A collage of paintings from June 2012 by KatCanPaint

There is no secret to being an artist, so stop looking & start working.

 There is no secret to being an artist.

You can go to school, read every self-help book, follow every blog. (I know, I’ve tried.)  No short-cuts exist. You show up, you do the work, and you keep striving to make really great art.

I’ve had this painting “in progress” since January. Time to finish it!

I think I own more Seth Godin novels than Harry Potter ones, and I’ve followed Harry through all seven years of Hogwarts.  I read his blog, subscribe even, and I trust what he says because it makes sense.   Because I need to be reminded, every day, to make art.

I own The War of Art, The FireStarter Sessions, and The $100 Startup.  I watch Marie Forleo’s Q&A Tuesday *every* Tuesday. I’m entertained, enlightened, and inspired by the quality and straight forward advice these authors give.  This is my secret cheerleader & mentor squad. I keep them in my inbox and e-reader and I don’t just read what they have to say; I follow their advice.

I’ve watched Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on genius countless times.  If I need to be reminded about the beauty of showing up, I watch it again.

If you are searching for the secret to being an artist, you know all of this information.  The links have been facebooked and tweeted by people more articulate, popular, spiritual, intelligent, and successful than I.  The information is out there, it is entertaining and inspirational: but it doesn’t help if you don’t go out and make something.

A collage of paintings from June 2012 by KatCanPaint



If you are searching for a magic fix, or 5 step program… it doesn’t exist.  It looks more like:

  1. Work hard. Work hard. Work harder. Go to bed. Wake up.  Do it all again.
  2. The flow, the genius, your muse… will not show up if you don’t.  So, show up, everyday, prepared to work.
  3. Make a lot of work, even if you don’t feel like it.
  4. Work, even if it takes years for you to create the art you see in your mind.

This isn’t necessarily bad news, it just means you have to do the work. Thinking about your work, researching for your work, and doing the work are not the same.  In order to be an artist, you have to make art.  It sounds easy, it’s not.

Ira Glass says it better, and there is a lovely video to illustrate:

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

I need to watch this every day.  I need to be reminded of this every time I go to repaint the face on a painting that I have been working on since January.   There isn’t a magic trick, self help book, or bullet-ed list to get you there.  You show up, you do the work. Tedious, boring, lonely slog?  Keep working.  You’ll find the magic, the flow, the genius too.  Make your art and grab yourself a couple of cheerleaders, if you need ’em.

<3 Kat

That’s @Kat_McBride on twitter, if you’re saavy.

art nouveau inspired girl by KatCanPaint

Doing the work : a meditation on fear, stagnation, and mediocrity.

Doing the work : a meditation on fear, stagnation, and mediocrity.

I had a very ambitious plan to finish an entire desk full of art this week. Six paintings and two drawings, to be exact. Many of these paintings have sat around in their ‘ugly’ phase for too long.  I’m ready to stop obsessing over these paintings.  To paint as much as I can until tonight, then call it a day.  Done! Clean off my desk and for better or worse never paint on these canvases again.

I make a lot of excuses for not finishing a painting.  My favorite is the, “I’m not ready to finish this piece, yet.”  I think that means I’m not good enough.

Truth is, I think I might be scared to finish a painting.

art nouveau inspired girl by KatCanPaint

This painting has been on my desk since January.

I’m not sure if it is an Aries thing, an artist thing, or a Kat thing – but I have the worst time focusing on one painting. (Alternatively: Lizard brain, the critic, resistance thing.) “It’s not perfect,”  I tell myself, “this isn’t how I envisioned this painting.” Frustrated, I put it aside and I start a new one.

…get 4/5ths of the way finished (or less) and move on to the next shiny new idea.

I always need to be working on two or more at the same time… to hold my interest and to keep the same feel and connection in a series.  And this idea works, until it doesn’t.

When it doesn’t I am left with an entire desk full of paintings that are about 80% finished. Am I avoiding the hard work? The last 20% of a painting can take longer than the entire first 80% of the same painting.  I doubt it: if anything working like this is harder and creates more work for me.

I’m afraid to let go.  If I share works in progress everyone sees the roughness and mistakes, everyone understands that it is all part of the progress.  It is supposed to look imperfect.  I’m afraid of not being good enough.  I’m more afraid of producing mediocre work. I am aware of the irony, that stagnation and fear create mediocre work.  If I am afraid of finishing a painting I am stuck painting the same piece, over and over, because I can’t let myself let it go.  I am doomed to fail and repeat the same mediocrity because I am afraid of creating mediocrity.  In this loop I obsess over the work / I am unable to finish. I obsess & can’t finish, I obsess because I can’t finish, I can’t finish because I am afraid. The painting stagnates, I fret, and obsess some more; I worry about getting nothing done because I’m afraid of finishing… Lather, rinse, repeat.

Doing the work, for me, means letting go. Accepting failure, and moving on.  Success for me would be not looking back.

I’m finishing these paintings and moving on to the next Shiny! New IDEA!  Fear and mediocrity be damned.

See you Monday, clean beautiful desk & new ideas.

<3 Kat

Talk to me:  do you have a thought loop that trips your work? How do you overcome it?