Saturday, January 12, 2008

Getting Discouraged (Part 3 of 4) - Nancy Doyle

Following is the 3rd segment of
Nancy Doyle's article,"Getting Discouraged"

Being Discouraged about Our Work:

If we are feeling discouraged about one particular work, or all of our work, that it is not good, or not good enough, etc., there are things that we can do. When struggling with one particular work, when nothing seems to work in it, we can try the actions listed above: turning the work upside down, covering various parts to find trouble spots, coming back in a few days to get a fresh look. Another way is to plow right in, almost like wrestling an alligator. Especially when we are in the first years of painting, this can be an invaluable learning experience; and when it succeeds, the feeling of accomplishment is great. When working with oil paint, especially, there will be times where all you end up with is mud - all the wet colors have mingled together - even mangled - and it seems hopeless. You can scrape the excess paint off with a painting knife and start over, or you can take charge and dive right in, using determination as a weapon. Desperation doesn't usually correct the painting - try to remain calm, and stay focused on what you want to do with the image.

Art is related closely to our mental state; I try to paint only when fresh and well rested; if we are tired or agitated, the image will often mirror this. First - sit down about 10 feet away from the work, and take your time to study it. Compare it to the original idea you initially had; what was it that you wanted to do? Then methodically try to decide what steps you need to take to have the painting in front of you look like your original idea. You may have wanted to show a misty, romantic landscape, or study the geometric structures in a still life. This initial impulse will give you the information you need to make your decisions about how to proceed. Once you have a clear idea of what you want to do, plow right in and do it, scraping off paint if necessary. The very experience of plowing into the image is an empowering one - take the bull by the horns, so to speak.

The main thing about being discouraged is that you keep working through it. Painting is one of those things that lose momentum unless they are kept up, like practicing a musical instrument. I have found that if I stop for more than a few months, I lose ground; when I go back, I don't start at my stopping point - I have gone backward, and it takes extra time to catch up again.

Don't expect masterpieces too soon or too often. Like any activity, it will take time to learn - sometimes a lifetime. If we play golf, how long will it take to be as good as Tiger Woods? The main thing is that we enjoy the activity - it is still enjoyable for us, even if we are not champions. Working to produce masterpieces can be self-defeating; like in Zen philosophy, we have a much greater chance of succeeding if we are not thinking about succeeding. We can trick our minds into thinking that we are going to paint with conviction and energy, for the sheer experience of it, that we don't care if it is "good." That's always when I've done my best work. One trick I use is to listen to carefully selected music; when starting a painting and a bright white canvas is staring back at me, I put on music that is unpretentious, such as folk music. This makes me less self-conscious; I forget about myself and start working. Later, in the midst of the work, I can listen to more spirited music, to get me to be bold and honest in the painting - to remind me of the emotions and ideas I am trying to express in the work. Artists have spoken about the need to forget themselves while working; I find that music helps me do this. I listen to the music which makes my spirit soar (celtic music), without distracting me too much. For instance, I love the Rolling Stones - but if I play them while painting, I end up dancing more than painting, so I try to avoid stuff that is too intrusive.

To read this article in its entirety
without having to wait for the final segment:
To learn more about Nancy Doyle and to view her art:

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