As artists, we know what it’s like to give. In each painting you create, you are giving your vision, time, soul, spirit, energy, money, feelings and struggles. Every time you put down your brush, the good, the bad, all that is you, is being displayed right there on the canvas. As an artist, I live this almost daily. As a teacher even more so.
As a teacher, you not only give it away in your painting but you’re scaring away the total of all those years of knowledge you have accumulated yourself, every lesson, every challenge, every victory. Multiply this not only once but by the 10 individual students you are helping see and achieve their desired results four times in each class, classes two, sometimes three times a day - that’s 80 to 120 giveaways, or drops out of your fuel tank, per day. Without even realizing it, you are always giving, and your tank is getting less and less full. And then if you have a tiny life outside of what you are throwing into your work, like a home, a pet, a family, you might notice that your sub-conscience gets a wee bit tired. Giving is a LOT of brainwork, although as artists, and this is what we're made to do, we still run down the creative gas tank until it’s almost empty!
I know that this is beginning to happen when I start to have a hard time choosing what subject to paint or even sometimes what colour palette to choose. Occasionally it’s just that the placement of an object is off or something feels lacklustre and a wee bit rote. When these things happen, I know it’s time to take a step back, recharge those batteries, and refuel the old gas tank. We all need to replace what we’re giving away. Like mayo, all that creativity you dig out and so willingly spread around finally comes to the bottom of the jar - and just like scraping out the last little scoop - OMG the knife just isn’t going to spread anymore. You just need a new jar of mayo.
When this happens, I look for things to replenish my creative reservoir. For me, this is going to see a band play live. Nothing gets me back up and running like seeing musicians work their creative magic. When they play, they are not just playing the music, they are giving it all away, their energy, their years of acquiring knowledge, their magic. They are giving you all of their creative juices just as you do in a painting. I lap up this juicy fuel willingly. And want as much as I can get.
Each of us has our own way of refilling our creative tank. Some people watch movies to get their creative juices going again. Actors on-screen are always giving it away, fully investing in their performances. Even better? Go see a play. I know I know ... a play... who does that? I do. Go see a live performance of a three-act play, an improv show, or the opera! You will be stunned at the energy in the room. Lap it up like a thirsty hound. It’s there for the taking.
Dance, ballet, opera, an air show. What about a night out to see a comedian? Comedians really lay it all on the stage AND to top it off, there are usually multiple comedians performing. How’s that for the price of gas! Whatever floats your boat, remember? Go see someone else give it their all, and get re-energized. Even watching a live hockey game, football game or any other sport may get you what you need.
Try to refill your tank in uninterrupted chunks of time, so YOU can fully invest. Stops and starts during a movie take away the flow of energy. Dim the lights and send the kids to the neighbours, make the popcorn ahead of time and get the box of tissues ready... Creative people really need to engage in other creative people’s efforts. What they are giving away, if you’re open to it, will refill your gas tank. I can’t tell you how many times after seeing a good concert I have had a killer painting happen the very next day.
Personal Note: This whole newsletter was inspired after going to see Jackson Browne and James Taylor play at our beloved Saddledome. A few songs in it hit me... “Boy, I really needed this!” A wonderful mesmerizing night of music, friends and a wee bit of potato water and my tank felt topped up. The very next day I painted a 40x60 in 3 hours. I’m pretty sure the mayo jar was overfilled - Just look at the clouds that spilled out!. If you’re looking to get those visionary juices flowing, get out and see someone else create. You’ll thank them (and me) later.
Clouds over Millarville 40x60.
The 74-years-young James Taylor tore the roof off the Saddledome in a recent concert. Just the re-fuelling I needed to paint this 40x60 landscape the very next morning. Now go get yourself some fresh juice.
Your friend in art, Doug.