My Art is My Diary
Updated: Jul 29
There are so many articles, vlogs, podcasts, and word-of-mouth theories out there as to what is “right” and what is “wrong.” There is a “right” way to hold a brush, or a “right” way to mix up the color green. And sure, we can hold our brush the same every time and achieve the same result, and we can mix up a beautiful green that will work for summer trees. But what about when we want to paint shaky, organic shapes? Or when we need to match the green of an old creekbed? Well, then we can experiment some more and we can come up with new ways to achieve these things. Then there becomes more than one “right” way to do something.
One of the biggest hurdles I’ve had to face since starting my own business in late 2017 is this “right” way of doing things. What is the “right” way to run an art business? Well, after reading a ton of articles, listening to podcasts, and even purchasing my very own Design Trust planner and attending the seminars I’ve sort of come to the conclusion that, just like holding a brush or mixing green, there is no one answer. There are many “right” ways to run an art business—and of course, many wrong ways—and it all comes down to what results you’re trying to achieve.
So, being the obsessive weirdo I am, I write down lists of reasons I like to paint, reasons I want to sell, reasons I’m not just pursuing a career in the field I obtained a degree for. I write down methods to selling, methods to pricing, methods to oils vs acrylics vs watercolors. I even write down my favorite concepts, hoping it will one day spark an idea for a painting.
And I continue to ask myself: why? What purpose does my art hold? Can it really be useful on a wall somewhere? What is the result I’m trying to achieve?
Over and over this question has resounded in my head. And I make my lists. And I get cluttered in my mind and at my desk. And I stop painting and think about picking up an application from the local grocery store.
And I slip into the whale’s belly of what is known as the existential crisis.
I want to paint with watercolors, but the only “right” way to be a painter is to do oils, right?
I want to paint small, but most people want big. Small paintings get swallowed up by large walls. If you want to succeed in an art business you have to paint larger. Right?
I want to make my own little books and paint in these books and sell them in cute little boxes but that’s foolish and there’s no place for a product like that. Right?
I can’t paint in bright blue—can’t even buy Prussian blue—because most people know my work as being desaturated or earthy. Bright blues—and, god forbid, pinks—would confuse my buyers and muss up my style. Right?
One of the only plus sides of an existential crisis is knowing that, at the end of the long dark tunnel, there is always a lesson to be learned. To put it in a more nerdy way, an existential crisis usually means I’m about to “level up.”
The last revelation I had, however, was a bit different than previous epiphanies. A few of you who read this blog or follow me on social media know we recently took a trip to Alley Spring, where I rekindled my love of turquoise and gold and phooey on anyone who turned their nose up at it. That’s when the final pieces of my latest crisis clicked into place.
After the trip I came home and experimented with things like permanent rose and burnt orange, golden shimmery Daniel smith paints, and textures made with cheesecloth. I bought a pack of Khadi paper, one of my favorite substrates, to make my little books and for my Wordless diary entries. I cut up old paintings and made books from them. I cut out tiny studies and put them up on Etsy for sale and gave them cute little mats. I began researching tiny boxes in which to put my tiny books for when I sell them. I took out my white pens and my black pens and added tons of lines to my work. I even revamped my Patreon, giving each tier a elemental theme and embraced, instead of shunned, my paintings from 2019.
I played. I experimented. I meditated with long, flowing brushstrokes.
Art aside, I did other things I’ve always wanted to. I took up gardening, playing video games with the family, bought the nerdy but super-awesome Dungeon Mayhem card game, and started a yoga habit each morning. I ordered a Passion Planner. I started keeping my house clean.
What was this revelation, you might ask?
My way is my right way.
And this notion has led me to realize that my art is a diary. My art is my diary. How I feel right now is very different to how I felt even an hour ago. I have a loud, cluttered mind. The same goes for my heart. And sometimes the only way for me to explain to the world what I’m going through—whether good or bad or just confusing—is to splash paint around on a sheet of hot press.
Or, like yesterday, furiously bind little books and clean all the windows in the house.
Because the “result I’m trying to achieve” can’t be expressed in words. I can’t tell you why I painted a painting, because to me the painting is the only evidence of the “why.” I’ve been trying so hard to write lists of my why and I had never considered that my why is a visual thing, an emotional thing, a very deep spiritual thing, maybe even a subconscious thing. And is not something I can jot down in a book.
My art is my diary. Some days I’m turquoise. Other days I’m indigo. Some days I’m flowy like watercolor. Other days I’m rigid like a pen. The only constant is that I’m an artist, and that I love to create.
And if my art speaks to someone on an emotional level, maybe helps them fit a puzzle piece into their own puzzle of “why,” then that’s my reason to never stop.
Until next time, may your gardens thrive and your greens be perfectly mixed.