Do you find when you get your drawing and painting supplies out, you then start to tense up? Do you notice that the more you fiddle, struggle and try to ‘get it just right’ – the more work it needs?!
Relax. Surround yourself with serene calming subjects and scenes.
Avoid clutter and overload, getting overwhelmed and trying to get it perfect!
When there’s a Constellation of Rules clamouring for attention in your head (art basics, ideas, colours, design, depth, tones, etc.) it really is difficult to achieve clarity and calm.
There are few things more irritating to an artist than finally having the time, sitting down getting started, just to find you are too tense and anxious to really progress properly with the artwork!
If that happens to you sometimes, you might try these 5 action items that help me de-stress and paint with more freedom and with boldness.
In my own experience in the classroom over the years, we all create best when we are calm, focused and not anxious. We need to find ways to trick our minds into believing yes, we are relaxed, at ease and energised to create.
Routine Tips, Relaxing before Painting
I find a routine involving 5 senses works great, relaxing me and putting my mind straight into the moment. Being mindful of the present moment, not fearing what could happen, or what someone might say later – is really the key.
The 5 items: hearing, smell, taste, touch and sight
step 1 put on some calm soothing nature, zen type music
step 2 make a cup of nice aromatic jasmine green tea in a lovely ceramic cup
step 3 sit down with 2 types of paper or canvas (very rough and very smooth)
step 4 as you are listening to the music play, sipping the jasmine scented tea, reach out and explore the fabric and textures of the paper/canvas surfaces. Feel the rough pebble like finish contrasting with the satin smoothness of the other surface.
step 5 choose one of the surfaces to use today. 4-5 minutes have now gone by and you most likely are at least 50% less stressed if not more!
By becoming deeply absorbed with each of your senses (taste, smell, sight, hearing, touch) you have effectively blocked out – for that time period – the negative stress factors, leading you into a much more relaxed frame of mind.
If you start to get tense in the midst of the painting…take another Tea and Music break, in the other room. Then return.
A few more tips that I can share with you that I use frequently are:
Choose Cool Palette Colours
I recognise ahead the type of mood I may be in, and choose calmer colours and subjects to help bring me back into a more serene and focused mindset. Cool grey greens, moss, aqua, ocean blues,mauve, etc. are much cooler and calmer than Scarlet, Magenta, Fuchsia, Hot Pink, Fluoro Orange.
One main art basic to focus on per painting
If you are a complete beginner, just focus on one major art basic guideline per painting for a while. As you progress, then add a couple more, per week. Absolute beginners have plenty already to think about: colour mixing, brush strokes, basic techniques, etc. You don’t need to break the camel’s back with 25 more items to remember to get right.
Painting more than just one painting
Next, I don’t paint only one painting per session, anymore. For most of us, its a guarantee to tense up, and stress out. I’ve learned to have about 2-3 surfaces “ready and waiting” for paint to be splashed on them. I’m more likely to fiddle and overwork if I expend all my days effort and energy on just ONE painting. If there are 2-3 paintings…I divide my energies. Less fiddling.
This is my mindset: I have papers… waiting for me! It seems to work fairly well.
Be influenced by, be inspired by the masters such as Monet
I really would like to emphasize one of the major reasons we get tense in the first place is that quite often we are trying to copy something. i.e. replicate an exact duplicate of the object. And it is this, that causes the most amount of stress in our neck and shoulders. Heads too.
What to do instead? I like to explore and research great artists: Morandi, Fred Williams, Degas, O’Keefe, Edward Seago, Matisse, Monet, John Singer Sargeant, Corot. I get somewhat acquainted with their colour, subject, tonal, brush stroke preferences as well as something about them personally. Perhaps a pithy quote.
If my inner artist gels, connects with that artist – at that point, I may decide to create an artwork that has been Influenced By this artist. I’d use a palette, subject, brush, canvas they may have liked – whilst keeping true to my own inner artist. By doing this, I am far less likely to become stressed out about Copying…. About getting it to look like a Replica. Yippee!
Take a Break
The other action item I’ll do is to get up every 20 minutes, walk around outside, come back with a fresh eye. And my neck and shoulders feel a lot better too.
Its pretty simple.
It doesn’t take long at all. Its worth giving it a go – ‘testing’ it, to see if these strategies really work, or not!