Are you getting better?

Lisa David oil painting blog plein air photos

Looking through my work, deciding what is working, and what is not!

I played the viola in the 5th grade. I probably ended up with the viola because I returned the permission slip late. I remember the screeching as the bow scraped across the strings. I could play Hot Cross Buns. The red velvet case, with the block of rosin, was all mine. I loved the smell of rosin. I was so cool. I was not so good. But I remember my Mom saying “Lee, you’re getting better!” As a high school drawing and painting teacher, I rarely say “you’re so good” because what is “good” anyway? I want my students to improve, to get better. As hard as we try to “get good” at something, the bar keeps moving and who determines what good is, anyway? Good is an arbitrary, subjective term. It’s a preference. My dog George is good. Pizza is good. Why not try to get better? Be better?
piles of paintings

Piles of “Never minds” painting.

I lined up my art in chronological order. After getting past my giant pile of “neverminds,” it was time to get serious. There are countless areas of improvements I could tackle. Composition, value structure, brushwork, color, edges, to name a few. I realized I am making the same error over and over. I decided deliberate brushwork is something I want to be better at. I tend to over-work and over-paint. I lay in too many colors (that sounds weird, but you know what I mean!) In order to improve, I need knowledge. We artists are nuts for information, googling everything until we are experts. So, I have started to read selected books, blog posts, articles about brushwork and actual paint application. I am watching videos, looking at details of master’s art on Google Art Project. With each painting, I am attempting to be more deliberate and focus on this one area of improvement. Why does it matter? Couldn’t I just keep on painting, throwing caution to the wind, content in the pieces I paint? Sure, I guess. It’s not like the painting police will take away my brushes. But I want to get better. And if you’re reading this, you want to get better, too. True story: Today, after two weeks of intense figure drawing lessons, I overheard my students say they finally “get it”. They said how after a few years of drawing people, they finally understand the steps. As they were filing out of my classroom, one student left her drawing face up on the pile. For a second, she just looked at it, pausing. In that moment, she was on top of the world. It’s a tiny gesture, but as a teacher, it meant the world to me. She was proud; confident. A minute later, another student asked for charcoal for more practice. Is she “good” at drawing? It doesn’t matter. She is better. She is on the path to improvement, where proud moments happen along the way.

What’s your story?… and why it matters!

leisuretime

Leisure Time. 6″ x 6″ Oil on panel. Fond memories in this camper circa 1971.

Recently, I have noticed books, websites and podcasts for creative people about finding your authentic self – your true self.  Reason being, if you can tap into that, your art-making will be inspired from within, thus you’ll create more authentic and genuine pieces.  Why is this an important and necessary process?  Your art needs to have integrity. For you to defend your art as the “real thing” it needs your truth. When the art you make comes from within, you will see it on the canvas.  It has a ring of truth.  Your art will stand out and bring you peace. You will look forward to creating and sharing.

So how do know how to find your truth? Your story? We all have a story, a point of view. I wanted to find my truth. Should I read books, take personality tests, Google and listen to podcasts? My discovery of my story was relatively simple. I stopped looking outside to find out who I am.  No one knows me better than myself. My experiences, likes, dislikes, memories, ideas are only mine. I thought about it for a bit and looked at the work I most enjoy making and sharing. Then my story revealed itself. I’ll share it with you!

I’m a girl who loves the 60’s who was raised by a genius scientist and an alcoholic mother with a heart of gold. While she attempted domestic life, our suburban development house overwhelmed my mother. Four kids kept her busy. Erma Bombeck was her idol and voice of sanity. Someday, I’ll share the whole story. For now, let’s just say I watched a lot of TV to show me what normal life was. I yearned to live in the Brady Bunch house.  One fond memory I had growing up was camping at state campsites in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. We were all crammed in a popup camper. It felt so great to be with other kids and families doing this “normal” activity.  So, camping has a strong hold on me. I have a log cabin in the Adirondack mountains which I use as a studio for summer painting.  I love pine trees and the color of pine needles. That’s who I am. I love vintage and the Adirondack landscapes. A lot has happened in my life along the way, but I can honestly say my love for life in the 60’s and the mountains pretty much consumes my thoughts. Simple? Sure.  And for now, that’s just fine for me. What’s your story? Listen to your inner voice….shhhhhh. Hear it?

Michne Family in our Leisure Time Camper

Staying cozy in the Leisure Time Camper, 1972. I’m the happy one in the back.

P.S. Timing is everything. I just started reading Larry Moore’s book, Fishing for Elephants. If you are struggling with finding your authentic self and your inner voice isn’t screaming at you to get your attention, Larry can do it for you! It’s a great read so far. Good luck in your journey, may you be at peace with your story.