Sixteen reasons why I won’t paint today

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Dear Artist,

A woman wrote recently and told me she was unable to paint because a neighbour was “using some sort of Weed Eater or Leaf Blower.” Pressed for time, I wrote her a quick note quoting Confucius — “An inconvenience is an unrecognized opportunity.” I suggested she get a headset to close out the annoyance and tune in to Chopin. Then I started thinking about my inbox with all the excuses people give for not painting. With a little digging, I was able to find a few choice ones:

“I ran out of yellow ochre.” “I saw ants in the studio.” “I was too hot.” “I was too cold.” “Somebody broke into our house and stole the TV.” “Our Jack Russell, ‘Jack Russell’ had to go to the vet.” “This day next week my sister-in-law is coming.” “I can’t think of anything to paint.” “My brother is moving out.” “I’m overtired from sleeping on the floor.” “My art teacher died.” “I had to help Dad with his walk-in bath.” “I couldn’t find my sketches from last year.” “My brushes are in too poor shape.” “My Pontiac worries me; it needs replacing.”

The excuse, “I was fooling around with the Painter’s Keys search engine and it used up all my time,” was already taken.

While all the excuses listed above were interesting, “This day next week my sister-in-law is coming,” seemed overly loaded with possibilities. Have you any idea how golden a pre-sister-in-law week can be? The anticipated sister-in-law may be Jabba the Hutt (quote: “Spasteelia a bunkadunka”) with drool and a voice that shatters glass, but the eternity before her arrival may just turn out to be the most fantastic week of your life. To a butterfly, a week is a lifetime.

Annoying as all these impedimenta are, they shouldn’t bother folks with internal drive. Internal drive is the forge of productivity. In all self-starting activities where end results are dependent on you and you alone, procrastination is the default mode. You can pretty well always find a reason not to work. But like that headset mentioned above, there’s practically always a solution if you want something badly enough.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “There is no waste of time in life like that of making explanations.” (Benjamin Disraeli)

Esoterica: The natural fears that go with original creativity can be neutralized by simple ruses: Get started on your work before you have a chance to think why you shouldn’t. Think of those who have real interference — like militia knocking on the door. If necessity is the mother of invention, the only thing stopping an invention may be self-sabotage. Self-sabotage is a negative habit that persistently stymies the joy of testing our will. “The most pernicious aspect of procrastination,” says author Steven Pressfield, “is that it can become a habit. We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed.” Henry David Thoreau put it in stronger words: “Despair and postponement are cowardice and defeat.”

Art more important than the falling sky
by Kat Corrigan, Minneapolis, MN, USA

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Untitled
original painting
by Kat Corrigan

As a working artist I find myself acting as a cheerleader of sorts at times for friends and clients — and often it is more to simply listen to why we can’t work than any issues with the work itself. I gave a talk last night at an exhibit of some of my recent work and it was all about me and my life and my own little problems that have stymied me in my work. The fact is that my art has actually saved my life often! But I had to be the one giving it priority — it has to be more important than that Leaf Blower, or in my case last night at my talk, in the continual beeping of someone’s i-phone set on some alarm that they didn’t realize and didn’t recognize. It wasn’t until I was finished speaking and we were mingling that I got close enough to her to hear the noise coming directly from her purse. It was pretty funny.

Highly distracting studio
by Janet Spreiter, Lahaina, HI, USA

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“Purple haze”
oil painting by Janet Spreiter

Ants in the studio? That’s it? My studio features a living tree, ants, dogs, cockroaches and termites in profusion, geckos, centipedes, very large cane spiders, plus rats fighting in the ceiling and sometimes in the open. I like to think of it as an indoor petting zoo. The hotel across the street has a crew of employees they arm with blowers, hedge trimmers, jackhammers, drills, tile cutters, you name it, and they are busy 9-5, weekends included. Of course, this same hotel is bristling with copious noisy tourists and rental car alarms day and night, not to mention a fair supply of drunks and derelicts passing between the free meals at Salvation Army and the beach access across the street (sleep on the beach and enjoy refreshing beverages with pals on the sand). Conveniently for all, there is a bar named Spanky’s that closes at 2am beside the hotel. My studio walls are cunningly propped up so they don’t collapse from termite damage. The ceiling has patches and holes where my husband has fallen through when sweeping the roof. Fortunately, the tarp covering the roof has saved his neck more than once. The roof leaks into large buckets – or misses altogether – when it rains, which is thankfully not very often. When it does rain, it is torrential and the floor goes underwater. Real painters can ignore just about every kind of distraction devised by mankind.



There are 5 comments for Highly distracting studio by Janet Spreiter

From: Stephanie — Jul 18, 2011

Janet, you are a hero. Not to mantion your husband, the noble roof sweeper.

From: Laurel Alanna McBrine — Jul 19, 2011

But you live in paradise, and we are all jealous, so you are not allowed to complain :) – this coming from someone who has winter 8 months of the year!

From: Sharon Cory — Jul 19, 2011

Lahaina is one of my favourite cities in the world. I spent a month there years ago and all the negatives are true…the drunks on the beach, the construction. But I’ll never forget the smell of flowers and the heaviness of the air as I got off the plane and headed into town. I was intoxicated with the richness for the whole month.

From: Stefanie Graves — Jul 19, 2011

Yes, you have become my new hero as well. It sounds too comic a place to paint. You must have the focus of, of, of….. I don’t know what.

