Are you Good Enough?

Damn right you are!

Don’t believe everything you think. If you’re thinking you’re just not good enough you’re allowing negative thinking to take over and wasting time and energy feeling unnecessarily unhappy and discontent.

Not reaching a particular place yet that you want to be in your life doesn’t mean you are failing. If you are putting in the time and making the effort then you are exactly where you’re meant to be. Too many of us equate success with perfection and if we’re not perfect then we are failing. We miss the point that failures or missing our goals are often valuable lessons that are helping us on our way. Being ambitious is no bad thing but doesn’t serve us well if we don’t focus on the present and on our process without constantly striving for a particular result. Things will be more relaxed and fun if we can let go of results and go with the process.

Comparing ourselves with others is another big mistake. Social media tends to record people’s highlights and successes. Not many people share the lows and failures, but they are having them just the same, just like the bad days and the worries and cares that the rest of us have. Oh, and they’re probably comparing themselves to others too so time to stop playing that fool’s game. Just keep in mind that there are and always will be, people higher and lower on the rung than you which is another reason to just concentrate on where you’re at right now. When the time comes to climb another rung it will be far more satisfying and rewarding if you have been fully engaged with your previous level rather than carrying frustration and discontent with you. Happiness is about being at peace with where you are right now and not with where you are not. Enjoy each stage as fully as you can.

So, if you are going to enjoy each stage it probably means occasionally checking in that you’re on the right track which is what I’ve been doing. Having had my little success of having paintings chosen to exhibit in London last week, I’ve been taking stock of my year to date and what I’ve achieved and what I wanted to achieve. I’ve had many wins this year, most modest but wins just the same that deserve my acknowledgement. However, I’ve been having a nagging feeling about my approach for a while now and have finally faced up to the fact that I’m not very happy with some of the work I’ve been doing recently. I believe that the time I have been giving to gain a social media presence has compromised my quality thinking time for my art practice which has affected my output. Social media is the double-edged sword; it gives us so much access to self-promotion and self-determination, particularly in the notoriously difficult world of the arts which can be just about impossible to break into. It also takes up a great deal of time and strategy planning which in my case has given me less time for my art and what I want and need to express in it. I’m putting the hours in the studio but not my heart and mind in the way that I did when producing the paintings that were selected for exhibition. I am not happy with this. I’m at a time in my life when I can choose for my art and my process to come first before any public recognition.

So, am I good enough? Well yes, I believe I am but if I want to keep being good enough I have to redirect my focus away from social media and towards the studio. Social media doesn’t have to stop dead in its tracks but it’s not getting the amount of headspace it was. That belongs to what I love and must not lose sight of. Lesson learnt. Recognition for me may take far longer, indeed may never come, but I will always make room, and plenty of it, to pursue my passion whilst I can. If happiness is about being at peace with where you are right now and you are not, it doesn’t hurt to carefully examine your situation and attempt to put right what you are getting wrong.

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Creativity is just Hard Work!

It’s a common belief that creativity is a natural skill that not all of us share but research tells us it’s a learnt skill. Just because there are people who are more predisposed to creativity doesn’t mean we don’t all have it. It’s about putting it into practice and the more you practice the better you become.

Creativity may be art, music, acting, writing, cooking, business ideas, inventions; whatever it is, it’s how you get in touch with who you really are and why it’s so important. We are all unique so what we create has the potential to be unique also.

Being creative doesn’t mean starting from scratch. It’s about being observant and mindful of the world around us, understanding when something resonates with us. When we make this link with something that fires us up, we have the start of something that we can focus on, analyse why we are attracted to it and work on in a multitude of ways. When all the ways of working with this concept have been exhausted for the time being, it’s good to leave it for a while and let it ferment naturally in its own time. In time it will percolate to the forefront of the mind usually with a burst of ideas and energy.

However, just because you’ve found your burst of inspiration and you’re ready to begin work, it doesn’t mean it will all be plain sailing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve marched into my studio brimming with ideas and enthusiasm to look with despair some time later at the most dreadful painting because nothing came together in the way I imagined. Be prepared to create rubbish! Sorry, but this is all part of the process. It really is important you keep going no matter how awful what you are producing is. Just get it out there. Once you’ve taken the plunge and completed the work, you either have something good enough, or more likely, something to work with that you can respond to. Incomplete work makes that much harder as you’re missing so much information.

