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Art Lessons

365 doodles/drawings/paintings in one year

On April 19th, of 2019, I decided to find out how my art and life would change if I made at least one drawing a day for a year. I’m not exactly sure what I expected to happen if I did this but I know what I was hoping for. I was looking for the inspiration and motivation to make a shift in direction. The two years before that day had been difficult, full of loss and painful change. I welcomed this commitment as a way to get refocused. I thought of the process as “choosing to find more joy.”

So, what happened?

Lesson no. 1:Keep heading for your goal line, but be flexible about what course will get you to it. Weather happens.

I thought I might improve as an artist. And I did. On some days. In some months. And, on other days, I found it hard to pick up a pencil and, in some weeks, I just couldn’t. I don’t like some of my final offerings as much as I like some that magically showed up along the way. It was a lot like living real life. I didn’t get great at art in the end. I didn’t not get great at art. There really isn’t an end, just what I did or didn’t do in any moment along the way. I called them doodles at first to excuse myself right away if I didn’t make it to really drawing or painting. But then I started painting. Couldn’t stop painting there for a while. Decided to count everything: the doodles, the drawings, the paintings. Found out I just couldn’t make one a day happen so I changed the rules. 365 in a year, could play catch up when I got behind.

Lesson no. 2:It is important to finish. Maybe not to finish on time, or finish what you set out to do the way you planned to do it, but do wrap it up – come to some conclusion you can take into your next adventure. If I’d made 365 scribbles that would have been okay. Or if it had taken two years to do 365 doodles instead of one year – well fine. The fact that I got 365 done ahead of time and way more than a scribble on many days is great news because, believe me, I’m ready to move on. But here’s the deal. If that hadn’t happened….if I had just stopped along the way for whatever reason, it would be just as important for me to come to an end with it somehow and not put it away in a drawer to get to “someday.” Somedays weigh like forever if you carry too many on your shoulders. Maybe I would have to conclude I really didn’t want to finish, or didn’t like the doing, or didn’t like the daily commitment. But I could then say “I am not going to finish this because…” and I could take that clarity and understanding of myself with me when choosing what I did want to do next.

Lesson no 3:There is no joy in the end.

Oh, there’s an abundance of joy to be discovered along the way, you just won’t find it at the end. Look for it in the middle of any one moment in time. In my case I found it in my expression of love for others, my gratitude for their love, the pure pleasure of moving paint around on a canvas, a chance to start all over, a chance to start over, a chance to start over, patience, patience, patience, courage, courage, courage, while trying to figure things out.

Lesson no 4: Keep doing the hard work

Sometimes I can just spit out a painting and call it good. Something inside wanted out and there it is on the canvas, thanks to practiced skills or extra luck that day. Clap, clap, everyone else likes it too. That’s fun. I do enjoy that when it happens.

But the paintings I remember the most are the more difficult ones that I really felt compelled to stay with, to commit to, even though they weren’t working out the way I wanted them to. I had to stay with them long enough to either find a way to fix what wasn’t working or find a way to fix my beliefs around how I thought they should be working. Sometimes I had to wash all the paint off and start again. Sometimes I had to apply new layers of courage over the top of old mistakes. And sometimes I would give up on a painting at the end of a year-long-day, throw it in the trash, sleep, walk by it and only then be able to see what it was wanting. That too, is a lot like life in general.

Lesson no. 5: Invite surprise to your process.If you just do what you always do, you’ll get what you always get. And making art, like living life, is an adventure and is full of surprises. Let accidents on your canvas lead you to something unexpected, pay attention to the possibilities that present themselves along the way like chance encounters with love or having to sit quietly in an attic while a worldwide pandemic rages outside. There is something to be known in all of it, something to be felt, something to be expressed, something to be shared, even if you can’t hug the one you talk to in your paintings or dance with your friends and family.

So, its April 12 and I’ve completed my 365 doodles/drawings/paintings in 7 days short of one year. And, yes, I did find lots of joy. It was there all along for me to pay more attention to, right in the middle of everything else that life has to offer us.

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