Sunday, January 12, 2014

What Is It With Just Keep Swimming?

My minions have been asking about the phrase just keep swimming on my little manifesto. I'd planned to explain it a few posts ago and got distracted. Let's give it a go now.

If you're a Disney fan (or if you have minions, you can blame them), you'll know that Dory in Finding Nemo says, "You know what you've got to do when life gets you down? Just keep swimming." Good advice in life and in art.

I painted this back on Thursday and there was a time when I would have thrown it out. Probably after ripping it up into tiny little pieces and stomping around a bit for good measure. I thought, "I'm trying too hard, it's just a big mess, I'm wasting my time, I suck at this kind of painting." But instead of pitching it, I decided to set it aside for later. I chose to just keep swimming.
Artistically, it's a radical change in the way I work. I've always said I draw what I see, whether it's the spoon in front of me or a photograph I'm using for reference. For example, this is a butterfly I did in ink, watercolor and colored pencil a few years ago. It's a combination of a sunflower photograph I took and a monarch from another.
Every year I've become more rigid, striving to get the tiniest nuance of a drawing right. I think that rigidity fuels the periods when I don't want to draw, even in my sketchbook. I get tired of the pressure I put on myself (yes, I am my own worst critic) and avoid creating altogether.

Fast forward to today and that one splotch to the left kind of looked like a flower. At least enough like one that maybe I could work with it.
I never would have been able to plan this painting. I gave up a little control and something magical happened. Scary? Sure. Terrifying, in fact, but it's so exciting when it actually works!
I think that's the key to why I'm enjoying these butterflies so much. There are no rules, just toss some paint around, then see what develops when I just keep swimming and let my creativity take over.


  1. I totally saw the fllower, and the butterflies are amazing and beautiful, you just let the colors call to you and painted what you saw, I just love that when it happens

  2. This is beautiful! Thanks for sharing your process with us.


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