Create momentum - Gail setting up to paint in La Manzanilla

Create Momentum By Starting (My Mexico Experience!)

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. 

Create Momentum - Gail Sibley, "Wall and Bicycle," Unison Colour pastels on UART 600, 12 x 9 in.
Gail Sibley, “Wall and Bicycle,” Unison Colour pastels on UART 600, 12 x 9 in.

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.

Create Momentum-Gail Sibley, "The Water Glass," Unison Colour pastels on UART 600, 8 x 5 in.
Gail Sibley, “The Water Glass,” Unison Colour pastels on UART 600, 8 x 5 in.

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.

Create Momentum! Gail Sibley, "The Laundry Machine," Unison Colour pastels on UART 600, 9 x 9 in.
Gail Sibley, “The Laundry Machine,” Unison Colour pastels on UART 600, 9 x 9 in.

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!

~ Gail

PS. I’m open to painting title ideas!

PPS. You can see another pastel done in La Manzanilla here.

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10 thoughts on “Create Momentum By Starting (My Mexico Experience!)”

  1. Hello Gail,
    Oh wow I love those vibrant shadows.

    Thank you again for motivating me to get going again last year.

    Having a dedicated studio space or creative corner is a huge help to me.
    My dogs even love the studio and as I gain momentum they would walk in there and give a glance to see if I’m following.

    I was disappointed to have an incomplete painting at the end of the year I set it aside to do a paintng for a Christmas gift.
    But is was great to have a project ready for me to pick up where I’d left off.
    I still found I was procrastinating, watching too many helpful tutorials though. Painting grass scares me – I bought some unison pastels and enjoyed mixing them to see how many greens I could create. That got me playing with my new pastels.
    But looking at the dull grass on my reference photo I realised it was time to do something I had done during the 31 day challenge- get outside and look at grass outside (in light, in shade) all I did was colour swatch and pick a pallete for my painting and that was enough to inspire me to make a start. The last two days I’ve been checking proportions and tweeking the underpainting.

    I think for overthinking planners (which is great until it become a creative handbrake) a very helpful piece of advice I’ve received from you is it doesn’t have to be perfect, the lessons learnt while painting are more important. So I will continue learning from tutorials (I’m so grateful for every piece of advice) and planning and thinking, but then just go for it, paint the painting however good or bad it is for now, like freelancing into it. I want to improve on foliage this year and even though I don’t have high expectations for my current work in progress it encourages me to know I’ve made a start and by the end of the year if I can even just paint grass well I will be happy with my progress.

    Thank you for your encouragement, Gail

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your own experience Melanie. I know it will be helpful to others facing resistance!!!
      As to painting grass, I’m not exactly sure what you are going for but I wanted to share this example by Richard Schmid. I realise it’s in oil but there is so much to learn from it!!

      1. Thank you Gail,
        And ‘Diana’s Maple’ by Richard Schmid is lovely and loose while keeping a sense of detail.
        I started my painting inspired by Andrew McDermott’s post on the Art of Loosening Up, (which I thoroughly enjoyed- I will try this again) so my underpainting is very loose, but the portrait calls for detail. So a big part of my resistance has been whether to leave it as is because there is something about it I like.
        I have fixed proportions on the subject and will try to add important features without losing too much of the bold mark making especially on the grass.
        I want to be expressive and detailed. Perhaps I’ll shift between the two styles depending on what each painting calls for until my style emerges.
        This painting by Richard Schmid is very inspiring.
        2024 free falling into foliage.
        Thank you for nudging us unto action.

        1. I’m glad Richard Schmid’s painting is inspiring Melanie. And I think his work does combines those elements of style you aspire to : expressive and detailed.

  2. I’m in a big resistance trough – got 3 unfinished paintings on easel, I did workshop over the weekend just to learn something new and meet likeminded people- and nothing.

    Flame is gone! Everything is dreadful! Each brushstroke or pastel mark land in a wrong place, wrong colour, wrong width/pressure/etc

    Even doodling is a chore!

    I tried every mind trick in the book to get other it – nothing helps.

    Hurray to the year of disaster:(
    I hope you’ll never experience this feeling of helplessness.

    1. Hey Jen…I’ve been there. And it’s an awful feeling!! I just accepted that was the way it was and took a break. I didn’t even try. I just did other things. Slowly though, the pull to create returned. And I took it slow. I took rubbish work and, with nothing to lose, put on music and wiped and scribbled. I also cut them up and collaged them together. I gave myself permission to PLAY and enjoy mucking about. I also looked at art books. And I flipped through my sketchbook of thumbnails. And one day, I couldn’t help but put paper to easel and start. Without expectation. Just paint and see what happens.

      My advice? Take a complete break. Take a break until you feel the flame again. And, journal about what is happening and your feelings. It feels good to get it all out on paper. It’s only for you. Curse and cry as much as you want.

      It’s okay. Art can come and go. Be okay with that. It’s a detour. It may feel like a disaster right now but…this too shall pass. The creative impulse will return strongly.

  3. This blog has come at the right time. I haven’t really felt much urge to do any art work since participating in the 31 in 31 back in October. Right now I just don’t feel like it. So I’m taking a break and getting ready to do some weaving instead, as hey I could use some new hand towels. Jen above said it all, I’m just not in the mood. Gail I read your response to Jen and it helped me put it into perspective. This too will pass! Thank you.

    1. Timing is everything Carol Ann – with this post, with Jen’s comment and my response, with the rhythm of your art practice. Changes happens. Nothing stays still.

  4. January is a tough start to return to painting. For me, moving into a new studio, going through “stuff” that is quite old in my mind but part of my history, took almost 2 months. Then there are holidays and parts of the family on rocky ground. Getting back into the groove of painting, and mind you it is minus ten degrees where I live, is fraught with hazards. So like your October gig, 31 in 31, I turned to Strada’s challenge. It is important for me to do it as a kickstart. You are going through the same thing. Artists will find themselves in slow or stalled periods and it takes work to shake it whether we are in a warm sunny place or a new studio environment. Onward!

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Gail Sibley

Artist. Blogger. Teacher.

My love of pastel and the enjoyment I receive from teaching about pastel inspired the creation of this blog. It has tips, reviews, some opinions:), and all manner of information regarding their use through the years – old and new. Please enjoy!

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