Recently, I found myself experiencing a great deal of stress before
an event where I was to paint live, before an audience. Painting in
front of a crowd is not new for me, and the stress before the event
isn't, either! Time and time again, I have all kind of preparations to
make in addition to planning a piece. In the case of last night's
event, which was at a performing arts center, the beforehand prep was especially stressful.
My husband and partner knows this side of my work, so he
stays out of the way while I am getting ready for the good of our relationship!
|Shen and the amazing singer, Ms. Hazel Miller,
after painting her at a live event.
The other side of this, however, is an incredible breakthrough, part of
which comes with the completion of an event (whew!!!) as well as the result of all the stress and prep--the completed painting. I don't know about you, but I often expect things
are going to be much, much more difficult than they usually turn out to
be. I let myself get all up in the stress of the preparation and think
that the set up and the execution will be far more demanding than they
usually are! However, 99% of the time, things go smoother, because
someone comes out of the woodwork to lend a helping hand or for some
unexplained reason, or just because I simply show up, all goes
swimmingly. As I have often tell my children, "a job well begun is half
done." This saying has often helped me get up and start a project or a
painting, and before I know it, it is almost finished, most often with
My mind can often be my worst enemy, but it can also bring great
relief when the stress is behind me. I'm not sure, maybe it is
something I will be able to transcend someday, but for the almost three
decades I have been a professional artist, the stress before the
painting has been my constant companion. I am not sure that I would
want to go through this process without it, because the relief is part
of the rush for me. You see, being an artist isn't just about putting
the brush to the canvas, it's about the creative approach to all
problems in life--finding an alternative solution to a problem in my life is solved with the same part of my brain and creativity that I use when I need to find a new approach to my next portrait painting so that my work
continues to evolve and grow.
I suppose that's why the stress is an important factor in my process.
I am always trying something new before I know what the results will
be. This quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson has been a very helpful one for
me because it speaks to the way I work, stress and all:
"Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an
experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a
little coarse and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do
fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice? Up again, you
shall never be so afraid of a tumble."
This morning I am filled with the joy and relaxation resulting from
an event that went better than I could have hoped for. But I look
forward to hearing about your experiences in dealing with stress in the
life of an artist! I look forward to learning from you!