Back in art college years ago, despite doing well and even excelling in different classes, there was one negative memory. The acrylic painting instructor, more or less, told me – don't ever try to do this again – go do something else! I struggled to get through the required credit time with very little support, interest or input from him and never did connect with his passion for the medium. He had already written me off as 'untalented' in that area and didn't want to invest any of his valuable time in my development. That hurt, but I was OK, having all of the other marvelous pursuits to capture my interest. Looking back, I realize that he could have taken a different approach, and his lack of support was a monumental fail. I went on to love working with watercolour, oil, tempera, gouache, pencil, textiles . . . but never even browsed the acrylic stand at the art store. It just wasn't 'for me'.
That started to bother me after awhile - the fact that I had let someone else discourage me from pursuing an interest. So, decades later, I have recently decided to build a new relationship with acrylic paint, fully prepared to accept whatever happens as at least, my own experience, and not someone else's notion of it. A great friend and I recently attended a fun class with a local artist who was much more supportive than that teacher from years ago. The combination of a non-judgemental learning environment, the wisdom of the years and a true passion for a process-over-product approach resulted in - wowza, these acrylics and mediums are fantastic!
Last week, I did a 'sampler' in the studio for myself, to practice the concepts we learned in the class. I so enjoyed the process, the colour, the possibilities of the gel and the properties of the paint. I love this piece (partially shown in the photo) for the variety of texture and the way the pastels and paint interact with each other. Any criticism really doesn't matter, but it's a treat every time a piece resonates and people say things like 'reminds me of a treasure map!', or 'a day at the beach' or 'just sublime'.
How contemplating my new explorations with acrylics imitates life:
If you want to do anything in life, whether it be paint, sculpt, knit, turn wood, write a story, keep an art journal, become an entrepreneur, take a world tour - don't let the naysayers keep you from the true possibility of it. They are working from their own idea of what 'it' (like art) should be. They don't know you as well as you know yourself - your resolve, your strength, your creativity and capabilities. They are judging from their own life model and expectations - not yours - and they don't know how it will manifest for you. Only you know how your life will be enriched by your creative actions, whether it's drawing a zentangle, knitting a pair of mittens or finding some new way to get through your day-to-day.
Your expression and your vision of how your life can unfold is unique and valuable, no matter what anyone else thinks. You are creating your life every day starting with basics like your daily schedule, the clothes you put on in the morning or what you will have for lunch. You may be starting a new business, going to the gym, signing up for a course, changing jobs - so many possibilities. All of those are acts of self-exploration and discovery that are much more valuable than the product or outcome that others may be inclined to judge.
So, don't let those critics keep you from pursuing the real truth of your dreams! Set out on your own path, explore, discover, collect the data, imagine the possibilities - with an open mind. Do it yourself, or find others who are supportive and positive to do it with you. And, if your expectations and plan need to be modified, or if you have to park that idea on the 'back burner' for now, make it because you figured it out -not because someone else had an unfounded criticism and didn't really give you a chance. If you decide to go 'full-steam-ahead' after all - enjoy the journey!