Can your art be both?

When I first started painting, I wanted very much to be right. My paintings were carefully executed. The work needed to be accessible and relatable in order to be “good”.

“The thrill of creating art is the thrill of getting out of one’s own way.” – Stephan Mumaw 

I’m grateful for this time because it allowed me to refine my seeing. Instead of stumbling through work and hoping for the best, I was able to develop confidence around what I was doing, and who I was becoming.

This stage of learning was like learning a song. Repetition gave way to spontaneity. Without some initial structure, I wouldn’t have been able to let go and explore.

We’re all at different stages in this exploration. Some of us may feel the need to reel it in and others want desperately to be free. But neither side of this pendulum works without the other.

Inspiration Friday! Can your art be both?

     Balance of Power – 36″x48″ – oil on panel – Gabriel Mark Lipper

When our art is grounded, in understanding, it gives us the potential to fly. If we cling too tightly to the craft we get stuck, but if we have no craft, we will spend more time trying to find our way than we need to.

The trick is honesty. Are you still coloring in the lines because you’ve never really taken the time to figure out how to draw? What would others think if you broke away from being careful?

Or have you avoided the lines altogether because of the fear that you wouldn’t be able to pull it off, or even worse, that you might get trapped in limitations?

The balance and real freedom come when we trust that we can learn and that we can let go. Letting our careful live side-by-side with our clumsy. Knowing that our best art comes from our knowing and from the unknown, and allowing the fullness of ourselves to be seen.

Does freedom have structure?

What part of your art is missing?

Join the conversation and leave your thoughts in the comments!

Why wouldn’t you create?

When everything falls into place and you just know that you’ve nailed it, there’s still one obstacle left: learning to trust that you’re right.

“Fears about artmaking fall into two families: fears about yourself, and fears about your reception by others.” – David Bayles and Ted Orland (Art & Fear)

When I started really digging into my art, the only thing I had was time. When I wasn’t delivering bagels, waiting tables, or serving espresso, I was painting. There was time to paint, and draw, and explore, and I couldn’t afford to do much else, so it made it easy to focus on my craft.

My only worry back then was the cost of materials, and I realized quickly that when I focused on the cost, I would freeze up. I felt like there needed to be a masterpiece on every canvas to justify the expense. And in order to grow and risk, that just wasn’t going to happen.

I switched gears and materials, I painted on cardboard and worked out of sketchbooks. When I gave up on the masterpieces, the work got better.

8paint Inspiration Fridays - Why wouldn't you create?

Use whatever you have, and begin.

I’ve conquered my fear of good materials, and maybe you have too. But there are other fears lurking out there. Our time is precious. This can leave us frozen, afraid to even start. What if the work isn’t good enough? What if our time is wasted? What will people think? What if the work never gets finished?

All of these nagging fears fall away when we begin. When we are actually painting instead of thinking about painting, the work creates itself. Some will be good and some will be bad, but it will get done, and it will be worth it.


Does fear get in the way?

What makes creating difficult?

Why wouldn’t you create?

What if the opposite were also true?

Last week I had an incredible show downtown at the new Scott Lewis Gallery. Two full nights, of wine, music, art, and hundreds of my closest friends.

“It requires a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.” – Henri Matisse

I sold a bunch of work, met incredible people, and I even got some painting in! I should be over the moon! So why does this week feel so funky?

The “post show crash” (PSC) is a real thing. Once the wine is gone, and the endorphins have settled, the only question left is “How did your show go?” And for an artist, this can be an extremely tough question to answer.

8paint Inspiration Fridays - Collectors Night at the Scott Lewis Gallery

Collectors’ Night at the Scott Lewis Gallery

The question is good-natured enough, but unfortunately, the answer rarely lines up with our society’s measures for success. Many artists’ shows don’t result in sales, and sometimes the attendance can be spare to none. Does this make their work less valuable or the paintings themselves less successful?

Van Gogh.

There is a lot that goes into preparing for a show. Painting it is the big one, but there are titles and tags, invites and social media, even phone calls! Above and beyond all that, is the constant and creeping existential dread the goes hand and hand with laying your soul bare for strangers, hagglers, and looky-loos alike.

Believe it or not, the real success for an artist is in showing up, doing of the work, and being willing to share that work with the people in their community (or maybe even someone else’s).

8paint Inspiration Fridays Collectors Night - Gabriel Painting Demonstration

Your neighbors, parents from your child’s school, your spouse’s coworkers, your clients, who may or may not be keeping an eye on how well your work is moving, and with people you’ve never met but bring with them advice and opinions.

So if you’re an artist, and you’ve managed to put together a show and then gone further and hung that show on a wall for people to see. Congratulations! You nailed it!

Have you shown yourself to the world?

What’s worse no sales, or bad art?

How do you feel after a show?