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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Sneaking up on your Left Brain

Watching my students fuss and fidget, moan and groan over a little bit of canvas reminds me of my own process that I will share with you.

When there is a struggle, it is a sign that the left brain is trying to help. It can't - because it can't draw, do relationships or pay attention to any kind of detail. It doesn't like to spend time studying any aspect of a subject matter. And yet it is our dominant hemisphere. Major design flaw in our human species. Right! Put the problem solving side of our brain on the side that can't talk - our right brain, the relationship side, which notices how things fit together.

Instead of helping, our left brain is telling us we are not doing it right (but it doesn't tell us how to fix what we are doing because it can't!).  It tells us we are not getting this painting done fast enough. It's not good enough. No one is going to like it. Maybe we should give up painting (because then the left brain wouldn't have sit still and look - which it hates). And on and on it goes judging, criticizing and generally making us feel like crap!!! Sounds a bit like school.

So, this is my strategy when I paint. Happily I'll be painting along when all of a sudden I will hit a snag. And a little war begins. It's not working, it's not working, how could I possibly be a teacher, I'll never get it right and next thing I know I am tying myself up in knots. The trick is to recognize this is the left brain sitting on a shoulder just like the devil himself might.

Over the years, this recognition is now automatic for me. If my brush is not doing what I want it to, I simply switch to another part of my painting, preferably something with negative space, something the left brain can't recognize. I paint there for a few minutes. My left brain stops its yammering and then, like a flash, I rush back to the problem area and paint again - before my left brain figures out it has been duped. I continue this process and, after a while, I am able to paint in peace because my left brain is all worn out trying to follow me around my painting. I might use my mirror to look backwards to find any parts needing my attention. Getting away from the canvas also gives me a new perspective on what I am doing and where I am going. My left brain does not like these and it is because of this I use my mirror and get away.

If you are getting frustrated - what is it you are trying to do? Are you trying to impress someone? Are you afraid you'll run out of paint? There are no more canvases in the whole world available should you have to start over? Are you hoping to hit the lottery with this painting and make $600,000? Really? Where is the pressure coming from? What is the worst that can happen? You have to start over? Hmm...in the scheme of things that really doesn't sound like much of a big deal.

My favorite quote:  "Frustration is the direct result of expectation." That may have come from Helen Van Wyk. Some of us had the chance to talk to her after we watched her paint and were remarking about how beautiful her paintings were. Someone asked how she could do it and her answer was "I don't expect too much." Thank-you Helen. Always there with brilliant words of wisdom.

Paint just because it feels good to paint. Watch the colors move and change. Watch the painting come to life. If you spend a few minutes on your painting and now you perceive it a dismal failure it is so awful you are going to hell in a hand basket - you might want to rethink your approach to painting and LIGHTEN UP!!

Painting forgives me. It doesn't judge me because I put something in the wrong place. I always put things in the wrong place. It doesn't matter because it is paint and I can fix it! I may not figure it out now but, trusting my right brain is diligently working on solving my painting problems, I know I will figure it out eventually.

Be gentle with yourselves. We always make progress no matter how small. That's enough to be pleased. Is it better than the blank canvas you started with? Then you are making great progress.

BTW - some of my students think I have written this specifically for them. This is to let you know - if the shoe fits......... (insert evil grin here).

Happy (yes!! Happy) painting! - Kathy

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