From: Em Stortroen — Jul 21, 2011

Now I understand my favourite party song by Loggins & Messina “Lahaina”!! “de centipedes crawling all over de place!” So-o-o….good on you girl for carrying on despite all these charming impediments to creativity….maybe an inspiration, huh? Who knows how these things work?!

Polishing the silver
by Leonard Skerker, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

Have you heard the expression “polishing the silver”? A Prof. (not of art) told me of the classic story of the PhD candidate writing his thesis who was getting nowhere (typical) so his wife said she would take the kids away for the summer so he wouldn’t be disturbed. When she returned the house was immaculate and he boasted how perfectly he had polished the silver (thesis unfinished, of course). Also, referring to painting, drawing, etc., as Work may be a clue to the delaying. Maybe a shift (small? huge?) to calling it fun, pleasure, a delight, would remove the barrier. Or maybe the opposite… maybe seeing it that way is an unacceptable self-indulgence, so if it were a mandatory job it would stimulate immediate attention. Puzzling, what?



There is 1 comment for Polishing the silver by Leonard Skerker

From: Anonymous — Jul 28, 2011

Some people do things they truly don’t want to to. Its something they have to do to get to where they want to be. Like a thesis, or a type of painting they have to learn to be able to do the type of painting they want to do. I have no love for painting landscape, but to paint heroic scenes I will need to be able to have strong backdrops. Those tasks can be the most daunting. Mix it up with the things you love doing and give your self little rewards for doing what you have to to get there. If I have done an hour of landscape practice, I’ll reward myself with a little portrait or figure drawing.

Not needing a break
by Terry Mason, Sarasota, FL, USA

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“Harbormaster’s Marsh”
original painting 9 x 12 inches
by Terry Mason

Yesterday, I was out painting with friends. They were all talking about “needing a break from painting.” I wasn’t saying anything. One asked, “Terry, do you ever need a break from painting?” I said that actually I started to get twitchy and a little difficult if I had not had a brush in my hand in 48 hours. I was told I was obsessed.

All in all, I would rather be obsessed. Saves time trying to figure out anything about breaks. How long should they be? What should I do instead of paint? What if I don’t want to paint for a long time? (Oh my, the guilt!) Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about these things. I’ve been diagnosed with painting obsession. An excuse for never taking a break. There is always a painting in my head. So I am painting even if I am not in front of the easel. This sometimes makes me a poor conversationalist. This sometimes makes me boring… but not inside my head where I am perfectly happy indeed. Last year I struggled with how much time I actually had to spend on social media. I handled this by saying I wasn’t quite ready so I could paint instead. I don’t think this excuse will last forever. Too bad.



There are 3 comments for Not needing a break by Terry Mason

From: Anonymous — Jul 19, 2011

I’m glad you count painting in one’s head as something too, as I do it all the time. Love the painting!

From: Suzette Fram — Jul 19, 2011

Love this painting. The blues in it totally grab me, and make the painting. I guess we are all attracted to different things, this one does it for me. Thanks for sharing.

From: Sara Star — Jul 28, 2011

I probably bore the tears out of my friends. I always am talking about some painting I am working on and the challenges I am attempting to solve in it. But my friends stick around anyways. Painting in your head is great because when you get to the canvas you already have a lot of it worked out.

The Daily Painter
by Lisa Daria Kennedy, Hull, MA, USA

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“Proof”
acrylic painting
by Lisa Daria Kennedy

I’m a young adult cancer survivor so I have a persistence to make sure every day matters. I’m also a daily painter and have not missed a day of painting in 780 consecutive days (including Christmas).

Daily painting has become a reminder that every day can bring with it reason. My optimism and perception have become part of the process of creating each day without reservation or excuse. You can’t have the good without the bad. The finished painting represents a consistently positive and stabilizing presence of my view of my immediate surroundings. After two years of painting every day I’ve no intention of stopping. I paint because I live and breathe and others who had young adult cancer would not go on to. You couldn’t have stated it any better, “to a butterfly, a week is a lifetime.”



There are 11 comments for The Daily Painter by Lisa Daria Kennedy

From: Linda Mallery — Jul 18, 2011

You go girl! Well done.

From: stephanie — Jul 18, 2011

Another hero!

From: Anonymous — Jul 19, 2011

Very nice painting to boot.

From: Suzanne — Jul 19, 2011

Yesterday, my sister and I decided it was time to quit spinning our wheels and get on with things (long story). Your comments are perfectly timed! How dare I waste a moment? I am humbled and inspired. Thank you.

From: Sharon Cory — Jul 19, 2011

Wonderful painting.

From: Anonymous — Jul 19, 2011

Thanks,for reminding me…..

From: Loretta West — Jul 19, 2011

After my cancer experience, I did much the same thing for a year or more….incredible production. It got me over the rough spots and continues to do so today. Thanks for sharing, it’s a good reminder. Quote on my fridge says: “It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years!” Abe Lincoln Best wishes for good health to you.

From: Michael — Jul 19, 2011

A juicy little painting, sister. Makes my mouth water to look at those colours.

From: David Gellatly — Jul 19, 2011
From: Jim Oberst — Jul 19, 2011

You are an inspiration!

From: Marilyn Kousoulas — Jul 20, 2011

Your painting is lovely! I am so glad that you chose art as your out-let and enjoy each day! Days are precious. As a care giver for my husband who has cancer, I find that my art work is very therapeutic for me. When there is time for ‘me,’ I try to paint or draw whatever is in front of me and my break time passes with happy thoughts and not go to the matter at hand. Thank you so much for your input and beautiful art work. You are an inspiration, Lisa!

