Tip #2 Play like a kid again (10 Tips for Freestyle Painting)

Paint Like a Kid Again!Tip #2 is to let yourself go like your a little child. Envision a time when you remember playing as a child having so much fun on a creative project (spontaneous, in the moment, delight in each act without judgment, etc. - think of child or your child, they try, try, try, try, try, try and try again until . . . they get it!, squeal with delight! They are so PROUD and want your approval (your inner child wants your approval).

And remember these tips:

- Taking pleasure in the moment not the destination - You are your harshest critic - What does it mean to you to be “artistic?” “an “artist?” creative? intuitive? - Notice your immediate mental reactions to these words and release them with forgiveness and kindness - Now be here in moment, right now. Close eyes. Put on favorite music and put on repeat for 20 minutes. Close eyes, take 3 deep breathes, and start. Don't think! - Slop it on, pool it, have fun - Enjoy the physical act of moving the paint around on your surface with brush, palette knife, any other tool, etc. Really notice how the paint behaves, if you had more water, less water, more oil/mineral spirits, less.

These are all artwork from my son. He's tiny, artwork spanning when he first starts at 6 months to now 20 months. The latest works I love. They are so spontaneous, free and  there's such genuine experimentation. But most of all he does not care at all what happens. It's the sheer joy in the moment of putting that brush with the paint or glue or whatever to the paper. Then he lets it all go and moves on in the day to snack time or play time or whatever. But the marks are there to prove there was something in that moment that he connected with. And that is the feeling of total bliss with yourself, trusting yourself, your intuition and tell your left-brain critic to shut up! Just this once! Who cares?! :)

Paint Like a Kid Again! Paint Like a Kid Again! Paint Like a Kid Again! Paint Like a Kid Again! Paint Like a Kid Again! Paint Like a Kid Again! Paint Like a Kid Again! Paint Like a Kid Again! Paint Like a Kid Again! Paint Like a Kid Again! Paint Like a Kid Again! Paint Like a Kid Again!

Tip #1 Embrace the Blank Canvas (10 Tips for Freestyle Painting)

blank canvasSelf doubts plague all of us, but especially newbies who are prone to be particularly self-sabotaging. The only difference is that as you learn the process and begin to trust yourself, you start to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable about painting and just “keep going.” But as with anything, you have to START.

What first comes to your thought when you think  art, artist, creative, intuitive? Write out your initial thoughts.

Now what first comes to thought when you put the word “me” in front of it? Write out your initial thoughts.

Oh believe me does any of these negative thoughts sound familiar?

I’m not an artistI can’t paint! That’s WAY WAY Too scary and way too artistic! • I’m more of a craft/project person - tell me what to do and how to do it and I like that more • You have to be “born” a painter - it’s in your blood! • I loved painting as a child, but never “did it right I guess” or was told I wasn’t that good, so I thought I wasn’t • Painting is way too frustrating because I have an “idea” in my head and it never comes out the way I want • Freestyle painting is the ultimate intimidation! How the heck am I supposed to paint abstractly when I have no idea what I’m painting to begin with! •Blank canvas is the most terrifying thing for me. As soon as I start I truly love working with the painting but I have major blank canvas syndrome

Ok answers to all of the above is just to START, START, START, START!

And take a second to just think about this: When you cook, you don’t stress out staring at the counter tops or the oven/stove in disbelief because you can’t cook! You don’t pull out all your ingredients and just stare in horror that somehow these items will be put together into some dish that will be delicious? You know the eggs, butter, flour, salt, vanilla extract, etc. (totally separate and kind of weird objects in themselves when you sit to think about it) will be parts of the total whole, which are cookies! You also know that while dough is yummy, it’s really not what is the end project. Cooked cookies are the finale (even though yes, we all make cookie dough and stop right there!)

My point is that you just start.  You don’t question yourself IF you are a cook, you just are. You are a cook because you are cooking! Now you may not consider yourself a gourmet cook, a good baker or griller or perhaps you just throw things together from frozen stuff or left overs or whatever. But you still are in the act of cooking. No matter what that definition is or how it is specifically defined, you cook yourself or your family a meal.

But most importantly - You also trust the process. You know that all those ingredients will make cookies (now if they are good cookies or not that’s another topic). But right now it DOES NOT MATTER. Just get your paints, get your water and get your brushes. Find that paper or canvas or board or whatever you want to paint on . . . and set your timer to paint.

If you want to start, just begin with 20 minutes - set your timer on your iPhone or whatever and paint till the beeping goes off. And then put aside and don't judge. Next day, do the same until at some point you hopefully get into it and keep painting after the beeper goes off. But the key right now is NOT TO JUDGE ANYTHING - it's so difficult! I KNOW. Believe me. I've been there many many times. But like a cook, you are an artist, because you are painting right now. And that's all that you need to be aware of right now.


My sister shared this cooking analogy with me when I first started to discuss the possibility of going back to school for . . . art. I was living in Chicago at the time in a great job (one that I could probably have still stayed in over a decade later) but my life was empty. I was very depressed (didn't know it then but realized it looking back). I was yearning for a more creative life. But I was not cut out to be a graphic designer for lie, or in advertising or marketing. It just never felt right. But it wasn't practical at all and my husband was completely bewildered that I would even consider going back to school for art instead of MFA in Graphic Design. This analogy really stayed with me - it was so simple but in it's essence very profound.

