibly productive time. Now I am reflecting on
this time and hoping to continue these productive habits.


Well, don't go out and get one. But that is what got me
started in October. A tumor was found, and I waited 5
weeks through many tests to find out if it was cancerous.
In the meantime, I painted as a DISTRACTION from
the stress and didn't over-think it. It was medicine for
anxiety, but after I found out that I don't have cancer,
painting became a CELEBRATION that I get to live.
Turn the lights down, music up and make art.

that your adult mind says are silly, childish, cliché or over-
done. They continue to be fascinations for good reasons.
Your fascinations are what keep showing up in doodles or
day dreams, documentaries you can’t help but watch,
websites and books you are drawn to, what you love to
photograph, what you talk and think about. Fascinations
are sweet, delicious carrots that we too often ignore as we
take life too seriously and do what is expected of us. At
some point a few years ago I stopped painting sheep and
pears. Was I tired of explaining to people why I was
fascinated with them? One of the biggest problems with
ignoring our HEALTHY IMPULSES is that we develop
unhealthy, self-destructive kind of habits instead. Also,
keep in mind that current fascinations are the most direct
path to new ones, like my new bird fascination.
Ewe meet bird!

I See You, 2011

3. SIMPLIFY THE PROCESS. Okay visionaries,
stop making it so overwhelming. For those of us who
are fortunate and unfortunate enough to have studied art
in college, art-making feels complicated. It does require
higher level thinking, but it is what artists do. And if we
don’t do it, we are not too pleasant to be around. One
way I have simplified the process is enjoying each small
step. One day I will enjoy the simple pleasure of mixing
colors and playing with color schemes. The next day I
will sketch. The next I will use those fabulous colors
that I mixed to combine my sketches into an image that
seems like it is magically appearing on canvas.
SIMPLIFYING anything involves not getting
overwhelmed with the big picture. Progress happens
with breaking it into doable pieces. Most people know
this is the only way that overflowing storage room will
get organized, but it is also the only way that my over-
flowing imagination will be productive.

Don’t wait for the lightning bolts to give you ideas or
to shock you into action. Don’t wait for the perfect
conditions or other people to encourage you to make art.
MOVE. Create your own friction, and there will be sparks.
If you have read anything by Twyla Tharp, Julia Cameron,
or David Bayles & Ted Orland (I recommend all of
them), then you have heard the news. The more art you
make, the greater the odds of creating masterpieces. Art
is not about perfection anyway. Most art is about being
vulnerable, imperfect, and communicating something
from our depths. Choose to work WITH ABANDON,
NOT PERFECTION. Since perfectionism is paralyzing,
it will never help you to be very productive. More is

I overheard one of my students saying “My phone is my
life!” If you are over 30, you probably have a more tense
relationship with computers, cameras, and at&t
customer service. Remember this. Artists have been
the first to EMBRACE and reinvent technologies through
the ages. And in this age, digital technology is an art tool
as well as a platform for sharing your work. Make it
WORK for you. Sharing my work on this blog and
knowing that it is often viewed by my friends on their
smart-phones keeps me motivated to keep painting and
updating. Also, I have been amazed at how simply taking
digital photos with my smart-phone or camera enhances
the painting process. Analyzing the photos of in-progress
paintings has been an important part of my painting
process for the last six months. And, if I want to try a
color in a painting without wasting paint? Thank you

6. TIME IS ON YOUR SIDE. You know how those
scary fitness people tell you that lack of time is not a
good excuse to skip exercise? WELL, that is as true for
art-making. Yes, art-making is time-intensive, and no one
likes to be interrupted, but daily 30 minute spurts do
wonders to keep enthusiasm for life and art-making alive.
I discovered this in November. My life was busy, but one
or two 30 minute painting spurts a day led to getting large
canvases done over a week or two. I didn't like getting
interrupted, but the time in between increased the

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