Painter compulsive after losing job
>by Kate Pethoud, Modesto, CA, USA

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“Little sunflowers”
watercolour by Kate Pethoud

Since I became involuntarily unemployed almost three years ago, I paint. I paint and I play with clay, and when I’m not playing with the clay, I’m painting it… and then I switch off and play with water colors and soft, smooshy pastels whose colors would not let me pass them by when I was in the art store. They bellowed to me until I came back around the corner from the masking fluid and stared at me until I counted all the singles and change I had in my purse to see how many of them would accompany me home that day. It was precisely four, burnt orange, sage, turquoise, and Navajo reddish brown. They remind me of New Mexico.

I will put off dishes, I will put off cooking, I will put off laundry, I will put off eating… and if I have things to do during the day, which I often do, I will stay up until I’m falling asleep because I’m rather addicted to color and watching it move across paper. I’ve fallen asleep with a brush in my hand and a strange line across the paper… but I never understand those who can’t make the time. I don’t feel the need to talk so much when I paint. I don’t need to fill up the space with words when colors can convey so much better.



There are 2 comments for Painter compulsive after losing job by Kate Pethoud

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Jul 30, 2011

Oh, Kate, after my own heart! I was laughing when I read some of the excuses in Robert’s letter, as I thought of the unwashed dishes, the dustbunnies, the grocery shopping I really have to do, the uncut grass… I don’t have time to do them because I have to paint or weave! Ants, indeed. I wonder what the real issue is?

I have had a work crew in my house for over a week now, doing interior work, and the furniture moves from room to room and sits overnight in clumps. Both my easel and my loom are shoved into far corners. So I draw, and what a wonderful opportunity to learn to spin on the lovely spindle I fortuitously bought just the week before! I’m getting rather good at it, and visualize dying it and imagining how I can use it in my weaving.

From: Anonymous — Aug 20, 2012

Weaving? I’ve always, ALWAYS wanted to weave too!! It’s that whole “color” thing. I like big globs of it! I’m at DreamrKate@yahoo.com should you ever want to drop a note.

K

Men have the better deal
by Ortrud K. Tyler, Oak Island, NC, USA

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“Story Robes”
original painting
by Ortrud K. Tyler

Male painters seem to be able to drop everything anytime and go and paint whenever they want to, either because they live by themselves or have a wife who, among other things, keeps the real world from their studio door. They don’t seem to have a problem choosing their avocation over whatever else may have a right to claim their time and energy. If they are professional, many times their wife keeps the books, guards the phone and just makes it possible for him to do what he does. Rarely have women painters that opportunity, if they are married. Most juggle family life, other life and painter’s life, not because we want to but — we are good at multi-tasking. I noticed over the years, that many successful women artists who truly make it their career, to include teaching, traveling, holding workshops regularly are divorced or never married. They may live in relationships, but the understanding is clear. My art comes first – live with it. It would be interesting to find out if the statistics bear this out.



There are 15 comments for Men have the better deal by Ortrud K. Tyler

From: Anonymous — Jul 18, 2011

A beautiful piece.

From: Holly Quan, Turner Valley, AB, Canada — Jul 19, 2011

sorry, I have to comment on this post. Every person’s situation is different and I don’t think it’s fair to swish a big flat brush and colour everyone the same. In my case it’s my retired partner who keeps the real world operating while I paint (and work, I’m a writer). He does the shopping, the cooking, the banking and hundreds of other tasks. He keeps up contact with the kids. All the while, I’m in our lower floor office-studio-workspace, brush in hand. Perhaps our situation is unusual but I think it comes down to balance and to working with your husband/wife/partner so everyone gets the painting time they need (or whatever time they need). To quote Mick Jagger, you can’t always get what you want, but if you try, you’ll find you get what you need.

From: Anonymous — Jul 19, 2011

I think the reverse can also be true. I know many talented women painters who do not take their work seriously because someone else is footing the bills, and they can just “play” at it. Makes me crazy. One way or the other, those that drive themselves have some inner seriousness about it, and they kind of negotiate with the rest of life. Not to say that they also don’t have “sixteen reasons not to paint” sometimes. With me, I find I need a fallow time, which is not the same thing as needing to polish the silverware.

From: Gwen Meyer Pentecost — Jul 19, 2011

The above “anonymous” designation is simply that I forgot to type in my name…sorry.

From: Kathleen — Jul 19, 2011

When will we all learn that we are individuals not and we don’t need to fit into someone else’s mold to be successful. It all depends on what our goal is. I know women who don’t take art (or themselves) very seriously but their enthusiasm for art is unmatched. They produce dozens of paintings a month and sell them for peanuts just so they make room in the studio to keep on painting. Others will spend six months on a conceptual piece agonizing every step of the way – they are serious and they want everyone to know it. They set their prices very high because they only produce one or two painting a year. I am somewhere in the middle, but I can appreciate both ends of the spectrum as well. We are each here on our own mission and we can’t always accomplish it according to someone else’s rules.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Jul 19, 2011

I’m a male. A gay male. I have no wife or husband taking care of anything. I take care of it. Your gender crap is just that. And I’m sick of it.

Often, when asked if I want to go do something pointless, I state, no thanks, I’ve got to work.

In the last month I completely re-arrainged the structure in my studio/living space. On 2 days I had to get help from a friend to move the 6 foot shelving and my work tables and a few other large pieces of furniture. I have 3 shelves stacked with textiles and 2 stacked with vinyl- yes- records.

