Almost every artist I know has lost their mojo for painting for a period of time. In reading Alla Prima by Richard Schmid, I learned one reason why that might happen. (I know, I often quote Schmid.)
Schmid states: “It is hard to exaggerate the advantages of having a variety of starting techniques at your disposal. Unquestionably, a flexible response to the demands of subject matter and conditions is better than having a single individualistic style of working, however satisfying that may be to the ego. Fidelity to your perception of a subject is the whole point of working from life. …paint what you see…Real life…. presents an incomparable visual banquet, and capturing it faithfully the way you see it can be a stunning experience. To diminish that by subordinating it to a safe and set routine that everyone can recognize as yours makes no sense, and it’s no fun either.”
And no fun either! Finally, I get it. Feeling that we have to follow a set way or set of rules to follow can be stultifying. Why not have a variety of ways of working? When I first began as a full-time painter, I experimented constantly with methods, mediums and ways to approach the canvas. It was definitely fun. Then, over time, I heard messages from galleries, magazine articles and art groups that we are supposed to have a recognizable style to be ‘successful’. (The word ‘successful’ and I don’t like each other very much — what’s it mean anyway? Who decides? And how?) I then spent a few years trying to hone my skills to create a ‘style’. Eventually a feeling of shame came over me. Thoughts that the art I was making was sub-parr, invalid if not liked by the majority or accepted by an art group. My artwork suffered. I painted less. Happily, I decided to punt shame out of my personal soccer field. Then I left the soccer field. Mountain views are much better anyway.
We can choose to play it safe, or copy other artist’s styles, or find a comfortable way of doing things. But what if there is something new, something important, that only you can say through your paintings? We need to do the work, gain our skills, and then release ourselves. Through history artists such as Picasso, Klimt, Chagall and so many others were compelled to new ways. If we allow, their creations open our minds.
If I have anything to pass on, it’s this: Be yourself. Let go of fear, expectations, limitations and extraneous crap. Enjoy the heck out of life and your painterly pursuit. Never try to fit into someone else’s idea of what you should be or do (not even from your art mentor). Don’t waste any more time on the negatives. There is too much to do. Your light is needed in this world. Shine on.
Mark Twain said it well: Dance like nobody’s watching; love like you’ve never been hurt. Sing like nobody’s listening; live like it’s heaven on earth.
And I say: Paint like there’s no tomorrow. Go team go!