The Top 5 Things I’ve Learned About Myself Through Art

Updated: Nov 29, 2020



Now that it’s November, it’s basically winter to me. I know—way to rush things, Nicole—but in my mind it’s true. The excitement of October is over and now we start the process of nestling in for the long winter season. Trees are very clearly shedding their leaves. I have to wear a parka everywhere I go (I get cold, ya’ll!). And even more importantly, my time of inner-reflection has begun.

This year I’ve seen such growth in my art. I look at the pieces from my shows in the spring and early summer and it doesn’t even look like the same artist. As I move closer to the style that I’ve longed to discover and practice, my abstracts reveal this beautiful journey unfolding in real time.

All of this practice and discovery has led me to understand several things about myself personally—some that are surprising and others that I have long-since known, but needed to reaffirm:

1) Having a daily meditation practice is one of the sacred keys to my art. This is one of the things I’ve known for a while. In fact, I partially credit meditation with opening my creative side. However, despite this, like all things my practice ebbs and flows throughout my adult life. I just began meditating daily again a few weeks ago and I see a difference in my art. I’m looser. If I don’t like something, I’m much more OK with erasing it and starting over instead of powering through. I’m more open to the possibilities. What a beautiful place to be in as an abstract painter!

2) Having life experiences outside of the art studio is a must. I always suspected this but never really felt it—until recently. My husband and I went on a beautiful hike two weekends ago. I couldn’t help but take pictures of leaves and color combinations that inspired me—an orange leaf placed perfectly on a bed of bright green moss. The beautiful colors of the foliage as we look down onto the valley. The way the tree trunks looked as we walked through the state forest. The next day when I sat down to paint, all of my inspiration came from that experience. It was like the creativity poured out of me. The contrast of that moment to my art practice before the hike was jolting and made me appreciate that I need to get out and experience more of life if I want to be a successful artist.

3) I find most greens to be visually offensive. I’ll be honest—this one surprised me the most. Don’t get me wrong—I love to look at green grass and plants, etc, but when it comes to art, I find myself trying to “erase” or fade the green color away as soon as it hits the canvas. I don’t know what it is but every time I put it down, I just imagine the Wicked Witch of the West, and that’s not usually the vibe I’m going for. Therefore, I use it sparingly—with one exception. There’s a pale olive color (displayed in the painting here) that I use regularly as a neutral tone. It’s perfect for me.

4) Red MUST go with yellow. For some reason, whenever I put down red (or some variation), my nearly primal instinct is to go for yellow to balance it out. (Once again, see the painting here as a reference). I’ve tried to resist—believe me. I don’t want everything to look like Ronald McDonald had his way with my art, but one or two steps later, yellow is going in. I’ve noticed that it’s not necessarily the case if I put yellow down first. I’m not sure if this is a normal thing or if it’s just a quirk of my visual palette, but here we are.

5) I NEED more blank/neutral space. I know—I wrote a blog post about this recently, but this relates to my art work. I look back at some of my prior pieces and I see how much color I used—nothing wrong with that, some artists can pull that off great! However, I noticed that my eyes are so busy when I look at them and the effect I was going for can be lost. There’s so much more drama and expression when you can balance neutral space with pops of color. This is an area I’ve been leaning into and will be until I find my own secret sauce.

There you have it! Art is such a valuable tool to get to know yourself better. If you’ve been hesitant to pick up that brush or that pen or pencil, don’t be! You don’t have to create anything “perfect”. Nothing’s perfect. A piece you think is perfect today is the same one you’ll see 2 months from now and say, “Oh wow, that’s not finished yet.” And that’s OK! It means you are growing. 😊

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