Lessons I have learned

I have been focussing on painting for exactly three years.  Lots of visitors to Birdsong Studio are rather surprised about the short duration of my journey.

"No way!" they'll say.  Or, "You're kidding."


Three years ago, just days after starting work at United Way, I painted my first wild colour portrait.  It was a mural of elder Elsie Yanik.  Dorothy McDonald followed, as did Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, Bob Dylan and Phil Meagher.


The productivity has increased over the three years, as has the interest from clients, mostly from the Fort McMurray area but also spread throughout Canada, U.S., and a few locations overseas.  I'm at the point now where I'm preparing to take the leap into semi-retired life to paint on a more full-time basis.  That's coming up soon, though the painting and the learning will continue during all of my free hours between now and then.


I'm a self-taught artist.  In other words, I've had to figure this thing out as I've went along.  It's been nice to share some of that acquired knowledge with other artists who have reached out to ask about various aspects of what I do.  Here are a few lessons that stick out for me.

You're only as good as your latest painting - this is a psychological reality for artistic souls that I'm still struggling with.  I may have dozens and dozens of paintings that I think are pretty good, but my focus and frailty is with the one on the easel in the moment.


People want to feel connected - there is an intensely social element to my artistic practice.  People are constantly engaging on social media and in real life, whether at Birdsong Studio or at the many events where I paint live.  I'm convinced that any success I have had is a result that the community that has developed around my paintings and projects.

Step forward every day - I consciously do something to move my painting forward every single day, no matter how I feel. It may not be actual painting that I do.  Sometimes it is drawing, packaging or organizing.  There is a lot to do in Birdsong Studio whether the muse is with me or not.

Listen to the creative wind - there are times when I get flashes of inspiration: a moment, a picture, a curiosity.  I do my best to respond to these creative suggestions offered up by the universe.  Nothing feels better, to be completely honest.


Struggle is inevitable and essential - I will keep the portrait I did of George W. Bush; it will never be available for purchase.  It's not that I was a huge G.W. fan; I was not.  However, it represents and reminds me about the importance of struggling from time to time.  I worked many hours on that painting trying to find the former President.  He emerged eventually, but I had to work at it.  I still struggle with the struggle.

Learn to say no - this is difficult, especially for a guy who has a demonstrated weakness for being a people pleaser.  There are times when I'm asked to paint things that don't work for me.  I have mostly accepted those commissions with the thought that I had something to learn in the discomfort.  That said, I'm at the point where I have so many commissions that I want to paint that I need to learn to kindly decline those that I don't.

ArtisTRY is TRY - there is an infinite world of possibility when it comes to creating art.  Some things are going to work; some things are going to fail; everything is essential to the process of evolving as a creator.

This is a fascinating trip.  I keep learning lessons and evolving in directions that are unexpected and fun.  That said, my confidence still gets battered and beaten from time to time; I truly have an artistic temperament.  While some projects seem to happen magically, others require a whole lot of work.  In the end, I always move forward, extracting the essential lessons from each experience and investing them in the next.

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