Sometimes, after all the chaos of the holiday season, it’s difficult to get back into the swing of things. Maybe we can squeeze in a few quiet days to prepare ourselves for the start of the new year. And sometimes not. And before we know it, the year is off and running and we feel behind before we’ve even started! Ugh. The trick is to create momentum by getting started and yes, I know that getting started can be darn hard!
Let me share my recent Mexico experience.
My plan had been to paint on our two-week getaway to La Manzanilla. I’d also planned on doing some online work and had a number of Accelerant coaching calls lined up. I was therefore shocked to find that the internet service was way worse than it had been on our last visit pre-Covid. That meant Zoom calls were out of the question. I rescheduled them all for when I returned home and faced up to the fact that I now had time…time to paint. There would be no excuses!
It’s not that I didn’t want to paint. Like I said, that was my plan. But I hadn’t painted on location for some months and felt out of practice. So as much as I wanted to do it, the resistance was huge.
I was bound and determined, however, to get out and paint. I knew I just needed to start.
Just. An easy word to say but one that implies it’s easy! Which most of the time feels not the case. And yet…. I knew that once I started, I’d be able to create momentum.
Momentum, what does that really mean? In this case, it meant that taking one small step to set up and paint would start a domino effect. This forward motion would create momentum, ensuring I would go out again. And again. And again.
I decided the easiest way to start was to make it easy on myself.
Instead of feeling I had to wander around and find the perfect spot, I’d just go around the corner and find something to paint, no matter what it was. And that’s exactly what I did. I found a shady spot with a view of cast shadows on a gorgeous-coloured wall.
It took me a while to put up my easel because I was out of practice. It felt awkward and took time, time that I wanted to use painting. It was easy to think, “Let me quit now!” But I kept going. I did my thumbnail, and then got to the pastels.
The next day came and I felt resistance again, but I told myself I didn’t have to go far. And it didn’t matter what I painted. In fact, this time I set up on our patio and painted a glass of water. Yes, not what you might think of as plein air painting, but I was outside as was the glass. Day two done.
And then the next day, with the same resistance and the same promise to myself that I could find something close by, I went out late in the afternoon and although I was racing the incoming darkness, I put pastel to paper. And that’s aaaaaalll that mattered!
The next day, there was some resistance but I had begun to create momentum. I knew what I had to do and so I did it. Again I said to myself, I don’t have to go far. And this helped. Not because I didn’t feel up to carrying my equipment as I don’t carry much and it’s pretty light. It was just the notion of spending time traipsing around looking for a perfect site that put me off the doing of it.
The next day, I just packed up and was on my way! My mantra? It doesn’t need to be perfect. I just need to paint.
So what I learned, and of course this makes total sense, is that although it was really hard to get going, once I started, once I committed and started, each day became a little easier until by about the fourth day, I was in a rhythm of going out to paint. It wasn’t yet a habit (that takes longer to develop) but I had created momentum and that helped me to accomplish the task that I’d set myself to do – to paint every day. I let go of the outcome and kept saying to myself: painting anything feels soooo much better than painting nothing at all.
So when you make a commitment to get back to doing your artwork after time away, know that it may be tough to get going. The thing is to start. That’s the hardest part. But do it. Do it no matter how difficult it feels because once you start, the next time will feel that much easier.
Focus on taking that first tiny step and then another small step, and another each day because that really is the secret to creating momentum. And momentum is the way to jumpstart your painting practice and speedup your progress as an artist.
I’d love to hear from you. How do you create momentum? How do you overcome resistance? What are some of your rituals or tips to get going?
That’s it for this time!
PS. I’m open to painting title ideas!
PPS. You can see another pastel done in La Manzanilla here.