Firestarter: Staying flexible

I just realized I like photographing bottles of paint way too much.

First and foremost, let me say I am losing my mind. For the past two days, I thought my Up Late post was published. It was not. Oops…I guess that just means double the Friday posts!So now to the topic I actually planned for today — staying flexible.

One of the best parts about getting good at something is getting into that groove. Everything is going smooth, you are creating things you really like, everything is going well. But getting into a groove can turn into being stuck in a rut. It’s a danger for anyone, whether you focus on one craft or several. You return to the same imagery, techniques and themes naturally, but that kind of repetition can turn into boredom either for you or the people who is viewing your work. An essential key to staying inspired and having fun with what you do is staying flexible about learning new things. If you are always testing the boundaries of what you do and know, your work will continue to evolve and stay stimulating.

I’m not saying you need to stop doing watercolors of flowers in vases if that’s what you love to do. But maybe taking a class in monoprinting could introduce you to some new techniques. You probably won’t throw out your paints and dedicate your life to your new favorite art form. But maybe you will incorporate some printed elements into your next work. Worst case scenario? You hate the class, are out $30 and you never touch monoprints again. In the great scheme of things, it’s no large loss.

For my example this week, I will tell you about my class on Monday. Our community education group had put out their fall catalog, and I was going back and forth over whether or not I should take a class on floor cloth painting. I have a problem with being so comfortable with almost any craft that I tend to do a good chunk of learning on my own. That’s fine, and solitude has its advantages, but sometimes feedback is needed. Being around other people is one of the major things that finally pushed me into signing up. The other was the value of someone’s elses knowledge and experience. Sure, I could always walk over to the library and check out a book on floor cloths. Then I could read it cover to cover, make my list of materials and give it a shot. But that’s not always a great substitute for talking to someone about real-world application and material issues.

One of my favorite parts of paint it the infinite possibilities for color and texture. It's just magical what can be created.

When I came to class on Monday, I found it was pretty small, only three other students signed up. Judging from conversation, I am guessing I have quite a bit more experience and comfort with paint. But all these ladies were fun to have in class because they were all willing to jump in and try things out. That first night was just an introduction with demonstration, talk about materials and a small practice mat, the lovely blue and yellow teaser you saw here. Now, after a full week of procrastinating (or not having all the materials) it is time for me to get to work. Even though I am looking at a weekend full of working on this project, I am excited for Monday evening to come. I am really looking forward to spending a few hours with new people, painting together.

As usual, I am going big(ish) for my first floor cloth. I am a major art nouveau lover, so I am going to create something inspired by Victor Horta or Alphonse Mucha. Above is a stairwell in Horta's Tassel House.

If you are having trouble deciding if you are just comfortable or in a rut, stop thinking about it. Even if you’re aren’t getting bored, staying flexible and trying something new is always good for you. Maybe you start by dipping your toe into something simple, but a few months from now, you may be cannonballing into something really fun and thrilling you never thought you would do.

If you are interested in classes or workshops in your area, there are always a lot of different places you can look. Your library or newspaper will likely have listings from all over town. Most communities of  decent size will also have some sort of community or adult education organization. Art and science museums keep a list of classes they offer as well. If noting else, just start searching the internet. Websites such as Craftster have local message boards so you can easily connect with other people in the real world.

No matter how you go I about it, I encourage you to get involved. Your brain and your craft will benefit. Have a creative weekend everyone!

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