One morning I spent sawing shelves with a skill saw. I also had a new kitchen cabinet to hang (with help) and then that had to be painted. I had a leak from the bathroom upstairs so I have to re-paint the ceiling in a few places. And I still have to finish putting everything back together which I primarily did by myself. I also spent the last month working 3 days a week sitting Spark Gallery to help out my friend Lydia.

On top of that I’ve constructed a dozen new small pieces for a September show- plus a different larger one.

Screw your percieved ability to multi-task. What a joke. Take your work seriously or don’t bother. And shove your superior women bull. There isn’t a female on this planet that is superior to me. I keep waiting for them to become equal, a status they don’t want. It hasn’t happened yet.

From: Anonymous — Jul 19, 2011

Bruce, Ortrud said, “many successful women artists who truly make it their career… are divorced or never married.” And you have no wife or husband… Males or females who live by themselves are “able to drop everything anytime and go and paint”…

What’s your problem?

From: Anon — Jul 19, 2011

Kathleen, it feels like you have a grudge against someone who is prolific. Working for months on one painting can hardly be a measure of artist’s seriousness or commitment. For example, Robert Genn can whip up several paintings a day and he is one of the most serious painters I know.

From: Feena — Jul 19, 2011

What a dumb argument – of course, the more dependents you create in your life, less personal decisions you can make. But it’s all about choices you have made for yourself. For some people grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

From: P’d Off Male — Jul 20, 2011

I am 50-something, so I have been hearing about women’s equality issues at least 40 years. Ortrud Tyler’s whining is insulting to women and men both. What a crock of bs. Get over it, the inequality issue is over!

From: Female — Jul 20, 2011

Many people would like to be served. Some pay for that, some happen to have a spouse so inclined. What does any of that have to do with art?

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Jul 21, 2011

What’s my problem? Men are able to multi-task TOO- But too much multi-tasking means you aren’t FOCUSED on what you should be focused on, creating extraordinary art.

A few weeks ago Robert wrote about the superiority of women- simply because it’s only women who are taking his workshops. Get over it Robert. The men don’t NEED you. Ask the women in your workshop if any one of them is paying the bills that support them in taking your workshop, and paying ALL the bills to support their lives WITH THEIR ART.

If they say no- thay have a hubby- you’ll have your answer.

The men who are successful artists are FOCUSED on that. Everything- including their wives- is secondary. There are very few women who’s art-making is PRIMARY. Until it is primary don’t expect to make it to the top of your field.

And in the letter about superiority was a whole lot of adolescent behavior by a bunch of adolescent women. A few weeks ago some female jumped all over the (percieved) adolescent behavior of a male- but no- not a single person- male or female- said anything to your poor women about your own adolsecent behavior!

Grow up. Dump your gender crap. You are not superior. Until you become an equal human being- you’re just women.

From: Sara Star — Jul 28, 2011

There are multiple ways to approach social issues. The primary way is to look at larger trends. How are most folks of this gender, or class, or sexuality, or race doing? This can often be measured. For example, how many women artists are represented in large art galleries. How many gay men? How many black people? How many lower class? Upper class? When doing these larger social evaluations, even ten stories about individuals with an opposite experience, even a hundred such stories, do not change the overall trend. Although they may harken a future of a new trend. Another way of approaching social issues is to only look at individual stories. This can feel more true, because you are reporting what you see in your life, what your experience is. But that is a very limited way to look at things and does not allow for differences in other areas, countries or social circles.

There are still women’s issues. There are still gay rights issues. There are still race issues. Saying there aren’t is a denial of the obvious and measurable trends. Blaming the victims is repugnant. And both behaviors are a form of whitewashing. You can say the opposite of the truth until you are blue in the face, but the reality remains. There are still issues. Here and even more so abroad.

From: Shari L. Erickson — Jul 29, 2011

Artists who have someone in their lives to take care of “stuff” while they paint are blessed! It’s not a matter of what gender that special person is.

From: TK — Aug 20, 2011

“Until you become an equal human being- you’re just women.”

Wow. I’d guess you have serious issues with your mommy.

Art group stimulates action
by Barbara Youtz, New Harbor, ME, USA

071911_barbara-youtz

“Rocky Coast”
original painting by Barbara Youtz

When I moved to a new area and didn’t know more than two people, I joined art groups. The benefits were wonderful. These groups allowed me the opportunity to be with other artists as well as to paint. In the first year I had about 50 new friends and was painting 2 or 3 days a week as well as painting in my studio each afternoon during the week. Because of the outdoor sessions, I learned my way around my new abode and it got me into places I would have never seen on my own.

On some painting days I would awake and think it’s too cold or I don’t have the energy today but because it was already planned I would go and have a marvelous day and some decent paintings. At the end of my first year in the new area with my painting groups I remember remarking to someone… “This has been one of the happiest years of my life.” It does sound a bit over the top, but I really felt that way.

Residency motivates painter
by Barbara Pace, Washington, DC, USA

071911_barbara-pace

“Waiting for Spring”
original painting
30 x 20 inches
by Barbara Pace

I have a solo show coming up in October and have been stressing about it for at least six months. It often takes me many weeks to finish a canvas and time is running out. I decided the best way to keep temptations at bay and immerse myself in my art was to apply for a residency at a historic studio nearby that is open to the public. The application was successful, and I paint from 10-5:00 every day this month with only minimal interruptions from the people passing through the studio. I can have a half dozen oil paintings going at once, allowing some to dry when I don’t want to work wet into wet. The studio serves as a large exhibit space as well, so I am enjoying the inspiration of working amid three dozen of my paintings hanging on handsome old stone walls—a joy to liberate them from brown paper wrappings in my basement. The time obligations of a residency provide a ready excuse to decline requests and reschedule other obligations. I get up eager to head to the studio, not sighing wistfully and letting other things get in the way.

