Friday, January 12, 2007

Stop Cleaning Your Brushes !

I came across a great artist story the other day and I want to pass it along to you for a couple of reasons. One is that it gives me an excuse to tell you about the great art email newsletter I got it from but more on that later. First the story.

The artist telling the story admits to being somewhat lax with respect to all the rules one learns about cleaning brushes. From our first art experience we are generally taught to clean up after ourselves and particularly to carefully clean the paint brushes. My dad was not an artist but he frequently told me that the job is not done until the tools are properly put away.

However, I must say that many of the artists I know are not particularly fastidious. Looking at the messy condition of their studios, I sometimes wonder how such beautiful work can emerge from such a god awful mess. This little story gave me some insights into this apparent contradiction:

My bad habit goes back to an experience I had in art school. There was this chap--I won't mention his name--who spent all of his time cleaning and getting ready. He'd even clean stuff before he was going to paint--and then he wouldn't paint. He never really did. After a semester or two he got kicked out and went into dentistry.

After telling his story, the artist observed, “Brush cleaning can be just another avoidance activity. ... I feel I'm a painter, not a cleaner. I failed cleaning.”

I remember as a child getting a beautiful diary with block prints by the delightful Northern Michigan nature artist Gwen Frostic on every page but never using it because I couldn't think of anything important enough to say to write on those beautiful pages. A friend who knew me well once told me that often it is important to stop worrying about whether you will obtain perfection and just do something.

All of us need to remember, artists and those who have not yet discovered their inner artist, to stop cleaning our brushes and just PAINT!

The Artist who wrote the story is Robert Glenn. I read it in his inspiring and informative Twice Weekly Letter, which you can receive in your email inbox for free. Sign up at his website, The Painter's Keys Community.

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