Check out my post on how it all began for me - the "Painting that changed my life" in college.

What is "freestyle" painting?

Acrylic, ink on panel, 24x36, 2012 What is freestyle painting? Funny. I don' tknow!!  It's curious, I've never ever thought of myself as "freestyle" until writing this blog today, literally. I'm an abstract contemporary artist. That's how I'm labeled and within the art world, that is how you define yourself--a contemporary artist who paints figures, or contemporary landscape artist, or abstract geometric artist etc.

I encountered the term freestyle while looking up books on Amazon for abstract paintings. This must be a new marketing term for consumers to understand a bit more what abstraction is perhaps? Because in the academic and professional fields, I've not encountered that definition before and it's not an official definition yet in the art world. But one things for certain, it is a very general label that lumps practically everything called "art" into it.

Acrylic, found paper, ink on paper (3 panels), 18x56, 2010

For my work I don't mind using the term "freestyle" because I do think that it is starting resonate easier with those of you who want to learn this kind of style. In the art world, it would be classified as "expressive." But for my definition, I am going to define freestyle as I define my artwork: organic, abstract, contemporary, free-form, gestural, and expressive. I also will go one step further to add that freestyle painting implies finding a personal style or voice through abstract painting, at least that's the most important thing to convey to any newbie artist that wants to experiment with this kind of abstract painting.

Abstraction has over a 100-year old history. So anything "abstract" can also include all sorts of imagery within in it. During the early 20th century, budding abstract artists were painting anything that wasn't found in the "real world."

By 1950's, with Jackson Pollock who rocked the art world with all-over gestural paintings, the term expressive became identified with his style specifically, abstract expressionism. Decades after him, we've gone back and forth, reacting against Pollock's work, and then reacting against those who've reacted, and then taking that and ripping it apart and then piecing it back together, etc. (splitting up into an art historian's nightmare, how to classify 1800 different "styles?" since the 1950's?).  You could easily argue that everything since Jackson Pollock in the artwork has been a reaction against him. That the only true originality in art was Picasso and Pollock (yes, that's stretching it but he sure has had a tremendous influence on how we culturally and socially think about art).

Today, pretty much anything and everything goes, and the "interdisciplinary media," academics love to call it, emphasizes more immersion-type media like installation work, photography and video. As you can imagine, there have been endless debates for decades and decades arguing that "painting is dead" after Pollock. It just goes on and on.

So it all works.

Acrylic, mixed media on cotton tablecloth, 70x179cm, 2011

My latest series of artwork is mostly abstract, although I reference floral patterns and stylized imagery and even sometimes have inserted bits and pieces of photographs of flowers or trees or forest imagery into my paintings (especially experimenting with my master's work). I love patterns from wallpaper and textiles and have been incorporating them into my work since my master's program.

But the difference is that I abstract those images themselves. I rarely just take something that is referential (like a photograph of a flower) and just insert it into my painting whole so that the viewer sees it in its entirety. It doesn't mean I won't some day, but for now I'm more interested in abstracting imagery, which by definition simply means "freedom from inserting representational qualities in art." I manipulate that flower photograph, either by pulling it apart or cutting it up so that there is a familiar reference that you might be able to make out, but at first glance, all you see are colors and shapes. And then usually embed those images into the whole piece so that my mark-making, brush strokes, painterly style is mixed in with that image. That is essentially abstraction. A great example is my Butter Cream (2011) circle painting where I do exactly that with photographs of leaves from a forest. You cannot tell unless you get really up close that those are cut photographs.

Abstract painting strips all imagery down to the essentials: color, form, shape, texture and line. There are as many different types of abstract art as there are people. In the art history context, abstraction includes a much wider definition, again simply art that does not reference the "natural world" around us (representational) but uses color, form, line, shape to depict imagery. It could be sculpture, a multi-media presentation, graphics or even photography. It can be geometric and architectural.

Acrylic, paper mixed media on matte board 9x12

As for my painting, I'm classified within the expressive camp. Oftentimes you might read or hear the term mark-making or painterly mark which means the way in which the paint (or other type of medium) is treated on the surface of the canvas (or wood, or panel or whatever). If it's applied with a brush, it's literally the way the paint is manipulated by the brush on the surface. Abstract Expressionism again directly references Pollock because it is the physicality of the paint with the surface that is the painting. There is nothing else really. Therefore, mark-making is also a broad term that can be applied to how the paint is applied to any surface. For example, it can be poured, pooled, scratched, whipped, thrown, sliced, painted, scraped, wiped, blotted, stamped, finger-printed, basically you name it! The tools used are also very broad, as are indeed the different types of media that is applied. And there are exceptions to this generality of course (that is what the modern and contemporary movements in painting are consistently pushing boundaries of what we expect a painting should look like or be). But for our context, the way that you express yourself through your favorite media on a 2-dimensional surface constitutes your personal style. And it all lives under the umbrella term of freestyle.

So join me in freestyle abstract painting! I would love to get feedback and hear your thoughts.