Artists create beauty — so let's do it! Don't let the critics get you down. Know that what you do MATTERS.
Well, it’s been quite a month, hasn’t it? I hope you’ve been able to find some creative time in the middle of the tumult, whether to paint, to draw, to do collage or mixed media, to write, or any combination of each of these.
We live in historic times, and whether the art we’re making reflects the times we’re in, responds to these times, or creates a refuge from them, art making matters.
In the middle of all of this, we had a debate about a proposed mural here in Calistoga. Comments got a bit heated on NextDoor. You know how it is sometimes — everyone’s a critic, and everyone will have their own idea about what artists should do. Some of those people will know a lot about art, and some won’t.
Some of my comments to the Planning Commission were quoted in the Calistoga Tribune (I did get choked up a bit when I read those comments to the commission, because I think it matters to us all, as artists).
Perhaps you’ll agree with me that people who want to tell artists what to do (unless we’re creating a commercial or commission piece specifically for them) ought to pick up some art materials, take a class, and make art themselves. You and I know they’ll discover it’s not as easy as they might think, right?
Fortunately, the artist in question said he has a thick skin (and the mural was approved). My remarks included this, some of which was quoted in the Tribune article:
Everyone will have their own opinion. Everyone likes different things, different styles. Art takes many forms, and that’s what creativity is about — not conforming to other people’s tastes and trends. Artists create beauty — let us do it!
I added, Right now, when we look up at the hills, we see burnt and blackened trees and fields. We need color, to bring a smile to our faces.
We need art in the world right now, for so many reasons! So… remember, if your own inner critic starts bossing you around, send it somewhere else (a walk to CalMart to get chocolate? A nice, long hike up the Oat Hill Mine Trail?). Maybe we can hand outer critics a pen, pencil, or paintbrush, and say, “Here. Give it a try.”
Remember that the art you make does not need to conform to anyone else’s tastes or trends. It can serve different purposes — it can be highly personal, just for you; it can be work you want to share and show. But the main thing is, it is yours. And it matters.
Sometimes painters tend to get so absorbed in color and pigment and texture that they forget to take time to sit and just draw (yes, I know whereof I speak).
But drawing is not only helpful, but essential, as a foundation for painting, no matter what kind of painting you do. And there are many different ways to approach your drawing.
My brother and sister-in-law sent me some pears for Christmas, and, of course, I couldn’t eat them until I’d at least drawn them. So, the other day, I drew some of them (making time lapse demo videos, of course) in different media and styles.
Here are some of the results — at the top of this post, from left to right:
If you don’t have the time or space to paint, quick sketches of whatever you’ve got nearby are a great way to keep making art. And the more you do, the stronger your drawing muscles will get.
(A neighbor on NextDoor, online, said she could send her inner critic hiking up the Oat Hill Mine Trail here on the edge of town, and let it strengthen its calves — and exercise her drawing muscles at the same time. How’s that for staying in shape during quarantine time?)
The more you draw, the more it will help you see things closely. So, whatever you feel like painting — whether it’s pears or oak trees; people, dogs, or cats; vineyards or shoes (hey, the latter make good subjects for drawing); or the most glorious imaginary thing you can think of — developing a drawing practice will make your paintings stronger.
Just think: you can work out your drawings and paintings, your drawing muscles, and your inner critic’s calves at the same time, all from home. How’s that for an exercise program?
Now... where's my bamboo pen? I haven't used that in a while.... 🙂
How are you doing? The news is a little nuts right now! These are definitely historic times — ones we need to get through, one day at a time, keeping our physical and emotional health.
If you’re feeling a little stressed, you may want to make some art. One option might be painting like an expressionist — get your feelings down on the canvas with paint, get your inner critic out of the way, and just paint!
It could also be something particularly meditative, such as drawing mandalas, drawing Zentangles (intricate patterns), creating collages, or even scribbling with crayons. If you draw mandalas or patterns, you can color them in with markers, or colored pencils, or anything else that appeals to you.
You could paint hearts (or anything else) on rocks, and then surreptitiously put them in your neighbors' yards, or wherever they might be discovered. (Sharpies or Acrylic Paint markers work well for this, too.) Doing a kindness for others makes us feel better, and our creative gifts give us options to make things that others might not think of….
Perhaps a little less art-y, but definitely creative, my holiday project was printing family photographs that my mother can’t see on Facebook (she avoids computers) and labeling them so she knows (and we do, too) who’s related to whom, across the generations.
When I thanked my Swedish cousins who sent photos, as we exchanged photos in messages, and told them I’d be printing the photos for her, several of them sent lots more, with their love. My little photo album turned into three volumes, with artistic covers and title pages!
If you’ve got someone you care about who’s feeling stressed or isolated, maybe creating something as a special gift for them would lift their spirits (and yours, too). When my mother called me to let me know she’d received the book, I could hear the happiness in her voice. She’s loving looking through them, and knowing that they were sent especially for her.
We can use our creative gifts in so many ways — we’re so very lucky that way. And plunging into a creative project that will make someone else’s day (or week, or lockdown time) a little brighter may be a good use of our time — and brighten our time, too.
Here's to creating brighter times for ourselves and those around us!
We can use our creative gifts in so many ways — we’re so very lucky that way. And plunging into a creative project that will make someone else’s day (or week, or lockdown time) a little brighter may be a good use of our time — and brighten our time, too.We can use our creative gifts in so many ways — we’re so very lucky that way. And plunging into a creative project that will make someone else’s day (or week, or lockdown time) a little brighter may be a good use of our time — and brighten our time, too.
Karen Lynn Ingalls
I am a working artist in Napa and Sonoma Counties, in northern California. I paint colorist landscapes of rural California, teach art classes, workshops, and private lessons, live in Calistoga, and have my art studio in Santa Rosa, California.