Get out of your own way
by Lynne Bryant, Hartville, WY, USA

071911_lynne-bryant

“Water Lily”
acrylic painting by Lynne Bryant

Artists can be worse than non-artists when it comes to excuse making and self-sabotage. I know my skills in this regard are absolutely outstanding. In January, motivated to make more art this year than last, I had a couple of paintings that didn’t go as smoothly or quickly as I would have liked. The solution? Switch day jobs and go from a set schedule to one that is all over the map, from 45-50 hours a week to 70+. Then, sit back and start making excuses to myself. Worst of all, I began to wear my brush, tears as well as smears of paint on my sleeve by embarking on a journey of exasperation and self-pity because I don’t have enough time to sit and paint for more than 90 minutes at a time. The answer was to get out of my own way. First I had to look at the solution for this self-defeating workaholic behavior and believe that it would change. I knew I had resumes out for easier work and better schedules, and I believed, really believed, that my situation would change. Earlier this week my belief in change, in possibilities, in being able to get out of my own way to paint more while maintaining a job, came to fruition in a way I could not have expected and I am essentially being given 15 more hours to paint rather than spending them working my job. To help rid yourself of excuses and start defining what you want as an artist, you don’t start by defining what you think you want. You start by asking yourself what you are not willing to do and not willing to sacrifice for your art. I have gone on record previously as saying that I refuse to do without some of the necessities of life in order to paint. I refuse to be homeless or to starve for my art, but painting naked is doable. So, if the question is a $25 tube of paint or new jeans, I buy the paint. Know your boundaries and stop making excuses.

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 Featured Workshop: Pacific Northwest Art School
071911_robert-genn
Pacific Northwest Art School Workshops

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World of Art Featured artist Lori White, NC, USA  

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Fayetteville and Martin Street, Raleigh

oil painting 20 x 16 inches
Lori White, NC, USA

You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Barbara Timberman who wrote, “Creative blocks are optional!”

And also Kate Lehman Landishaw who wrote, “Don’t overlook Julia Cameron’s book How to Avoid Making Art (with Elizabeth Cameron’s seem-to-be-trying-for-Thurberesque illustrations) — she’s got the Pontiac covered: ‘Obsess about how you will pay for your car repairs, until you are too scared to go anywhere. This will help limit your artistic horizons nicely.’ Sometimes, sarcasm can out-sing self-destruction…”

And also Steve Day of Blandon, PA, USA, who wrote, “Annie Dillard, The Writing Life: A fellow writer was asked by a student, ‘Do you think I could be a writer?’ ‘Well,’ the writer said, ‘Do you like sentences?’ She remembers a similar conversation with a painter friend. ‘I asked him how he came to be a painter. He said he liked the smell of paint.’ You don’t begin with a grand conception, either the great American novel or a masterpiece that will hang in the Louvre. You begin with a feel for the nitty-gritty material of the medium, paint in one case, sentences in the other.”

And also Tom Semmes of Bethesda, Maryland, who wrote, “I took a meditation retreat. I had a dream on my last night there where I was walking through a large city, carrying my unframed canvases under my arms. I walked up and into stylish luxury apartments, the kind of digs where I imagine art buyers live. I felt exposed and embarrassed for my amateurish work and wished I wasn’t there. I awoke with a sense of ‘why bother.’ ”

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Sixteen reasons why I won’t paint today

 

 

From: Sheila Minifie — Jul 15, 2011
From: Chris Everest — Jul 15, 2011

I’m at work in the library helping our readers but I want to be anywhere else painting. I am painting inside my head.

Employment does get in the way of fulfilment.

From: John – Baltimore, MD — Jul 15, 2011

I find that many of those daily disturbances (the forthcoming sister-in-law; stupid things at work, etc.) all can become fodder for advancing our art… giving us impetus to push forward with not only what we do but to push our limits about what constitutes our art. I always enjoy the pieces that are not only well executed but offer reflection of our human experience. Push forward fellow artists.

From: Judy Silver — Jul 15, 2011

Just what I needed – excuses that I hadn’t thought of yet! Thanks, Robert.

From: Sandy Sandy — Jul 15, 2011

“The person who really wants to do something finds a way; the other person finds an excuse.” ~ Author Unknown

From: R Yvonne Colclasure — Jul 15, 2011

I found my procrastination was the result of self-doubt and fear of failure. The best thing a person can do to overcome them both is just “do it”. The results will get better the more you work. I have so much “fun” painting now that I can hardly wait to get to the next project. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.

From: Peggy Kerwan — Jul 15, 2011

Painting is my excuse for ignoring everything else.

From: Jackie Knott — Jul 15, 2011

“Everyone has 24 hours in a day.”

True, but some of us choose to give a few of those hours to others.

From: Chris Schrenk — Jul 15, 2011

Thanks. I needed that.

From: Marvin Humphrey, Napa Valley — Jul 15, 2011

Dealing with the mind’s built-in component of Self-Sabotage is a constant battle. Those trivial excuses that keep buzzing around like pesky mosquitoes are quite comical when scrutinized.

From: Stefanie Graves — Jul 15, 2011

Ok, you caught me. I’ve been shamed into doing something today rather than all the other things calling my name. It’s really true, all the things you say about fear, self doubt, and procrastination becoming a habit.

