Sunday, May 1, 2022

Lessons from my paint box

 May welcomed me this morning with grey skies and rain. Slowly buds are emerging on the Pagoda Dogwood tree and the rain seems to illuminate those buds. No matter how busy the days are for me, I take time to pause and look at the changes each season brings. Spring is my favourite season. I feel a bounce in my step as I walk around the garden and a sense of relief that the winter season has passed.

Here at my desk, there is an unending stream of work. I am so grateful for my private students and my online classes that allow me to work from home. Commission work has come in and I am catching up on pen orders as well. Now and then, despite the work load and deadlines, I encounter creative blocks. Sometimes, there are just too many things going wrong to work in any sort of practical way at the desk. Recently, my paint box taught me a valuable lesson. 

My paint palette has travelled to my teaching locations with me. It has been to Europe, Asia and all over North America. When I worked  in my little Harry Potter Cupboard Under The Stairs, Oscar would sleep on top of the palette as I painted. It was constantly filled with cat hair but I never had the heart to wash it out. I would top up paint as needed,  but I would never remove paint that was giving me a hard time as I worked. It just seemed wasteful to get rid of it, but even as I demonstrated on camera, I could feel the paint giving me trouble. But this past week, I actually cleaned the entire palette out removing the good paint along with the bad paint. It took me two hours to remove the old paint with hot water, paper towels and a butter knife. I scraped off what I could and then scrubbed the rest off. I was actually procrastinating from working on a challenging pen request when I decided to clean the palette. After the paint was removed, I refilled the paints with the understanding that I would never get my palette back to exactly the same way I had it before. I did not have to purchase new paints, I refilled my palette from tubes of paint that I have accumulated over the years. 
The palette is now free of all Oscar's cat hair, the paint is refreshed and responsive, and I have a general idea of the positioning of each dollop of paint. The refreshing of the palette helped free up the creative block because I wanted to try out the paint right away. I let the paint dry in the palette for full day before working but what a difference the fresh paint made to my work. No deadlines or pressures had changed, just the paint. I was not fighting with old paint. The new paint was flowing so well. I have many paint boxes and paint palettes, but this little Mijello palette is the workhorse of my studio and shows up for most of the jobs I have to do. If I want to use different paint, I pull out a different paint box with other pigment choices. I systematically change things up when faced with a creative block. Sometimes a new colour in the paint box is all I will need to work through an idea.
The first project of the refreshed palette was a Glittering Vine for my Edmonton Calligraphic Society class this weekend. I experiment with colour variations as I worked through some ideas for this vine. 
One vine led to another and the refreshed paint helped me finalize some ideas for my July Captivating Curves class with The Gentle Penman. Captivating Curves a more casual look at scroll designs with some Rococo influences while intensifying the drawing and painting techniques for acanthus. Fresh paint helped to refresh my ideas. The procrastinating detour was actually a time saver and frustration reliever.


It's ok to struggle and give in to defeat when faced with a creative block.   Sometimes " a change is as good as a rest." In this case, fresh paint worked wonders. As a teaching artist, I have to repeat my process and content to new groups of students over and over again. I have never been bored with my work but sometimes there are ideas I want to get out on paper that need to take a back seat to an urgent deadline. This can be difficult to manage at times. No matter what deadlines or pressures you are facing, sometimes you need to back off a bit and just do something else. Normally a stroll through the garden, a trip to the flower shop or browsing through antique shops will refresh my senses and bolster my soul. But this time, the sheer satisfaction of indulging in fresh paint brought an unexpected refreshing.  As I end this post and get back to work on another deadline, I hope you can hear me cheering you on as you go about the work in front of you. Remember to nurture yourselves in your creative process. Take the breaks you need as you go along.  Sending hugs across the world on this first day of May, 2022.

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