20-What Should I Paint?

What Should I Paint

When I was about nine or ten years old, I took art lessons from a lady named Mrs. Payne. I remember going to her garage in Southern California where I grew up and entering a strange and unfamiliar world. First, it was messy and chaotic and smelled different than my house. But she let me roam around in it and decide what I wanted to paint from the innumerable choices; It was either books with photographs, dusty stacks of magazine, ceramic figurines and plastic flowers. All a wonderful and strange world to my young eyes. She always let me take it in. She was quiet and calm, not rushing or insistent. So, I got to look.

I was allowed to look unrestricted, unlimited and unrushed. The dusty stack of magazines with the sunlight pouring over it, became the subject of my attention. Also, I was allowed to see through my child’s eyes and learned that those same eye’s were artist’s eyes. This was the fundamental gift. Yes, turning that attention to paper and charcoal and later to paint was important. But learning that it’s not the what but the how that makes art is what Mrs. Payne gave me.

So, it’s not the content, it’s the how. Anything, and I do mean anything can be a worthy subject. A trash can could make an incredible subject. A roll of paper towel a stunning play of color and light. The lingering light across a sidewalk. Furthermore, even seemingly gruesome subjects like an animal carcasses have been transformed into art. If you think you need to travel far and wide or angst endlessly about what to paint, you’re probably not looking through the lens of your artist eyes. Look closer. Slow down. Get quiet.

Trust your heart before you grab your tools to draw and paint.

One of the exercises I have students in my Loosen Up workshops do, is to simply chose a single object from the workshop studio, a cup, a roll of paper towel, a purse and fill an entire sheet of paper with that object and paint it. As a result, some of the most amazing work pours out…it’s a testament to the idea that it isn’t the what, it’s the how.

With Warmest Regards,