From: John Ferrie — Jul 15, 2011

Dear Robert,

I was asked the other day by a client, about an area of one of my paintings where there was a great deal of blue happening. The client was intrigued by this and how there were several various shades of blue and it really was unique to my painting. I went on and on about how the philosophy of painting happens. Truth be told, I was out of Red earlier and I really just wanted the piece finished.

At the end of the day, no matter what happens, artists need to paint everyday. I am not a famous artist and I only make my living from my art maybe 4 months of the year. And yet, I deem my life a success because being an artist is what defines me. I go into my studio and paint every day.

No matter what, even on the worst day, days when everyone is against us or the earth is ending, artists need to hone their craft and do it every day.

Even if they are out of Red…

John Ferrie

From: Liz Wiltzen — Jul 15, 2011

Death twitches in my ear. “Live,” he says. “I am coming.”

Virgil

From: Rene W. — Jul 15, 2011

Starting my seventh decade on this blue planet I still have a strong desire to create art. Perhaps it is knowing I don’t have that many days left. That sounds somewhat morbid but it is reality. My feeling is to make excuses to “make art”. If you don’t have passion and commitment to pursue art you need to do something else.

From: Sarah Garland — Jul 15, 2011

If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse. – Jim Rohn.

From: Elizabeth Pudsey — Jul 15, 2011

When I taught painting for 25 years, I had students with more excuses,then you can imagine. I would “jokingly” say well that is a new one can I add it to my collection, soon to be published in my “Book of Excuses”. I will admit, now retired, that I sometimes, go for walk, or visit a gallery, read, but do not sketch or paint. Music, playing does help those of us who spent periods of time alone, to not feel alone. Like the sounds of earth, wind and birds, help us when outside painting. Connected.

From: Barbara in Chandler, Az — Jul 15, 2011

I’m with Peggy on this. I use all the excuses so I can stay in and paint. “Can’t do that as I have paintings to finish”.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Jul 15, 2011

Well, now I can’t paint because you reminded me about my sister in law! Just kidding, not about being able to paint, not about the sister in law.

Here is the scenario that never fails to snowball me into painting paralysis. The painting isn’t going well and I start to calculate in my mind how much time I have wasted on it. Then I realize that I am still in the time wasting mode and things go from bad to worse. At that point my muse and my mojo don’t want anything to do with me. Ignoring this situation and making myself busy rarely helps. If I just stop work and wait for good attitude to return, it never will – I tried that for days and weeks and it ain’t gonna happen. What eventually helps is when I get angry and become my own action hero who has to beat the evil “Timewaster” character. My weapons are my good paintings and by looking at them I get clues how to fix the bad one. The curious thing is how come I was blind to some glaring mistakes in the first place. I guess that’s just the trickery of the evil “Timewaster”. Since this whole thing is happening in my own mind, I have decided that good will always win over the evil. Our ideas come from the real world, but our art is created in our internal imaginary world where we make our own rules.

P.S. I didn’t paint last night because I spent a few hours shopping for clothes – which is an unusual and exhausting event for me. I came home and fell into a deep sleep behind heaps of stupid shoes and clothes. I had a strange dream of an emperor wearing my new clothes.

From: Rick Rotante — Jul 15, 2011

The human psyche is a curious thing. I remember when I was young, I came up with reason after reason for not doing something. When I look back, I understand my excuses came about to get out of doing things – for my parents; work related things i.e. vacuum the living room, Saturday dusting, homework, taking the dog for a walk. The issue becomes compounded as we mature into finding reasons for not doing things we either find repugnant, difficult or challenging. I don’t find reasons or excuses to paint is because I can’t wait to get into the studio and paint. It’s a disease, I’m addicted. In fact, I will put off all of the above excuses in order to start painting. I find my reality is reversed. Painting comes first and the rest of life come after.

Sadly, I hear these and many other excuses from my students and I tell them that I’ve already used them. Get over it! I am thinking of creating a sign – a big red octagon with a red slash over the word “EXCUSES”.

From: Lucy J. Bates — Jul 15, 2011

A teacher once told me to do something related to art every day even if it is just washing out your palette or looking through your photo references or tidying your work space. Sometimes I will spend a whole morning looking through my photos and trying to remember why I took the picture and what drew the scene to my attention. I also post signs on my studio wall reminding me of my emotional goals, such as: “Feel agreeable to start/finish my work, Feel motivated, Feel reassured, Feel renewed”. It works for me.

From: Ted Lederer — Jul 15, 2011

Simple, but one of my favorite missives from Painters Keys.

Back to work now – exhausting my excuse for not working, I was writing to Robert.

From: Marj Vetter — Jul 15, 2011

The T.V. was driving me crazy (husband retired), on the advice of a friend, I bought wireless head phones. I spent lots of money on them, wow! what a difference. I don’t hear Judge Judy, the Doctors, stock market etc. etc. I am now working on an ambitious painting,(about 1/3 done) getting back to it as soon as I finish this letter.

From: Mary Stephenson — Jul 15, 2011

This sort of interesting – one way of thinking of it – the other is to just follow the flow and not beat yourself up – Most all of us will never be famous nor even feel the need to be so painting is more of a joy and recreation (re creation).

From: Janet Kelman — Jul 15, 2011

I love your letters. Each one speaks to me and tweaks my brain in a unique way.

From: Ursula Rettich — Jul 15, 2011

Can we say – no I am not going to work today? How long do you think you would keep your job?

