I have to admit to something here and now. Right through my art study, I pretty much just focused on producing ‘finished’ paintings. I don’t know how many times my poor tutors would implore me to put in some actual practice, but would I listen? Ah, no.

I think the problem was that I found early on that I could make work that sold. And selling a painting gave me such a leap in confidence that I became addicted to the experience. In my eyes, every new canvas was a potential sale and so my mind was on the finished product, not so much the process.

You might know, if you’ve read through my blog, that I gave up painting a few years ago. I have no doubt that it was because I put too much pressure on myself to perform – to do well, to sell well, to please others. But, guess what? The whole burn-out thing was a blessing in disguise.

Coming back to painting after a several year hiatus really levels the playing-field. I came back feeling like a complete newbie with everything to learn and no-0ne to impress. For a while that sense of freedom felt liberating, but it’s surprising how fast old patterns re-asserted themselves. Yet again, I found myself trying to make finished paintings, with all the pressure that comes along with it.

Not wanting to repeat the past, I made the decision several weeks ago that it had to stop. That if I was ever to develop a long-term, fulfilling relationship with painting, I had to commit to doing things differently. So I put away the big canvases and bought some good quality art paper instead. I rummaged through my old art materials and gathered up my sticks of charcoal, my Indian ink, my oil pastels and acrylic paints. And, then I set out to simply play and explore.

I have to say that the experience has been an absolute joy. I turn up at the fresh white paper with absolutely no preconceived ideas, no pressure, no expectations. I play with colour, experiment with marks and try out new tools. If it doesn’t work out, it’s just a piece of paper. If it does, it’s a bonus. Either way, I’ve learned something new.

Practice (exploration) is everything. It sees you taking more risks, making more mistakes (and therefore learning from them), becoming less precious about what you do (which is a good thing!) and learning to trust in yourself and the process. Because you’re not fixating on the outcome and getting in your own way, it also fast-tracks you to uncovering who you are as an artist and surely that’s the biggest prize of all. I highly recommend it!

Playful arising is authorized by both risk and trust in the process and in oneself. To be truly playful and improvisational one must not look for results.
Josh Goldberg