Slow Down | The Secret To The Art of Living

Hello artistic friends!

They say that life imitates art, or vice versa. While traveling, I realized that this is so true. My art and teaching are a direct reflection of life itself. For instance, I’m sure we have all endured traffic at its worse. Who knew that something so frustrating could be inspirational, and be a metaphor for learning art?

My trip south to Florida provided me with ample experience with horrible drivers, road rage (not from me) and stand-still traffic. But, like anything else, it’s all in how we think! You may not always have control over what’s happening outside of you, but you ALWAYS have control over how you choose to deal with it.

For example, since I stop in Kentucky to see my family for the holidays on the way south, I always take a side trip to Cincinnati as well, to see all of my favorite people at North Light Books. They’re like family too! It’s then when we discuss the next line-up of books and DVDs. It’s only a couple of hours from my daughter’s house in Kentucky, so the extra stop is no big deal (or so I thought…).

I left in ample time to arrive for my 10:00 AM meetings, and was eager to see everyone. It was smooth sailing for the first hour or so in the car. I love driving, so my spirits were high. I had a good cup of coffee, with good music on the ol’ iPod, and a notepad next to me. It was the perfect place for hatching new ideas. Many of my book ideas and artwork projects seem to creep into my creative mind while in the car. Who knows–maybe it’s because I’m alone with my thoughts, but I always get super creative when I drive.

Suddenly, all that I could see was a sea of red lights in front of me, and I heard the screeching of tires as people went from 70 mph to, yep, you guessed it, zero. The peaceful atmosphere of my road trip had dissipated. Two semi-trucks had bumped each other, and both jackknifed and tipped over. Okay, stuff happens, and I was confident that we would be able to go around the accident. Nope! The highway was shut down. We were being detoured into the small towns of Kentucky, along very windy roads that seemed to lead to nowhere. Needless to say, I wasn’t going to make it to my meeting on time.

If the Old Masters had quit after achieving one great piece of art, we would have very little to look at.  It's the process of creating that keeps us going.

If the Old Masters had quit after achieving one great piece of art, we would have very little to look at. It’s the process of creating that keeps us going.

Since most of the time we were standing perfectly still, I took the opportunity to write. What once was a hopeful detour, was now the world’s largest parking lot. I couldn’t understand it! Why were we still stuck and not moving? Hadn’t we escaped the problem? Well, apparently, the impatience of some people had caused yet another wreck. Now we had both the interstate and the detour completely blocked, with nowhere to go. I could see the veins sticking out of the necks of some of the drivers as they blared their horns. I could see people yelling and some pretty colorful language being used behind their car doors (swear words are very, very easy to lip read). Now, not only was I going to be a bit late, but I was going to miss my meeting all together. A quick phone call to my senior editor, Jamie, took the pressure off, for he is so easy to work with. “No worries,” he said, “We’ll just rearrange a bit.”(God love him!)

So, here’s the moral of the story in case you’re wondering why I’m droning on about traffic. Instead of joining in on the road rage happening all around me, I chose to focus on my art and writing. The next book that I’ll be writing, after I finish Drawing the Clothed Figure, is one that I thought of during these traffic jams. Without the unfortunate circumstances of those truck drivers, I wouldn’t have come up with the idea for it. My whole career path was altered, much like the traffic flow, just by me making the decision to stay focused on art, and not traffic. (Just so you know, I will reveal the title later on, after it is approved. So you must stay tuned!)

After my stop in Cincinnati I got back in the car and headed south. More traffic issues waited for me on the way to Florida. I was once again placed in the position of comparing art, and teaching to the way people drive. I was amazed by the amount of people who would come speeding up along side of me, way over the speed limit, only to have to slam on the brakes when they approached slower moving traffic. Then, they would zigzag through the lanes, floor it, only to have to slam on the brakes again, becoming exceedingly frustrated by doing it, over and over again. They accomplished nothing.

Drawing fabric is fun.  Stay tuned for more examples from my upcoming book, Drawing the Clothed Figure.

Drawing fabric is fun. Stay tuned for more examples from my upcoming book, Drawing the Clothed Figure.

This behavior is similar to how students can sometimes approach art. Some are so eager to develop their artistic skills that they try to speed up and rush the process. In ten minutes, they want to draw like a professional, and then get frustrated when they run into a roadblock. The key to getting where you want to go is to:


Go with the flow! Art is a journey, so enjoy the ride. Just like I did, when faced with a detour, you must still at least try to enjoy the process. Getting in a hurry and forcing it will only lead you to frustration. I always tell my students that it’s “all in the doing.” It’s the artistic process that our souls are craving, not necessarily the finished result. It’s the learning process, and the sense of accomplishment that makes us feel fulfilled. If the finished project was all that we wanted, the great masters would’ve been content with creating only one great piece, and then they would’ve spent the rest of their lives admiring them. But no–as artists, once the piece is complete, we love it for a moment, and then we move on to the next. It’s the artistic process that we crave.

So…. Get busy being creative. Any waking moment can inspire… even the roadblocks, and all situations can be turned into a moment of artistic brilliance. Go into the day expecting to being inspired, and then turn that inspiration into something worthy of admiring; something that will become a thing of beauty for others, forever.

Until next time,
Lee Hammond has been called the Queen of Drawing. That may not be fair these days, since in addition to providing the best drawing lessons, she has also created fantastic books and videos filled with the same easy to follow acrylic painting techniques, colored pencil techniques and more. Click here to see all of the instructional books and DVDs that Lee Hammond has to offer!

You may also like these articles: