My New Year’s Resolution: Let it Be
Do you ever find that when you have expectations – of other people, of situations, or life in general – you wind up feeling let down?
But if you let go of those expectations, good things happen?
Maybe that person you love does something wonderful and unexpected. That promotion is offered when you least expect it. That house you wanted but lost suddenly comes back on the market. Your grumpy teenager suddenly offers to wash the dishes.
The truth is that if you let go of preconceived notions of what should be, you open yourself up to see the beautiful things that actually are.
The same is true of making art. At least, that’s the way it is for me.
If I start a picture with a clear plan in mind (colours, composition, style etc.) things rarely go well.
But if I start free of expectations – truly free – wonderful things happen.
Believe me, I know this is easier said that done.
8 times out of 10 (at least) I get it wrong and try too hard, but sometimes I forge myself and actually get it right.
As I mentioned in my last post, I was recently turned down for a very high-profile exhibition. The rejection knocked my confidence and I took a break for a few weeks, painting very little and nursing my wounds.
But self-pity is never a good long-term plan, so I decided to get back to work. Many years ago, I used to make collages and I thought I’d do the same thing again, just as a way to loosen up, have some fun.
I went into my first piece with no expectations. I worked on scrap paper and used a tatty old newspaper as collage material. I had no plan, no idea of what I would create, just the vague idea of trying to convey the feeling of the wild place up in Yorkshire hills where I live. It was a typically “Wuthering Heights” night outside, and as I tore paper and splashed paint, the wind was whipping round the corners of the house.
An hour later, I had this and I LOVED it.
I was genuinely surprised at what I had created. I had no idea this is what would emerge from an old newspaper, some paint and some glue.
The next day, I decided to create another collage, this time of a snowy scene. I went into this painting with a clear plan and with expectations of success, and I’m not at all thrilled with the result.
So back to playing without a plan, and I created this
And then this (work-in-progress)
I love them both!
So, the lesson I’m taking into the new year – for both art and life – is this: you can’t control things. You can’t shape them, or reason with them, or impose your will upon them. The best thing to do is just step back, let them unfold, and appreciate whatever they give you.
It may not be what you had in mind, but it just might be better than anything you could have planned.
Happy new year!