Wednesday, December 2, 2015

"It's You Against You"

Some of you may know that I recently took a workshop with David Leffel and Sherrie McGraw last month in the very lovely Santa Fe, New Mexico.  It was  a wonderful experience that I will never forget. I was unbearably giddy at the sight of costumed models, a room full of people hungry to paint and waiting on bated breath for the words of wisdom that would come from the instructors. 

David Leffel always has these little sayings, what he calls mantras, and I would agree with the term mantra because they are meant to make you think - to get you to ponder....and if you do ponder and you let it, these innocent little mantras seep into your mind and take up residence carving pathways each day until you come to understand new layers of its meaning.

It's always so funny to me that one or two of these little sayings for our art zen master ;) will just keep creeping up all the time. It's as if the universe won't leave me alone about it! So lately it's "It's you against you" that is haunting me continuously.  Now mind you, when he said it to me, I was really frustrated at the time with my painting and I although I adore this sweet little man who just wanted to help, I was gritting my teeth thinking, "How bout it's me against you! Let's go! I've had it! I'm sick of this freaking painting!!!!! Aaaarrrggghhhh".  But of course I couldn't say that, I had to smile and pretend to not be on the verge of a major hissy fit, so that the great David Leffel would see how mature and open I am! Ha Ha.  Of course going to this class gave me, once again, a great renewed compassion for my students.

I don't know if anyone else out there is like me in that you get to this breaking point of frustration and you just want to scream, cry, punch something, or maybe Frisbee your drawing board across the beach and curse (obviously this is something I've done!) and certainly anyone who tries to give you kind words of wisdom at this moment is not welcome!!! Ha Ha. I don't care who they are. You are past the point of all reason my friend. Honestly when I threw my drawing board across the beach and boldly proclaimed that I was , "Sick of this shit! I give up!" , I felt such a huge relief from the frustration. I realized that I had forgotten that I was NOT alone when I looked over and saw my boyfriend smiling and I just started dying laughing. In fact it still makes me smile. So it's not all bad! Although the emotion is definitely unpleasant, sometimes the heat of conflict can bring healing and resolution.

However, here is the dangerous part....and that is getting so frustrated that you quit maybe for a day, two days, a week....or a year.  Steven Pressfield ( author of War of Art and Do the Work) refers to my above examples as RESISTANCE. 

I recently had yet another experience with good ole' resistance where I experienced the above torture in a portrait painting session. I was at the depths of despair, total frustration, ripping myself apart for feeling so irritated......and then not 1 hour later after I got the painting home I thought, "Hey, wow this isn't so fact I think this is the best portrait I have ever done!".  WOW!!! Yes I felt really OFF balance- to say the least.  In my opinion when you are having that much of an emotional roller coaster over a piece of artwork, it's just doesn't ring true.  When both emotions are on opposite ends of the spectrum like that, the real truth is somewhere in the middle. Both are FANTASIES. One is the " I'm a horrible artist and I never get any better" fantasy and the other is "this painting just made me an artistic genius" fantasy. Sweet but boring reality is waiting for you to join it somewhere in the middle.

So my sweet friends, if you too have struggled with these issues I encourage you to have patience with yourself.  Learning to paint is simply not glamorous. I'm sorry, it just isn't. Fulfilling-Yes. Glamorous-No. It's painting with patience every day....every day.....every day....did I say every day....oh yeah...every day. You build your legacy every day, one painting at a time. Sadly, we only tend to notice artists once they have been doing this for 10 or 20 solid years. We don't see their laborious toil and daily monotonous tending of their garden.  So when you are caught up the heat of frustration, take a deep breath and say "I don't like this, or this hurts."  It's a psychological trick to get out of your emotional reaction.  The moment and the pain (resistance) will pass and you will still be painting again in 10 minutes, an hour or tomorrow. 

Some of my recent paintings:

Copper, Oranges and French Blue - 24"x20" - oil on linen
Tea and Gold Pears - 11x14" -oil on panel - $1300

"Ode to a Pear" - 9x12" - oil on panel - $1100
Both above paintings are available at

Self portrait with Pearl Necklace - 6"x6" - oil on panel - $400


  1. Definitely been there....
    There is something cathartic about that moment - for me it was always freedom saying I was done. On reflection was really, "I'm done doing this wrong or painting this way [wrong]". Once I allowed myself that release, it was always a step forward in the process....I might repaint it 1, 2, 3, times in a new way or approach but I had psychological broken the restraints of how I was doing it....
    Bravo for you for your bold and honest blog!

    1. I hear you Michael! Keep up the joyful work.

  2. After reading this, I am more of a fan than I already was. Thx for the inspiration! Love the honesty and freshness!

    1. Awww, thanks Lucy! Keep up the good work.


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