From: Frances Poole — Jul 15, 2011

I treat my studio time as if I was going to a regular job. I begin by a certain time, work for so many hours, take a lunch break and so forth. I don’t let my mind go to reasons why I may not want to paint. By sticking to a schedule and not waiting for inspiration to hit I am assured of getting work done. No phone calls or other interruptions during work hours. I’ve learned that those kinds of interruptions can really throw me off course for the day. Friends have learned to respect my work ethics and phone during my off hours. This may sound pretty extreme to some, but it has worked for me.

From: Suzanne Packer-McGarr — Jul 15, 2011

When I am annoyed by neighbor’s noises or barking dogs, etc, I just get so mad. I slam the canvas on the easel and start to paint, probably cursing at them under my breath. Soon my madness goes into the painting and I soon do not hear the distraction and the energy I have created often produces a really good painting. So, lady, do not use the excuse that you can not afford to buy the head set. Just get mad and focus.

From: John F. Burk — Jul 15, 2011

I think it must be true of artists that to make the first cut, you must love producing art, and all the processes necessary to doing it. Excuses are what you make to other people to make the time to do it.

From: Peggy Kerwan — Jul 15, 2011

Today’s subject just made me smile. Painting is my excuse for not doing anything else. I painted “Lakeside” 7-6-2011 at the Northville Garden Walk, 4th year for me painting during this event. A beautiful day and opportunity to interact with passersby. Everything else can wait.

From: Iola Benton — Jul 15, 2011

Thank you for your wonderful letters. This one is exceptional!!! This is because, we have volumes and volumes of reasons to procrastinate, especially when it relates to WORK! Your sense of humor makes all subjects light and alive. Congratulations!!!

From: Roslynne Steinberg — Jul 15, 2011

Every once in awhile, I reach a dead end; “I an unable to paint” I say to myself, “This is not good”. I make myself a promise that I will paint starting early tomorrow; I always keep my promises. First thing yesterday morning, I started painting and I felt so good; Now! I am on a roll and I will continue painting right after breakfast.

From: Jim Lorriman — Jul 15, 2011

As we get older we realize just how precious time is. You can never recover the time spent procrastinating. Create at every opportunity!

From: Judy Silver — Jul 15, 2011

Thank you for all the “procrastinator excuses”! I was running out of them.

From: Diane Overmyer — Jul 15, 2011

Newton’s definition of inertia is: “The vis insita, or innate force of matter, is a power of resisting by which every body, as much as in it lies, endeavours to preserve its present state, whether it be of rest or of moving uniformly forward in a straight line.”

I often think of that when I am having a hard time getting into the painting mode. I know that once I just get the momentum going, I will be fine. So it really boils down to committing to spending at least “X” amount of hours painting during my day. If I decide the night before where or what I am going to paint the next day, it always help me to get to work sooner.

From: Nancy Lennie — Jul 15, 2011

My mother always said: “you do what you want to do.” So no matter what I said she would answer again her theory was there are no excuses..

From: Nancy E. Meyer — Jul 15, 2011

I am not a painter but do so enjoy your discussions about the creative process. Six years ago I was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of breast cancer. After treatment I spent time recovering and then went back for an elective mastectomy of the other side. The DR.s left my chemo port in until pathology was done on the second breast. Meantime my husband and I went off on a 7 1/2 week trip to visit mainland family and friends. (We/I live on Maui.) Back home the port was removed and 13 days later my husband stood in a door at 11 am talking before heading out to the garden, He had already put in 4 1/2 hours of effort for a non profit for which he served as Treasurer that morning. Forty five minutes later I found him dead in his garden. The coroner said he literally dropped dead. It took only 1 to 2 seconds to die as it happened to him. I am now back at my quilting and have learned how to conduct the everyday and financial/business parts of my life. All I can say to those who procrastinate and find reasons not to exercise their creative talents is that I have learned the hard way that one cannot count on the next year, month, day, hour or minute. LIVE NOW. Thank you for prodding the procrastinators.

From: Zalina L-A Barrington — Jul 15, 2011

One excuse that I got told about 1 & 1/2 yrs ago was: “I’m now living with my brother & sister-in-law and my sister-in-law won’t allow me to paint in the house, so I need a place of my own.”

Trouble was that when he found a place to paint it was a house-sitting situation in an artists house but he didn’t look after himself properly and died from a diabetic coma. RIP my friend (Izmadi) NZ artist, Peter Ellis. I wish you’d eaten instead of smoking! I still miss him.

From: Marilena Fluckiger — Jul 15, 2011

I believe that ‘impedimenta’ happen with a lot of activities besides painting…from the loftiest pursuits of arts and academia down to the most menial functions of housework and personal cleanliness. For many, it’s just one impedimentum after another…

From: Bret Taylor — Jul 15, 2011

I’m currently on my 560th consecutive day of drawing and/or painting (shooting for 1,000). In that time I’ve travelled coast to coast, worked long days, gotten sick, and generally led a busy life.

There are no excuses.

From: Khalil Dadah — Jul 16, 2011
From: Relene Schuster — Jul 16, 2011

I just want to let you know that I did paint today for 4 hours and messed up my watercolor. I feel as though I wasted time. Thanks

(Washington DC)

From: Nisla — Jul 16, 2011
From: Arnold Peterson — Jul 16, 2011

Yes but I still have to look forward to Jabba the Hutt plopped in my studio, drooling, talking incessantly about nothing.

