I used to feel guilty. Plein air sketching never felt natural to me.
But I didn’t like to admit it. I thought it was something an artist SHOULD do.
I've learnt the hard way that SHOULDS are extremely toxic for artists. Or for anyone really.
Thinking there’s a right way makes you blind to your own personal way of doing things. You think YOUR way is wrong. Inferior. Something a ‘real artist’ wouldn’t do.
But, in fact, it’s just the opposite.
Doing things YOUR way is the key to unlocking your unique creative voice.
My Way of Looking (That Probably Isn't Yours)
I discovered this by accident. In 2011 I made a piece of art every day. During this process, I realised that a lot of my work reflected what was going on around me, especially the landscape.
No-one would ever call me a landscape artist, that’s for sure. Yet you can document where I am from looking at my work.
It turns out that I often pull my external environment into my work without consciously intending to, through a kind of abstracted looking.
I’m looking but I’m not looking hard.
I’m absorbed in my surroundings but I’m not focussing on anything particular.
And I’m definitely not going out and recording the landscape in a sketchbook.
Sometimes the landscape’s presence is subtle - it’s in the palette; or in the found materials I incorporate into the texture or composition - from dried grasses to bits of rusty metal. Other times I put a major landmark slap bang in the piece. In this case I reference my photos, although not in a copy-it kind of way.
Admittedly I do take lots of photos. Many of these I never look at again after framing the shot. But it’s likely that this is part of my process of looking.
So it turns out I don’t actually need to go out and record the landscape in my sketchbook to make it part of my work. And I CAN be a ‘real artist’ without doing that.
Because I have my OWN way of recording what I see.
Value YOUR Way of Doing Things
When you explore your own way of doing something, it means you’re being the real you. Not the you that wants to achieve something external.
No. We all know deep down that our art doesn’t come from ‘out there’.
It comes from that deep place made up of the weird and contradictory elements that makes you, YOU - and not somebody else.
When you do your quirky things that you imagine ‘real artists’ wouldn’t do, you honour that deep inner place in which the muse dwells. You celebrate yourself in all your oddness.
Contrary to what many blog posts would have you believe, there are no 10 Best Ways to do anything. There’s just YOUR way.
Why not make this year the Year of Being You?
What ways do YOU work that you think 'real' artists or writers wouldn't do?
How can you do them even MORE this year?
If you liked this post, you might also like: Why Being a Rebel is Good for Your Creativity