Evolving as an Artist: My 2019 Resolution

Self portrait–Oil on canvas

I’ve always been creating, drawing, painting, but in 2018 I finally decided to pursue art as more than just a hobby. I started an Etsy and have been a part of local art gallery shows, and even won a ribbon at the state fair! I knew, because of my success–albeit minor, but still exciting–that I’d finally found the right career path for me.

But something got snagged around August, and I began to have a bit of an existential crisis. *Why* was I creating? What made my art different or important or ______? I was also struggling with this weird “I must choose only one medium” mentality, and which only starved my creativity more.

Not only that, but labels became sort of an obsession. Was I a fine artist? An illustrator? Was I going to be better known for my generic nature stuff? My bunny portraits? Was I going to be a zentangler on the side? Lots of people have told me I should become a children’s book illustrator. Why wasn’t I pursuing that? Should I be sending out more emails to agencies? What if I don’t want to illustrate children’s books? Does that mean I’m drawing the wrong things? What should I be drawing instead?

I got a break from this during Inktober because I was, well, having fun. In hindsight, I also notice that I most enjoyed the paintings/drawings in which I just did whatever I felt like and ignored that inner voice with all the questions.

Synapses–Watercolor and gouache on cold press

As soon as Inktober was over, I returned to the funk. I painted boring generic stuff because I felt that was what I was supposed to be painting. I stuck with Arches paper and let myself run out of my beloved Canson hot press. I limited my tools to just watercolors and/or the occasional pen. I even bought ink to try and narrow myself further to just brushes and watercolor. Occasionally I would start a cute illustration of a humanoid animal, but those remain unfinished and are still scattered in various places within my dining room art studio.

My 2018 New Year’s Resolution had been simple. I was going to follow my flow. I was going to listen to my heart instead of my brain. Be more intuitive. Let go of the nonsense and just be free. I realize I’ve been failing miserably these past few months. Instead of listening to my subconscious, I’ve been limiting myself. And starving.

Nonetheless I’ve been cheerful, which is strange because when I was trying to pursue a career in writing, existential crises like these would ruin my entire day/month/year. But art, no matter how “forced” it is, is still fun for me. It still puts me in a good mood and makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something.

So, bruised but not broken, I joined Skillshare. For those of you who don’t know, Skillshare is a website where creators from all over the world come together and teach classes on anything you can think of. I’ve been interested in it for a while, but it wasn’t until a friend gave me a code for the two month free trial that I decided to give it a try. I figured that perhaps learning a few things would help me gain some new perspective on the “why” of my art.

Girl in the Fog–Watercolor on cold press

The first class I took was by artist/illustrator Marie-Noelle Wurm, whose abstract art is just mesmerizing, and whose illustrations are imaginative and sometimes dark. The class was called: Abstract Watercolor Paintings: Explore Through Freeform & Planned Process.

I’m so glad this was the first class I chose to take! Had I chosen something different, a technical class, for instance, I might have slid down a different path (and crashed and burned).

This class was all about what my entire resolution had been about: following our flow. A few of the takeaways from the class:

* Art is about choices. When you’re ready to begin a freeform piece, limit these choices to one brush and one color.

* Stay in the moment. When you find that anxiety start to set in, regroup and return to the moment.

* Experiment. Play. Have fun. Basically, I need to just splash around and see what shapes the puddles make.

Because I loved this class so much, I decided to take several more classes by her, in which she uses all sorts of materials. In one video she’s using watercolor, the next she’s using charcoal and dying markers! Her studio is a playground. And dammit, I want a playground!

For 2019 my resolution is to not limit myself. If I want to use watercolor, I’ll use watercolor, if I want to use oils, then dammit I’ll use oils. If I want to use charcoals and colored pencils and acrylics all on one piece, then I’m game. Art, for me, has always been about having fun and trying new things. I just needed someone–in this case, a badass teacher–to remind me of this.

Despite the many existential crises, 2018 was one of the very best years of my life. In my art I got to be a part of gallery shows, share my coloring pages with kiddos, enjoy an art crawl, and more. In my home life, I got to enjoy my family, go on numerous hikes, and cozy up to many rainy days, and I’ve watched Goo grow an artistic passion of her own.

Here’s to 2019, friends. Happy New Year to you!

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