Some artists like to pull up a stool and sit up close to their easel when painting. There are others like me, who like to stand and create a little more distance.
By standing I can easily step back to get a different perspective of what I’m painting. Mistakes tend to pop out when observed from a distance, but are more difficult to see up close. The larger the work the more this is true.
Standing also allows me to move my whole arm or body as I paint, resulting in more expressive mark making. And standing and moving does my body good.
Furthermore, I try to hold my brush from the middle or the end of the long handle. It’s long for a reason. I can’t get too tight or controlling if I hold it loosely.
Taking a photo and seeing a painting reduced significantly in size can provide yet another perspective. If it doesn’t work at that reduced size it really doesn’t work.
And then there’s time. Walking away for ten minutes, an hour, a day or a month and coming back with fresh eyes shows me that the painting might not appear how I first saw it. Now I know just what to do.
Answer the questions below to see if the principles above apply to you.
• Are you too close to get a true perspective of your progress? For example, are you weighing yourself morning, noon and night instead of weekly, monthly, or not at all? Step back. Try to see the big picture. What additional measures can you use to track your progress? Where else might you need to step back?
• Where are you holding on too tight and trying to control? Do you look at everything you eat as calories or carbs, vs. the pleasure food provides? Lighten up. If you’re going to eat something, enjoy it. Practice trusting yourself. You can’t manage every detail. And why would you want to? Consider slip-ups or errors as part of the process. Perfection is not realistic or achievable.
• Are you judging yourself or your work, or evaluating with blameless discernment?
If you’re feeling bad, you’re judging. Evaluating with blameless discernment is neutral and fosters learning, creativity and growth vs. shame, guilt or fear.
• Can you make the problem smaller? Again, this is about perspective. Right now, it seems like a big problem because you’re in it. But if you can see the bigger picture over time you might see that it’s just a blip. Otherwise, if it’s really not working do you need to start again or let something go (with blameless discernment)?
• Do you need a break? Maybe so. You can walk away from relationships or jobs. But when it comes to self-care don’t ever quit! That’s a relationship with yourself. Perhaps you’ve taken on too much. Instead of quitting, dial things back to a manageable level. Crank it up again when you’re ready.
• Are you focused on what you don’t like, or what isn’t working, while neglecting to acknowledge what is? Grocery shopping regularly is an achievement. Getting to bed at a decent time is an achievement. Eating just the right amount is an achievement. Completing a project, or a portion of it, is an achievement.
You don’t have to throw a party at the Ritz, but taking credit for your wins creates positive feelings that propel you to do more positive things. Focus on your success if you want more success.
It’s equally important, when admiring a finished painting, to look at it from up close and far away. It should work both ways. From across the room you can see the forest. Step closer to appreciate the trees. And so it is with most things. Zoom in. Zoom out.