Don’t Sweat the Curve

I just read a fabulous blog by Jennifer Harnett-Henderson about accepting imperfection in yourself. This is a really hard thing to do. We are our own harshest critics. It got me thinking about the anxiety I used to have as a newbie painter. I couldn’t learn fast enough. I was ashamed of being a beginner and embarrassed by my work. What would people think if they saw this piece or that? I saw flaws where others didn’t. I was my own harshest critic.

Because of my critical eye, I would rework and overwork my strokes, striving for perfection but getting mud instead.  This is an easy trap for beginning artists and it took awhile for me to find my way out of it.

I realized that to progress I was going to have to accept where I was–just off the starting block–and show myself the same grace I would show another beginning artist. As I calmed down and started accepting the learning process I quit overworking my pieces and they started taking on a new life and vibrancy (albeit beginner level).

Jennifer shared in her blog “Psalm 46:10: ‘Cease striving and know that I am God.’ In the notes, that ‘cease striving’ means let go, relax.”

For an artist that means no matter where you are on the learning curve–beginner, intermediate or advanced–let go and relax. Accept where you are in the journey and be satisfied. For today it is enough. You are enough. Each day you will grow, but for today relax and enjoy where your skills are and who you are as an artist.

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19 thoughts on “Don’t Sweat the Curve

  1. Vera Campbell

    I do this all the time ! I hide my work sometimes . It’s hard not to be unsure of yourself . I’ll get better as I go I know this but my brain doesn’t want to accept it . You are doing such a good job on your blog and I’m learning a lot . Thank you so much !

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  2. Irene Read

    That is so true! I was the same as a beginner. When I taught I tried to tell my students of course I make it look easy, I’ve been painting for over 35 years and you will too!

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    1. Lynnette Post author

      Irene, thank you for following me. I’m pleasantly surprised with all your experience that you would want to follow someone who is providing beginner information and advice. Hopefully, I’ll have information for all levels in the near future, but wanted to cover the basics first. I encourage you to add your thoughts too.

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  3. Linda Duff

    Ok I think I do the same thing with my pieces, not the overworking but being so critical of what I paint. I will show them to my husband Dave and he says he likes them. So I should just continue to keep practicing and taking lessons. I feel I am on a journey and will always be on the road.

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    1. Lynnette Post author

      Yes, we are on a journey, Linda. The trick is to enjoy where you are at on the road and not get discouraged that you are not further along.
      I’ve seen a lot of progress in the work that I have seen of yours Linda.

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      1. Linda Duff

        Thanks Lynnette I appreciate that. I know myself I use to be afraid to try somrthing that I woukd like to paint. Now even though I might mess it up at least I try it.

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  4. Alexandra Hennen

    Lynette – I can really relate to how we all feel about our Artwork and being self-critical. A good way to see how far you have come is to look back at your first paintings and then compare with now. That gives me the courage to keep going. Alex.

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    1. Lynnette Post author

      Alex, that is a really great way to check your progress. It helps if you don’t see the earlier pieces everyday, but keep to bring out months or even a year or two later. Sometimes the best time to look back is when we hit the wall. Everyone hits it at one time or another. Maybe the wall will be another post. lol

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      1. Katie Mangan

        Oh my goodness, this sure hit home. I just sat down after reworking my piece for the umpteenth time. Mud Mud Mud. So critical of my work. Thank you for your blog and I hope you are feeling better today. My prayers to you and your husband. You have a been an inspiration to me. Thank you.

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  5. Patti Goke

    Very good words of grace and hope for all painters. I always tell my students that they are where they are supposed to be on their journey and that is a good place to be. That is a kin to “Be still” another translation of Psalm 46:10’s (cease striving). I think that happens when we accept where we are and not to measure where we are on our journey as compared to others. Still/stop our thoughts of comparison, not being good enough, putting ourselves down, thinking that some level of expertise makes us better than others, and all those other emotional and mental roadblocks that stop us from living in the moment of the artistic journey. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Lynnette Post author

      Patti, so eloquently said. Comparisons are rough on the ego. The next step is to think others are comparing their work to ours and finding us lacking. It spirals down from there in thinking that we ARE lacking, when in truth we are right where we should be on the learning curve.

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  6. Sheila Landry

    Hi, Lynette. Thanks for another great post. I also see some of myself in this – even though I am not a beginner! I tend to pick at my painting and it comes to a point where we just need to leave it alone! Sometimes it is easier said than done though! 🙂

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    1. Lynnette Post author

      Thanks Sheila. While I am mainly writing for beginners I hope there are things in these posts that others can glean for their own artistic journeys. I find stepping away from the painting helps a lot. When I start picking at my work I walk away for a while or a day. When I come back to it I see where the fairies have done their magic or I can see a clearer path to whatever corrections need to be done without any emotional turmoil and picking away at the piece.

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  7. Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson

    Hi Lynnette, thank you for mentioning my blog. I am so thankful that you found the post useful. It is also a bit serendipity because I just bought some acrylics and tried my hand at a few pattern paintings purchased at Michael’s. Your beginner information is just right for me. What a great gift! Thank you! Too I pray for your recovery from the sudden storm.

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    1. Lynnette Post author

      Yes, I found your post very insightful and applicable to painting, as well. “I am enough” really resonates with me on so many levels. It’s great that you recently started painting. I hope you’ll find lots of useful tips in my posts. And lastly, thanks for the prayers.

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