Painting can be an intense exercise. All of us first come to painting with enthusiasm. It’s a joyous adventure filled with possibilities. Every new experience and accomplishment is cause for celebration. As we get deeper into the craft, we begin to understand just how difficult it is. So much effort can be put into learning how to paint that we can forget to play and to have fun artistically.
The importance of remembering to have fun is something I was taught many years ago while learning to play tennis. I loved the game but knew I needed a lot of guidance to play it well. I went to the local tennis club and inquired about lessons. The resident pro was a world-class player and took me on to the court to assess my skill level. After he hit a few balls over the net and I energetically attempting to hit them back, we approached the net. “Richard”, he said, “you are one of the worst players I have ever seen. You are awkward and have taught yourself to do every tennis move wrong, but you have such great enthusiasm for the game that I am willing to take you on as a student with one condition: You will do the lessons I lay out without objection, even if it entails hours of hitting a ball against a wall, and you will pay me a lot of money for the privilege. This will take considerable time and great effort on your part. If you agree to my terms, I have one more very important request: You have to remember to continue to play the game with your friends and just have fun between the lessons. It’s the most important key.”
When I am feeling like painting is becoming just a lesson and a bit of an exercise, I like to give myself permission to have fun and to be playful with the underpainting and subject matter. By not over-thinking the underpainting and allowing myself to spontaneously respond, creative possibilities emerge. If it is a mess, I cover it up and correct it with pastel.
When I notice that subject matter is becoming a bit predictable and formulated, I play around by selecting just a section of a scene and have fun with its textures and rhythms. Wooded areas are great for this. Both of these practices lighten me up and bring back the enthusiasm I have for the painting game. The kid comes out again.
If you have a specific way you to encourage your creative child to have more fun, please post a comment. It’s always interesting to hear how others nurture the playful side of painting.