A Little Distance

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Last September I publicly announced that I’ve given myself permission to take my art seriously. 

This made things get hard. REALLY HARD.

All of those hopes and dreams and expectations. It was an unbearable weight. A crushing weight.

My declaration opened the door for my internal critics who have been working overtime ever since. Your art isn’t good enough, they said. It will never be good enough.

I cried. I screamed. Some days I couldn’t get out of bed. I told Ron I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep painting.

Then, I kept painting. 

I zoomed in on the weaknesses in my work: my tendency to make the objects in my paintings too consistent in size, my lack of value variation.

Then, I kept painting. 

I took another watercolor class. I tried to paint the same flower three times and never got it right. I cried again—and buried my new paintings at the bottom of a very deep drawer—my Drawer of Shame.

Then, I kept painting. 

I worked with artist mastery guide Marianne Mitchell who introduced me to abstract art and acrylic glazes. I hated some of my work so much that I applied gesso (primer) to the paintings and painted something else right on top. And then hated those paintings even more than I had hated the first set. 

You’d take a lot of pressure off yourself if you stop painting, I told myself.

Then, I kept painting. 

Yesterday my upstairs neighbor, Sharon, came over to see my work. I cringed and opened the Drawer of Shame.

“Ooh, I love that,” Sharon said.

I braced myself and looked down, expecting to disagree with Sharon’s assessment. It was an abstract watercolor I’d painted several months earlier—and been dissatisfied with.

Three months later, I could see that it wasn’t that bad. Some of the paint handling was pretty good. And my choice of using glowing Opera Pink to contrast with deep Indanthrone Blue had paid off. 

As Sharon dug through the drawer, I saw my work with fresh eyes. Clean, bright colors, better use of white space, interesting textures that weren’t there before.

My work is improving. It’s a slow, hard process, but viewed with a little distance, I can actually see it.

I’m glad I kept painting.

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