Staying in the Game

Recently I was in Colorado judging a show and conducting a three-day workshop. It was a tremendous trip; smooth travels, comfortable hotel, very generous, hospitable and organized group. The Pace Cultural and Events Center is a fabulous venue for the National Show presented by the Colorado Pastel Society.

They put on a wonderful reception and awards ceremony that I was totally honored to be a part of. They really know how to do it right! Xenia Sease said during the award presentation that I had the hardest job in choosing the award winners. I do agree that the art was amazing and I have to admit to having a very tough time choosing the top winners. The show was overall one of the best that I’ve juried. But, I must disagree with Xenia; while my job was difficult, it was done in pretty short spurts and mostly a lot of fun, while the job of the board was one of sustained effort over the course of the year leading up to the show. That takes dedication and diligent work; staying in the game over a long period of time.

I was humbled to have a lady who had visited my studio for an afternoon approach me during the reception and tell me that I’d kicked-started her painting. Since visiting my studio she’s been painting full time. She said that she appreciated my blog and mini-lessons because she saw that I too struggle with staying in the game and have shared the ups and down like tearing my ACL and going through bouts of blocks. She was inspired and wanted very much to share that with me, so I would keep at it. Stay in the game.

My best friend Rudi attributes my success primarily to the fact that I’ve been painting and teaching for so long (subtext OLD!). But the danger is that it could get stale and wear thin. Sometimes it’s a drag to teach and not have as much time as I’d like to paint. Sometimes the travel gets old and those Holiday Inns just a bit cold and impersonal. Then someone comes up to you and reminds you that you’ve made a difference and what you do has meaning and value. You get validation. Just like the validation that I was honored to give some people today!

I do know that working over a long period of time is key to painting. It’s such a rich and challenging endeavor; a lifetime of learning. Here are a few pointers from my side of the easel to help you keep going:

1. Be kind to yourself
2. Make it as easy as possible – don’t get too complicated
3. Don’t deny yourself – it’s an investment that will pay off for you and all those around you
4. Make it a practice and a process not and end product – it’s not about competing, it’s about getting better and making better paintings
5. Hang on little tomato – even through the rough stuff and if you are human, the rough stuff is coming sooner or later!
6. Don’t play the procrastination game – it’s a lose/lose
7. Embrace the bad stuff – its part of the process
8. Keep perspective – we are painting and very few humans who have ever walked this planet have the privilege and wherewithal to do it – let’s be grateful when we hit the floor in the morning!

I know for sure that it’s the process not the product that counts. Yesterday I did this plein air piece at the farmers market in my hometown of Milwaukie, OR. I was really happy with how it turned out. I felt that it captured the light and it had a strong composition with strong value patterns. Not having brought all the proper equipment, I laid the finished piece on the floor in the back seat of my car. While driving home, a water bottle rolled back and forth over the surface of the painting pretty much ruining it! Another lesson in letting go. It’s not the product, it’s the process. It’s not events, it’s the process we are all involved in. We don’t get to keep stuff.

With Warmest Regards,

Painting Minilessons
with Marla Baggetta

These “mini-lessons” grew out of my blog. I love sharing my experience behind the easel, so these are free. I write a new one every two or three weeks, so please feel free to share with artist friends.

​These lessons are mostly written text with graphics…short but useful tidbits from the foundations of painting that touch on subjects such as aerial perspective, simultaneous contrast or using negative spaces. I guide you through different aspects of painting and art that will get you comfortable with using pastels. You’ll gain confidence to attempt work that you might have otherwise been timid about.

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