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10 Tips for a Better (Painting) Life

by Louise B. Hafesh on 1/15/2010 3:03:21 PM

This post is by guest author, Louise B. HafeshThis article has been edited and published with the author's permission. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

Last year around the holidays, a good friend sent me a list entitled:  "40 tips for a Better Life," which I have since seen published with various additions and deletions as "Enjoy the Ride," "45 life lessons and 5 to grown on," "20 tips for a better New Year."

As I read over the 40 inspiring tips, I realized with a little tweaking, some of the themes could easily be applied to us artists and set about drafting a version that became my 2009 New Year blog post. Heading into 2010, I took up the challenge again. Here, then, revamped are my "10 Tips for a Better (Painting) Life."  

1.  Set consistent work habits and painting goals; then stick to them. Start each painting session by abandoning preconceived notions and stumbling blocks.

2.  Be true to YOUR 'art and soul'. Encourage your inner vision; listen to your private voice; let your imagination soar, and don't concern yourself with what others may think of your work.

3.  Take short breaks, particularly when you've hit a rough spot or are experiencing a painting block. Stand back from your canvas on occasion. Quietly review your day’s work and take it all in with a fresh eye.

4.  Take pleasure in the painting process. Continually advance your skills.  Read instructional books, attend workshops and exhibits, frequent museums, and study the masters.

5.  Be generous with your knowledge. Whenever possible, exchange ideas, tips, techniques with other artists. Fine Art Views ("FAV") is a great place to start, as are Facebook and Twitter.  The more you share, the more you learn, and the benefits of networking are limitless. 

6.  Be passionate about creating your art, but do make time to nurture relationships. As in all things in life, balance is key!

7.  Clear out the clutter from your studio. It will help you hone in and focus. Reassess unfinished work. Categorize as salvageable or not. Discard or sand down any canvases that don't make the grade and start anew.

8.  Learn from the challenges that each painting offers and move on to your next masterpiece. Keep a positive mindset and resist being over critical. Give yourself the right to make mistakes, a free rein to experiment.  Remember, oil paint is forgiving, can be wiped out if wet; painted over when dry.  

9.  Bring HEART to your work. Treasure wisdom and innocence wherever you may find it.

10.  Work from promise not fear... the best is yet to come!  Think of that blank canvas as an opportunity to color your world!

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Backstory: About Clint. Email EditorTwitter. Republish. ]

Related Posts:

Falling In Love With My Studio

Quotable Quotes and Nuggets of Wisdom


Socialize Responsibly

Learning to See

Climbing to the Top

Building Relationships with Your Collectors

Art Filled With Emotion

Setting Goals to Be Successful

Start Working When You're Inspired . . . but Finish Later

Topics: Art Business | Creativity and Inspiration | Productivity 

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Marsha Savage
Thanks Louise,
This is definitely a list to post in the studio. I enjoy reading what other artists think is most important to creating a good environment to "create".

I do believe in the process and the enjoyment of it -- and the sharing of that process. We receive so much more when we are willing to give.

Clearing out the clutter, along with setting good consistent work habits, are the hardest to do. These two are my current goals for this year.

Bruce Ulrich
Thanks for the good reminders in creating a fresh start for the New Year.

Carol Schmauder
Thank you for sharing. All ten tips are great. I have not taken breaks in the past and been very sorry with the outcome. This past year I have been better about following the break tip and find myself enjoying my painting more. I paint with transparent watercolors and there is little to no forgiveness with them, so stepping away for a little bit when things are tense helps immensely.

Lorraine Khachatourians
This is a good list, with easily do-able things. I actually feel like today is the beginning of my 'new year'. I got the all clear on a medical test today, so am ready to get going whole heartedly, without that looming in the back of my mind. I have lots to look forward to this year, and this list will help focus. Thanks!

Esther J. Williams
Louise, I like that list, I already practice all of it, well, maybe the clutter in my studio needs a little clearing. I try to make it neat every so often, but I get so busy, things don`t get put back and the piles of things add up.
I wanted to add that your front page on your website is touching, I like your intro, "The Canvas of my Life is Primed with Love." Good words, I agree with that. Your art is stunning also. Beautiful still lifes!

