Do you bring the qualities of a highly engaged learner to your journey as an artist?
In observing many learners over the last few years, and continuing to be a very keen one myself, I have noticed that there are key ways to show up that facilitate accelerated learning.
I just taught a 4 day plein air workshop in Kauai, and the workshop participants ranged from some with years of painting experience to one wonderfully enthusiastic woman who was picking up a paint brush for the very first time in her life. Over the 4 days I had the joy of watching each of them have their own personal breakthroughs and move to a deeper level in their painting.
They worked hard, laughed a lot, cheered each other on, and grew in their skill as painters, in large part because each one of them brought these important elements of learning to the game:
Knowing stuff is good, but it can block the way to new good stuff coming in. Practice moving what you already know from its position of priority - let it rest in the background while you create space for what there still is to learn.
Willingness to be Uncomfortable It's amazing how many people greet this idea with enormous resistance. Like being uncomfortable is a bad thing. What if it's a good thing? What if it's a big fat doorway into awesome? I would argue it is, because that's where the growth lives.
If you're comfortable - you're stagnant. Doing the same old thing over and over. All that does is keep getting you better at what you already know. What about all the cool stuff you haven't discovered yet?
Full Engagement and Curiosity Ok, so if you're willing to embrace the first two ideas, then bring along with you an undefended openness to the learning. Stand on the precipice of "What's possible here?", wildly curious, and dive in with both feet and a wide open heart. The best learners embrace the joy of not knowing and the adventure of finding out.
Relinquish Attachment to Outcome
Now that you're open, ready and set to learn, you will gain the most benefit if you can do one more thing. This is the most difficult, and most essential mindset to stand in. Let go of needing the painting to "work out in the end." I know - hard, but try. Play with paint, dance in the creative process, try things on, don't worry if they're right or wrong, just try them.
Workshops are not about performance pieces, they're about playing scales, learning new notes, seeing what it's like to play standing on one foot. Moving at top speed. Or in slow motion. Backwards. Upside down. Blindfolded.
Learning is about: "What happens if I stand in a place I've never been, what will I see that I have missed until now? How will this grow me? What magic is possible when I stretch beyond what I already know?"
A Little Faith Expect to feel bumbly, inept, out of control, like you've stepped backwards in your skill level. It's part of the deal. Even though it may not feel like it now, you are expanding yourself in ways that will show up in the most unexpected places down the road. Trust this and give yourself to the learning - it will pay huge dividends in the end.
Throughout my career, I have discovered what invigorates, captivates and entertains me is challenge. My first love is landscape, but in the past few years I have added still life and figurative work to my subject matter, and painting directly from life has become my predominate approach of choice.
The intention of this blog is to share insights into one artist's journey. I hope you will find it both intriguing and inspiring.