From: Doris Swanson — Jul 16, 2011

Here is an idea. Set a deadline and put it on your calendar. Imagine your painting is for a grade in a college art class and if it is not finished by the deadline you fail the class.

drsmeme24@cox.net

From: Lynn Arbor — Jul 16, 2011
From: Jaye Alison Moscariello — Jul 16, 2011

Dear Robert,

Sixteen reasons why I loved your article:

1.) I was searching for a reason not to paint.

2.) I hadn’t one reason not to paint.

3.) I couldn’t find a reason to paint.

4. – 16.) Procrastination x 13

thank you thank you thank you, brilliant and much needed to read! I just love your letters!

From: Caroline Trippe — Jul 18, 2011

If I’m really stuck I might search through my drawings and sketches and find something to “experiment” on. Lately, since I’ve been working from models, I call up a model and schedule a drawing session. That will give me new material to play with. Just do it.

From: Barbara Mason — Jul 18, 2011

Making Art is hard… so we avoid the hard stuff, but once we start we remember why we are artists.

From: Debra LePage — Jul 19, 2011

There was a time when I used painting as a carrot or reward. Once everything else on the list was accomplished, then I would give myself that time. For 5 years now I have been paying rent for studio space. There is no greater motivation to get into the studio and stop chasing dust bunnies than writing that check every month.

Also, the 20 minute walk to the studio helps me transition to a painting state of mind.

From: odette nicholson — Jul 19, 2011

Robert, et al,

I’m sending you a poem inspired by all of you, your words in this clickback I’ve borrowed, and added my own words to describe my state of being – which sounds on rereading entirely self absorbed. Because, yes, it is, I am more than aware. I am finding myself in a phase of accepting of this “period of pause” and expect that any day it will end and I will either go back to previous studio behaviour, or find a new path. I do have hope, and remain fascinated by the process. Here is the poem pasted below – in the original form there are many different fonts and sizes and placement on the page, as I feel that poetry can be a visual thing, but because of the on-line format we are stuck with Georgia font of a single size. Anyway.

a fallow time

you can’t always get what you want

(even if you have for years been self-directed)

unemployed almost three years ago involuntarily

(trigger stopped)

I fell to a frozen state

its not that I don’t want to

its that I can’t get actually move myself physically

mentally, emotionally – there is no motivation

no interest to paint

a feeling of pointlessness

when examined this is ridiculous

yet, it exists just as tangible as the wall in front of me

for 25 years I used to be like this: get twitchy and a little difficult if I had not had a brush in my hand in 48 hours. I was told I was obsessed.

I was prolific

I was not lauded

but I was determined my ideas and art were valid

I painted with gusto, presented my own exhibitions

didn’t try to fit into a mould

nor judge my work against financial success

but now I seem to want something else: which is part of the stopping.

Daily painting for me used to be: a reminder that every day can bring with it reason.

I was busy before, raising a family, caring for the home

just run off my feet most days

and that’s when the painting happened

if not in my head, then in the studio in 15 minute intervals

producing volumes of work

a whole 25 year career of it

and then a line was drawn.

reasons why I won’t paint today?

The most pernicious aspect of procrastination,” says author Steven Pressfield, “is that it can become a habit.

( if you are aware you are procrastinating, and still, can’t move beyond the thought –– because it’s the opposite of before)

I am humbled

Despair and postponement are cowardice and defeat

(thanks, yes, I do know the default mode)

but not inspired

polishing the silver

count painting in one’s head as something too,

and remind myself

Art is more important than the falling sky

yesterday, I organized the summer studio

I stretched canvas (old school) made myself

get into the act of doing

and yet, the paint jars were left unopened

the canvases blankly staring (a never before for me phenomenon) well, I have ideas, I’m just not actually doing any painting!

Yes I have days when I am feeling sorry for myself.

A misery meal, table for one.

still, I ponder where did and where will my art energy go?

From: Jen Lacoste — Jul 19, 2011

On the plains of hesitation bleach the bones of countless millions who, at the dawn of inspiration, sat down to rest, and resting, died.

On my studio wall here in Cape Town, South Africa.

From: Jessamyn Schmidt — Jul 20, 2011

I once thought I avoided making art by doing more important things. Oddly, I find tchat I’m not really avoiding art, but actually doing more important things — since I don’t make a living at art. There’s family, pet carr, financial considerations, et al. I am reminded how unctious I found the self justifications of Gauguin who thought he was giving up everything for his art, and was suffering and in want for his art — but, eventually, realized he was just suffering and in want because his art wasn’t as important as he thought it was. (At least not immediately, or, arguably, at all.) It’s just another thing to do and to consider and to fill the world with that’s better than war, but on a par with really good food.

From: Denise Lemoyne — Jul 22, 2011
From: Louise Lemay — Jul 24, 2011

Another reason is fear…

Why can I boldly and fearlessly walk into the jungle of a new piece of music on the piano without thinking or premeditation and lose track of time yet a blank paper or canvas makes me reach for a paper bag to breathe? Go figure !

From: Abraham Orman — Jul 24, 2011

Some of us just get difficult and stubborn like a mule and it is difficult for us to do anything.

From: Keith Wilson — Jul 25, 2011

It so happened when I began my art career in 1970 a novelist friend warned me about how you will tend to find other chores before starting your painting day, like washing the kitchen windows or tidying up the stores cupboard, or mowing the grass, or even cutting your toe nails.

Reject them, she said. Go to work. Frequently you will produce your best work when you feel that painting is the last thing you want to do. New Zealand

From: Debra Rexroat — Jul 29, 2011

 

 

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