Tuva Stephens
This is an excellent list that I plan on posting in my studio. Each one is so true. I especially am going to be striving for "#10. Work from promise not fear... the best is yet to come!" Think of that blank canvas as an opportunity to color your world!
Although I just received a letter saying a painting of mine had been accepted into SWS (Southern Watercolor Society)33rd Exhibition from 19 states; juror,Cheng Khee Chee, I plan to experiment using some of the techniques from Jean Pederson's Expressive Portraits. I have a couple of shows coming up in which Jean Grastorf and George James will be the jurors. They are both innovative artists and I especially want to step out of my box to use watercolors in a different way. Thanks so much for the list!

Esther J. Williams
Tuva, congratulations! Your artwork is beautiful too! I love your African American women.
I let an oil painting dry from last weekend and started working on it 2 days later. I had to re-wet it to finish it and I think I overworked it. So, next time I want to finish while it`s wet and get done with it. Today I started a little 6X8 after a plein air demo with Greg LaRock, I took 45 minutes to cover the canvas and I had to go home. It`s right in front of me and I am not going to let this one dry. Tomorrow is another day to paint in a figural studio with 25 other artists. So I have to learn to get over one painting and move quickly onto the next.

Teddy Jackson
Thanks for the wonderfully inspiring list. I have saved a copy and will be posting it in my studio.
We, artists, appreciate you reminding us that it is our responsibility to color the world the way that we see it, so our paintings may bring joy of others.
Thank You,
Teddy Jackson

Sharon Weaver
Bringing HEART to your work is so important. Heart is why an artist sells even if the fundamentals may not be perfect. Buyers see the artists heart in their work.

Maureen Sharkey
Excellent article, Louise.

I am printing it out, and am going to hang it up above my desk.

I hope you get a lot of satisfaction knowing you are helping strangers like me.

Carole Rodrigue
Great list and I also love #10, work from promise, not fear. The best is always yet to come with each new piece. And if not, then hopefully I learned something in the process. If there is one theme that keeps re-occuring in most posts, it's the theme of life-long learning and I think that once you realize that as an artist, or even as just a human being, then more doors open and you become more receptive to learning. As the old adage says, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear!

Louise B. Hafesh
Thanks, Carol,
I find that stepping away from a painting for awhile, or viewing it from a distance helps me to see the work more objectively. Oftentimes mistakes that may have been obscured while painting up close suddenly become obvious when you stand back.

Louise B. Hafesh
How wonderful that the good news on your medical tests has become an impetus for focusing on your life and art in a positive way. You do have lots to look forward to. Enjoy it all!

Lorraine Khachatourians
Thank you Louise - today the sun is shining and I feel fabulous. Heading to the paints and canvas shortly.

Louise B. Hafesh
Thanks so much for the kind words about my website and art.
You are not alone when it comes to "piles of things" adding up. I think back to when I first rented my studio and was ecstatic to finally get "my stuff" out of our kitchen.

With over 700 square feet of space to fill, I mused there was room for anything I could ever need for painting. It's amazing how quickly that space dwindled and Tip #7 has become the bane of my studio life.

Louise B. Hafesh
Lorraine, go follow that sun and the call of your art and soul!

Monte Wilson
Hi Louise- Definitely printing this out nice and large and hanging it on the wall in my studio...Thanks!

Louise B. Hafesh
Tuva, Congrats on your painting being accepted in the SWS 33rd Exhibition. Deservedly so! "Let the Light shine Through," does that and much more! Your portraits in watercolor speak volumes! Keep "Stepping outside that box!"

Tuva Stephens
Thanks so much for your words of praise! Your paintings are incredible! I plan on returning to your site to read your blogs and look at your work.

Louise B. Hafesh
Sharon, So true! I much prefer a painting that it flawed but has heart to one that is technically perfect but lacks passion or a sense of the artist who created it.

Tuva Stephens
The best part of being an artist is feeling a passion for your subject. I use to tell my student actors "if you don't feel it neither will the audience." I would sometimes have a couple of students repeat their lines until everyone in the wings would applaud because "they" felt it!" The actors would almost be in tears at what they had accomplished."

Those times when we feel it. Ahhhhh...that's when the viewers of our work will. How exciting it is to have a juror to put into words what were trying to communicate.

Louise B. Hafesh
Hi Monte and Maureen,
It's so rewarding to hear back from artists that "10 Tips for a better (painting) life" has relevance to their work output. I'm particularly grateful to FAV for the opportunity to share the list through this venue and would like to put out an open CALL for ARTIST's to e-mail me their favorites for inclusion in an extended feature that I am working on.

