Where I Pontificate About Trying Not To Be An Artistic Cliche’

As a beginner watercolorist, I’ve been lurking over at the watercolor forum at Wet Canvas, absorbing information, techniques and tips like a sponge. Yesterday, I was over there reading a really good mini-tutorial when the author/artist started chuckling over how he’d started with watercolor, going through the usual painting subjects like doing florals, the boat in the harbor, and the obligatory bouquet in a crystal bowl until he realized his desires to paint the things HE wanted to and in his own way.

There seems to be that breakaway point where you feel that you’ve learned enough about the medium to go out and do things more from scratch. I don’t know if I’m totally at that point yet, but I DID realize that I had done some florals and had been eyeing many of the boat photos in the Wet Canvas Reference Library! And then there’s the gazillion talented artists on the forums that paint so well you find yourself inadvertently wanting to do what THEY do. On one level it’s rather embarrassing to discover you’re so stereotypical, but on the other it’s rather understandable all the same, to learn from those that have gone before, and from those whom you admire. To see if you can do these amazing feats yourself – perhaps it also acts as a kind of gauge of progress.

After I had recovered from the mortification of knowing how cliche’ I had been – heh – I decided to that it was probably time to start forging my own path. Paint what I wanted to paint, how I wanted to do it, etc. Choosing different subject matter seems a little more risky than choosing different technique. Painting sunflowers did pose a good challenge to me where I could train my painting skills without worrying too much about the actual subject matter – one thing at a time, I guess.

You know what? I think I know the kinds of things that I want to paint, but I have worried about them either being silly as painting subjects, trite, or overly mundane. For instance, I love leaves, have always had a fondness for them (I think an October birthday helps). And I know that any dis-confidence (if that’s not an official word, it should be) happens not when I’m focused on how much I like leaves, but when I’m focused on what I imagine that OTHER people will think of the leaves, for instance – boring, mundane, repetitive, unimaginative, etc. It’s always that projected self-doubt that freezes me in place. It’s just a bad habit that I don’t want to let myself fall into anymore – because, to put it coarsely, self-doubt feels like CRAP. It’s a horrible state of mind that makes you question everything and feel completely ineffectual, but can be easily killed by just realizing that you’re thinking it in the first place.

And then, once you get beyond that, you really have to start choosing your own artistic subjects (this applies beyond just painting and art, of course) and saying what the hell. If I screw up, it’s just a piece of paper, and if someone else doesn’t like it, well, that’s probably going to happen anyway, so why worry? Yup – all of these words are just a pep talk for myself, screwing up my courage to take another step into the unknown of self-expression, as mundane as it may seem on the outside. Funny, that.

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4 Responses to Where I Pontificate About Trying Not To Be An Artistic Cliche’

  1. bob. says:

    on the other hand, flowers, boats, and stereo-typical subject matter have mass market appeal. there’s only so many people who want a painting of an orange cheesepuff on a blue towel, for example.

    but your right, painting what brings you excitement and passion i think is an important aspect of being an artist. but i wouldn’t sweat being overly concerned that what you are passionate about might be stereo-typical. like I said, those things often have an immensely broad appeal

  2. Kristen says:

    Hi Bob! 🙂 I guess I was a bit concerned that what *I* liked actually WOULDN’T have appeal. However, now I’m thinking that it has less to do with whatever subject and more to do with just general self-doubt. In any case, I really appreciate your thoughts – a much appreciated pick-me-up! 🙂

  3. joseph says:

    hi,what’s your id?
    mine is Joseph_Chiang…
    I am over there to….maybe I could see you sometimes

  4. Kristen says:

    Yes, I’ve seen you over there at wetcanvas! I’m ‘foxvox’ over there too – I’ve just now been inching out of lurk mode and hope to post more frequently – maybe even a painting – LOL! Definitely see you there! Nice to have made a painting friend!

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