Some observations on painting and life. by Shayna Denburg, July 15th, 2016.

Some observations on painting and life. 

Painting is an experience in growth.

I like to think that anything learned from one experience is applicable in many, most, other avenues of life. 

Before I jump into what I've learned from painting, I'll preface with this. 

No piece of advice exists in a vacuum, and you'll receive lots of conflicting information. It's up to you to sift through and take what you need. What I'll share are pieces  that I've found important to bear in mind as I embark on a (hopefully) long journey of seeing, listening and transcribing. 

1. No mark is precious- don't be scared to change. Often you start a painting and when you step back, you see something is off, but changing it risks ruining it. Or else it means having to change so many other things. So you hesitate. There is a possibility to have something so much better but we are scared to make changes lest we ruin it or end up in a tough space where we don't know where to go. Don't be scared. Make changes. There will always be a new way to figure it out. It may be a longer, more difficult road but it'll be better. Or it won't. You might ruin it. That can and will happen if you paint enough. Accept that possibility- but don't settle. Don't settle for a mediocre situation because you are scared to make hard changes. 

2. This painting is yours. One day, I was painting and my professor walked by, looked and didn't comment. She walked on. My thoughts shouted, "come back! Tell me what to do! I don't know where to go." As she drove away I realized- This painting is my painting. This is my baby. You can read every baby book, hear advice from your mom, grandma, friend, sister or stranger on the bus and take it all in. But at the end of the day, it's your painting and you must make the final choices about it. You'll work on pieces and people will tell you when they think it's finished, what you should do next, what you should scrap. While it's crucial to development to open-mindedly and thoughtfully consider those options, don't listen so hard that you forget why you're painting. One day you'll be painting alone and you will be the one who will have to look at your own work and discern. Practice that discernment. Own your judgments. Trust your gut. 

3. Ask yourself questions. This is advice from my housemate, Beatrice. Sometimes if you are not sure what you see, not sure if you can trust your eyes, yourself, know that it's about asking yourself the right questions and then your gut instinct will kick into action.

4. Every painting needs something else. It must be treated differently, freshly. Each is like a person you encounter. Some will be quick meeting. You'll meet, get what you need and move along with your life. Some you'll meet and not get along with. Some will be a long term relationship, ups and downs, endless time where you feel like you're doing nothing, moving forward and back. Sometimes there'll be resolution and it'll be wonderful. And sometimes there won't be. But it'll move you a step forward. Allow each painting the elements and the time it needs.                     

There are endless lessons to be learned here but for the sake of brevity, I'll end here. I'll finish with a practical note, in form of advice from Paul Manlove. "Know what is so that you can create what isn't." I cannot disregard the invaluable nature of formally studying, hearing critique and yes, following rules. All this learning and listening and advice following is essential for growth, but don't, don't forget what this search is about. Remember to trust your gut. To follow that compulsion that brought you to paint in the first place. Search for it. When you find it, it won't be all at once, it'll be a small glimpse of honesty that will strike you,  like Deja vu. It will be fleeting like that moment you wake up from an intense dream. And then as quickly as it came, it'll be gone. Dissipated as mist in the air. Hang on to those moments, relish them, they are you speaking out, reaching from the buried ground of life's shit piled up. Be like a willow, which sways to and fro with the wind yet keeps its roots firmly in the ground. Be flexible enough to accept wisdom and judgment from wherever it comes, yet be self-discerning in time of decision. So, listen, accept, learn from teachers and students alike, yet at the end, it's you, it's your painting, it's your life and only you can make it authentic.