Is Art-Making a Sacred Process?

Creating art can be a sensitive process. If you’re like me, you want to hide it from everyone until it’s more ready to be seen, rather than allowing others to see the raw version that you know is going to continue to morph into something greater. No one on this planet is closer to me than my husband, but when I’m working on a creative project and he comes into the room, I freeze. Not because he’s judgmental in any way; in fact, I’m better at nearly everything I do because of his feedback and support. But those beginning stages of art in any form are critically vulnerable. For me, there isn’t mental space for anything else that could interfere with my flow.

Watercolor painting by Sandrine Pelissier | ArtistsNetwork.com

Self Portrait (watercolor and mixed media on paper, 20×20) by Sandrine Pelissier, who says, “This portrait is painted from a reference picture that my friend Paula Vander took. The reference picture already had the unusual cropping that I liked but I wanted more than just a realistic rendering of the picture. So, once the painting had time to dry, I started adding colored pencil marks that are reminiscent of the ones I would make if I was doing a quick sketch for that portrait without being too careful. I like the combination of carefully planned slow painting and spontaneous, fast gesture drawing. I did a drawing from the reference picture that I transferred onto the watercolor paper. The portrait and the background are carefully painted by layering colors to render the skin tones using a technique demonstrated in Fearless Watercolor for Beginners (Chapter 3: Painting with Multiple Color Mixing Techniques). I used masking fluid only for the white of the eye.”

This could be because creating art is a sacred process that welcomes a nearly meditational state of focus, at least in my experiences. Or it could be because of fear: of rejection, judgment or criticism. Even a hint of these could be detrimental to the process, and it’s our job as the mothers and fathers of our art to protect it until it can stand on its own, so to speak.

Honing our skill in specific areas is one way to help alleviate the fear that may hold us back, and artist Sandrine Pelissier knows how to do this. In her new book, Fearless Watercolor for Beginners: Adventurous Painting Techniques to Get You Started, she shares the basics, including inspiration to keep you motivated throughout the art-making process.

“We tend to be much more critical of a painting just after it’s been finished, perhaps because we are so focused on evaluating the painting and fixing mistakes in the last stages of the process,” Pelissier says. “Sometimes all that’s needed is a bit of distance to regain an objective point of view. Try this: The next time you finish a painting, put it away and leave it alone for a few days, or a few weeks, whatever is comfortable for you. Then re-examine it with fresh eyes. You might discover that it wasn’t so bad after all.”

She goes on to advise taking pictures of your creative process as a visual journal, to remember the steps you took, to see it from an outsider’s perspective, and to share on social media. I couldn’t agree more. I think it also helps validate your work, because you can see the progression and you’ve documented the time and effort you’ve put into a piece. This can help bring you even more satisfaction from the process itself, and that’s a good thing.

Pelissier’s Fearless Watercolor for Beginners is newly available at North Light Shop. It features 22 step-by-step demonstrations, with topics such as: Basic Techniques, Techniques for Adding Texture, Incorporating Mixed Media, and more. With a resource such as this, you’ll have more techniques on hand to conquer some of the fears that all artists face.

Paint fearlessly,
Cherie

Cherie Haas, online editor
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