Experience Joy


About enjoying the process of painting and how it is tackled by our thought system

Sometimes, during the courses or workshops, I tell my students about the importance of having fun while they are working on their painting. I thought I could elaborate on this a bit.

Within the process of painting, and this doesn’t only occur to those who start painting, you will find a moment where you start having a sense that you are stuck. This can have different reasons. It might happen because of not (yet) understanding the technique properly, blocked by trying (too much) to understand what it is that you are painting or by being convinced that you just can’t do it. It is true, and I would be the last one to say it’s not, that getting a decent sense of technique, knowledge on material and to know at least the basics on what paint and medium does while working with it, it is inevitable for learning the art of painting. With everything you wish to achieve there comes a time you will have to be in the learning seat to fill yourself with any given and available knowledge on what it is that you want to achieve.
And overcoming that feeling of being stuck, being blocked is one of them and it is…strap on, here comes a strong claim…actually rather easy to do. Really? Yes…really…
Painting should be a joy. That’s it! No turning around the bushes. The whole process should fill you with happiness, joy and excitement. Okay, maybe not that euphoric, I know that in the process of making a painting…especially when you are learning a new technique or drawing something that is hard like an ocean…the sense of hardship is or can be noticeable present. But, and perhaps this is where the point of interest is, even this struggle, this hardship of changing a new, difficult technique into a skill, can…or should…go hand in hand with the pleasure, the joy of doing so.
How many times did you experienced this feeling that you completely lost track of time, forgot where you are or who you are and was absorbed by the process of painting? And how many times did you experience the sense that you were blocked? Couldn’t get what you wanted, seemingly having totally lost the ‘touch’ in painting, that the best thing would be to throw that painting out? Both are magical moments, with a paradox twist, are entwined with one another.

But how do you get yourself (back) in that zone of enjoying the whole process? Finding pleasure in something that is hard to do? Something that can help is by focusing on the process only, not on what it has to become, not on how detailed it has to be and not on how many more layers, time and effort it needs before you can call it finished or...even more challenging...that it’s perfect. No! You will get there anyway. Don’t rush yourself by focusing on the irrelevant stuff. Focus on what gives the most pleasure, the most joy: In this case Painting!! At least, from my perspective. Because, the result is, or should be, inferior to the process of making. It might be a bold statement…let me try to explain…
When you are learning something new like painting a portrait for instance, you might feel that this state of being in the flow and enjoying that you don’t have to think about what the best approach is for this particular subject you want to paint, is hard to reach. But yet it isn’t. It isn’t your knowledge that will give you joy. This is a tricky one, the satisfaction of knowing something is something different than experiencing the joy while doing something. The first is, what I would call, an ego-satisfier while the second is an experience of settling with the moment, dissolving your-self within the moment, within the process. It is this experience that is described as having the sense of losing track of time or forgetting where you are.

But can you deliberately create or choose this? Yes, you can. But…and this is just to be honest about it…it will come easier for some than for others.
It isn’t the experience that will give you joy. It is your own mindset that makes you at ease with the 'flow'. What this means is that it is only your own ‘mind’, your own deception of what should be done, that will determine which direction your experience is going.
let me try to give you an example. Let’s say you want to paint a portrait, but…you never did before. What is the first thought that comes to mind? Oh dear, I can’t do this! Or, oh my god, this is going to be difficult, or perhaps something like; well, let’s have a go on this. Which ‘mindset’ will give you the most benefit in this project? Most likely the last one, but…again here is a tricky but yet funny twist; it doesn’t matter. What does matter is how you approach either one of the mindsets. Because, that’s all it is…a mind setting, a programming of your mind. Which one you will start to believe will determine the outcome. This really is the case and that simple. If you “believe” you can’t do something than you won’t be able to master it, indeed. But if you “believe” that you can accomplice anything, then you can and will surprise yourself.
‘Choosing' to focus only on the process of painting doesn’t mean you don’t have to study hard to gain the appropriate know how. What it does mean is that the process includes the studies you make to learn, to master something or to understand the basic matter. All those things should, or can, be done with the joy of the process.

It is the same with drawing an object. Once you try to interpretate the object as something you can understand, logically you will start to make weird mistakes. But once you let this interpretation go and just look, you will amaze yourself by drawing exactly what you see. But…perhaps that is for another topic… So go out there and have fun! Enjoy whatever it is you’re doing!

Really…!!! Do it!!