What Is Your Mindset To Creating Art?

11:00 AM

An Imaginary Visit To Norway starts March 3rd!
Examining My Approach
Have you ever given any thought to what your "default" mindset as you get ready to create a piece of art?

I didn't when I first started attempted to sketch on location.  Prior to these "attempts," I had always been a studio painter.

One of two things happened each time I went out: I either came home with an empty page or I came home with a page that looked like it had been attacked by a toddler on a manic sugar high. It looked like I'd tried to cram everything I'd seen onto one page, and, well, that's because that's exactly what I was doing. 

Frustration ruled the day. 

I finally started to work out the process of what I was doing and where the breakdown was occurring.  

It took several more attempts (and spectacular fails) before I began to get an inkling as to where and what I was doing "wrong.*"

*It wasn't necessarily wrong so much as it wasn't the best approach for what I wanted to accomplish. Kinda like trying to peel a potato with a butter knife—it could be done, but it would be a slow, laborious process.

“The mindset I used when approaching sketching on location was remarkable similar to the one I used when I approached a full-sized painting in the studio.”

When I worked in the studio, I had control of the temperature, the lights, interruptions, my physical comforts (food, clothing type, etc.) and if I wanted, I could stop and come back later to pick up where I left off.

This allowed me the luxury of capturing every detail, every nuance of shadow, making sure my proportions were spot on and studying the colors leisurely as I made my mind up how to recreate something on paper.

When I approached working on location, I no longer had control of anything! The light changed, there were constant interruptions (bugs, people, rain, wind, not having my stuff organized, etc.). Sometimes I was too hot while I was too cold at other times. And usually, I had a very finite amount of time to capture what was in front of me. Argh!!

No wonder I was not getting the results I wanted.

After discovering my approach wasn't working, I started developing the 5 E's—Evaluate, Eliminate, Edit, Embellish and Exaggerate. But I still needed to work on my mindset.

Why was I sketching on location? What did I want to accomplish given the limitations of working on location? What would satisfy me as a productive, enjoyable outing?

With these questions in mind, I started to grasp that within the limitations imposed by working on location and my weak to nonexistent sketching skills, I was going to have to seriously curtail my expectations of what I could expect to create on the page. I knew, as my skills strengthened, I could hope to capture more on the page, but that was down the road.

I also realized that all those details (that I worship) were seldom necessary, that painting on location wasn't about the details. It was about the whole experience.

“When I went back and re-evaluated those pages from this newly developing approach, I realized that even the lousy, half-finished (as well as the truly awful) attempts were portals back to the day, where I was, what I was feeling, who I was with and the events of the day.


So good OR bad, the sketch was a portal back to a moment in time. A moment that would otherwise have been lost if I didn't make the attempt to memorialize it in my sketchbook!

And that was one of my biggest eureka! moments that has helped me to move forward on my artistic journey.

By recognizing the need for a different mindset when I needed/wanted to work quickly and simply to create a portal back to that specific moment of time, I freed myself from being slave to expecting perfection, capturing every detail and feeling like a failure when I didn't recreate a page worthy of a spot on the gallery wall!

What's Your Mindset?
When you approach working in your sketchbook or sketching, whether you're on location or sitting at the kitchen table, what is your mindset? Are you looking to recreate in miniature the place or photo before you with every detail OR are you wanting to memorialize the moment with a likeness so that you can revisit at a later date?

If you're frustrated with your attempts, lack of progress or the end results, going through your process and approach to creating art can be very illuminating!

A few questions to ask yourself include:
Why am I creating? What is my intent for creating this [place, thing, person]?
Is it to remember the day/event/moment, to improve my skills or for another reason?
How important is it to me to get this "right" and why is it that important? (Watch out for fear of failure when answering this question!)
Am I considering the limitations in this situation (time invested, my current skill level, physical environment, etc.) or am I approaching this without taking those limitations into consideration?
What can I do differently that will increase my level of satisfaction with my art?

After answering these questions honestly, attempt creating art with your new found observations. (Please note that it took me several tries before my new approach began to really show up on the page.) I hope you'll let me know if it makes as big a difference to your approach as it did to mine!

If you'd like to delve further into this process, consider joining me for a class over at ImaginaryTrips.com! We leave for Norway on March 3rd!

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6 Creative Thought(s)

  1. Nice post Laure! While I am not an artist in the sense of sketching, I could use your initial thought on my default mindset when I began to create a piece of fashion. I never thought of this before, but a lot of things to do impact your creativity process! Thank you so much for this thought provoking post, I will use it going forward to remind myself of what I'm thinking before I start my creative process. Good luck on your imaginary trip to Norway!

  2. Nice post. I'm looking forward to traveling with you. I just signed up for both classes. Can't wait. I'll send you my 'agreement' as soon as I get the software loaded onto my new computer.

  3. Wow, Laure, what a thought-provoking post! I think my mindset is exactly my problem when attempting to sketch on location. Memorializing the moment has been my goal, but I haven't taken the time to understand what that means in terms of practical application. Thanks for the a-ha moment today!

  4. A most welcome post. It all starts in our minds. Strangely, my brain for art is so distant to my brain for almost all other pursuits. I have a lot of trouble planning and can't plan until I get a brush in my hand - after that, it's all oopps, should have done the other first. Because of you, I may be able to get a handle on my slippery thoughts. Thank you mucho.

  5. Dear Laure - awesome post with great thoughts. Thank you so much as always for sharing your art experiences. I know my sketches outdoors or on the spot can just be all over the place too. Hope you have a beautiful Valentine's day. Hugs!

  6. Its always a thrill to see the latest piece of art that you've posted, but I find that I'm also drawn to read your words - they usually resonate with me. I enjoyed the chuckle in this post of 'trying to peel a potato with a butter knife'. I think I've been guilty of that sort of thing for sure. So you were asking about 'mindset'.... I'm not trying to get too perfect, but I get down on myself for not making more time to do art. But, I think I need to get more realistic about all of my responsibilities and lower my expectation for how much time I can devote to art. Then I can unload the "guilt" of not doing more and enjoy what I can fit in. Thanks for making me pause to consider this.


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