You must also work regularly and consistently and do tons of it. This will help you work towards your ambitions with purpose and keep improving your skills. Producing a huge volume of work, no doubt most of it substandard to begin with, means there are more gems to find hidden in it, and as your standard constantly improves there will be more gems than rubbish.

The toughest part of all is letting go of judging your work. You really aren’t the best judge of it and you should leave that to others and just keep producing. We are natural self-critics and rarely feel what we produce is good enough, but very often others don’t agree. That self-criticism can be very destructive, make you despondent and stop you in your tracks. Don’t let it. It’s important to share your work, that’s what creativity is about and it makes the world a richer place. It can also give you important feedback and spur you on to produce even better work. Of course you are risking negative criticism too, but take Brené Brown’s advice on that and don’t accept it from anyone who hasn’t put themselves out there and left themselves open to judgement also. Criticism is good if it’s delivered in a constructive and helpful way so that it helps you to improve. If it’s cruel and negative it’s worth diddly squat and should definitely be ignored.

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How I Make Decisions

I’m about to go on holiday and have had a hectic few days getting ready. Cup of tea in hand, I went to sit in the garden for a break and found my mind wondering to my art and trying to pinpoint when it went from hobby to something much more serious.

Perhaps I was always serious from the word go. For starters I never do much by halves and when I first started painting I was constantly frustrated by not being able to do this technique, not understanding that one, how on earth do you get the paint to produce that? I bought so many ‘How To’ books which for the most part were not very helpful. I think when you are right at the beginning you need a teacher in the flesh to help you. You Tube videos certainly helped more than the books but not always. With anything new you have a new language to learn, in practice as well as verbally and it can be very difficult to properly absorb ideas until you get a good basic smattering of that language nailed down. Learning is so difficult for the impatient and that probably means most of us! Thankfully there are many workshops and courses out there but always, always, they only take you so far.

In no time at all I was looking at Fine Art degrees and the like but when you get to that level the plain old business of painting seems to go out the window and it all gets far more theoretical when all I wanted was good painting skills. When I finally did find a year long course to teach this it was very expensive and I was paralysed trying to work out if I could afford to do the course, and if so, was it all a bit over the top for a hobby, no matter how much I enjoyed it? However, I kept feeling frustrated by not making the progress I wanted and coming back to the course repeatedly but unable to commit myself.

Courtesy of So Flow

Two factors helped me make the decision to proceed. My mother died, and the following year after 8 months of being very unwell, I had triple by-pass surgery. My mother’s life had been one of struggle, disappointment and very much one unfulfilled despite many attempts by various family members to persuade her to broaden her horizons and enjoy life. That, and shockingly facing my own demise at a relatively young age owing to rogue genes, gave me a whole new perspective on what things are important in life and how true is that old adage, “you only live once”. It was a gift really because now I always weigh a thing up based on what happiness it will bring into my or another’s life, rather than any other kind of return. Whilst painting is unlikely to make me a living or even pay for itself with regard to courses, workshops, materials and so forth, it brings so much joy into my life in a multitude of ways and gives me the most powerful means of self expression that I’ve ever had. Every application of paint on the canvas is followed by questioning whether it makes me feel good or not and what I don’t like gets covered up. So, in terms of whether it’s a path worth following, for me, it’s a no-brainer.

Of course, once that year was over I was looking for another way to get to the next level and it became apparent to me that this is how it will always be. I want to take my painting as far as it can go. Sharing, exhibiting and selling it, is all part of growing and improving and constantly pushing it on. There are always amazing teachers out there to encourage you, fellow artists to inspire you as well as help on their journeys, and viewers whose enthusiasm invigorates and stimulates ever better work. I can’t tell you what a far happier and more content person I have become measuring my decisions against how much love and joy can result rather than more materialistic or practical concerns that have a habit of sorting themselves out anyway. Life without happiness and joy is no life at all and not how I am going to live my life. My only regret is that I didn’t come to this realisation far sooner!

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