Tuva Stephens
I vote for #2, #5, #7. Some of the others might be combined. They are all great.

Louise B. Hafesh
What great instruction! Just watched a rerun of George Gallo's movie, "Local Color," this morning. The main character, aging painter, Seroff, tells his young apprentice essentially that he must paint what he feels so that viewers of his work will feel it too. Inspiring!

Tuva Stephens
One of my most successful paintings in shows was "I Just Don't Know Why". I was feeling proud during an all day painting session. I always stop before a painting is complete so I can set it up and evaluate. Write down some things I need to consider. As I started down my full flight of stairs carrying water containers in both hands, my left foot slipped off the second step, I tumbled downward. Both the bones in my ankle were broken badly requiring surgery/metal/screws. I had to keep my leg elevated for 5 weeks. My husband reminded me that I needed to try and finish the painting in which I had been painting before the accident. I had to go up the step on my rear to my studio then use crutches, elevate my leg/foot during the process. I remember being in pain as I continued to paint. With the last stroke a tear rolled down my face because, I really felt I had found the emotion I needed to make this a memorable painting. The painting had much impact on the many people that saw it. Painting can be superficial or be filled with so much emotion. Connecting with a subject is so important when I am trying to bring to life my subject of interest.

Carol Schmauder
Oh Tuva, What a terrible way to have to paint. My hat is off to you for having the courage and will power to go on and finish the work you had started. I was in a similar situation with the dislocation of my elbow and didn't finish the painting until I had recovered sufficiently.

Tuva Stephens
If someone had told me, I would have to lay flat of back for 5 weeks and not bear any weight on my foot for 5-6 weeks. I would have said "no way." It makes you appreciate getting to paint! It is bad when you want to paint and you can't!

Lee McVey
Louise, I enjoyed your tips. Especially #1 be consistent, #3 take breaks and step back, and #6 having balance. Some days I spend more time in the stepped back position thinking and thinking than I do putting marks on my painting. Last year, it seemed I was doing either all or nothing. Spending too much time at painting and neglecting other things, or taking care of other things and neglecting painting. This year, I decided my theme for the year would be balance so I don't do all or nothing. Right now, I'd much rather be consistent and balanced with my art and my life.

Louise B. Hafesh
Hi Lee,
Sounds like you have a good plan. Think this quote by Robert Fulghum (Author of "All I really Need to know I Learned in Kindergarten"), says it best: "Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.”

Linda Wilder
Great tips to live by Louise. It's good to be reminded. I enjoyed looking through your blog!

Louise B. Hafesh
Great comment about lifelong learning! As Marcel Pourst put it: -The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.”

Carole Rodrigue
Thanks Louise. What a great quote from Marcel Pourst! I also like what you said about feeling what you paint. I can tell when I'm not feeling it, and those piece where I do feel it, the results are much better and the whole experience is a pleasant one. I've decided not to do commissions anymore also because I wasn't "feeling" these pieces. They're someone else's idea and not mine. I just get no pleasure from them. So, painting pieces with feeling is what I'm aiming form, and this is part of this life-long learning. One of the many lessons learned.

Louise B. Hafesh
Please excuse the typo, I really should take time to proof my comments before hitting the send button. The author of the quote about seeing with new eyes is Marcel Proust.

Kathryn Clark
These are excellent thoughts for the new year and improving our paintings. I just improved my studio, which is a building next to our house, by organizing paintings and frames on newly purchased shelving. I was shocked at the amount of new space in it. Consequently, I also bought a new, larger easel which is making me even more excited about painting!

Cindy Biles
Wonderful revelations--I'm a clay sculptor and found this advice very useful.

Louise B. Hafesh
Kathryn and Cindy,
Thank you both for your kind comments. So rewarding to hear that the tips that work for me also connect with other artists in various genres.

Diane Tasselmyer
Well, I just tackled #7 "clear out the clutter from your studio" It's something I do every year at the beginning of the year.
It sure makes me feel good to see more of the tabletops and surfaces I use everyday.
One NEW thing I did was subscribe to an "online computer backup service". I now feel "much" more free to put MORE into my computer rather than leaving so many scraps and notes laying about. Although I have a small backup hard drive next to my computer, I wasn't confident with my data.
It surprised me to see how much "clutter" was removed by doing that!!!

Louise B. Hafesh
Great advice about subscribing to an online computer backup service. Will have to add that tip to next year's list.


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