Stop Watching, Start Doing (A Guest Post)

By Karen Isaacson of iamrushmore

I used to be a lurker.
Skulking through the aisles of Borders, drooling on the art books, buying dozens of titles and reading them alone, in private. Scrolling through endless art blogs and flickr streams. Never leaving comments, never making contacts, and never making art. Looking at other people’s work filled me with a potent mix of yearning and despair. I knew I wasn’t capable of making anything like this, but I wanted to…what? Own it? Eat it? BE it? I wasn’t sure. So I lurked. And sighed a lot.

And then something in me broke this past winter. I was sick of watching, it was time to act. Maybe Mercury was in retrograde. Maybe my deep intuitive animal spirit from my past life came bubbling forth. Or maybe it’s the maturity of being 43 years old and not caring so darn much what other people think. But really? I blame it on the snow.

For the first three months of this year, Massachusetts was pounded with one relentless blizzard after another. I’m a life-long New Englander, accustomed to the cold, dark days of winter, but this was crazy-making. Round the bend, weeping while shoveling, watching the skies with dread. By mid-March I was seriously considering medication. Instead I found art.

I purged the guest room of everything that had piled up there (Seriously – guest room? We never have guests. It’s the junk room. Say it like it is.) I gathered all my paint and paper and glue and bits of stuff. I feathered my nest with things that made me happy, with no consideration for anyone else in the family. I dared to call it my studio. At first I always said it in quotes, but still. I took a deep breath and started making stuff.

I’ve messed around with art supplies almost every day for 3 months now. Here’s what I’ve learned:
• It’s okay to suck. Expect it. Embrace it. Don’t fix it. Leave it alone. Move on. Make something else

• Stop thinking. Lots of people talk about intuitive art. Maybe it is. Or maybe that’s just another word for random. Whatever. Go with it. Everything doesn’t have to have MEANING. Sometimes what you make really is just random stuff glued to a piece of paper. Don’t worry about. Make something else.

• Make art even when you don’t feel like making art. Because once you start making art you’ll realize this is EXACTLY what you feel like doing right now and it’s making you very very happy.

• Copying other people is okay as long as you don’t try to pass it off as your own work. It’s not cheating, it’s learning. Stop worrying about your “voice”. Make something else.
• The internet can inspire you and challenge you and encourage you. It can also cripple you. Trust me. Reading about stuff can only take you so far. The way to get better at art is to make art.

So as much as I love that you’re here on Julie’s blog, looking at my art and reading my ramblings, it’s time to stop. Turn off the computer and go make something. Maybe it’s not a painting. Maybe it’s an amazing meal. Or a beautiful garden. Or hand-knit socks.

Stop watching. Start doing.

“When she’s not out catching salamanders, Karen Isaacson spends most of her time scraping paint and glue off her hands, clothes and walls.  She blogs about it at iamrushmore and loves visitors and comments.”

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7 thoughts on “Stop Watching, Start Doing (A Guest Post)

  1. Karen; What a great article. Your words are my words. I’m still in the lurking stage but I’m moving towards allowing my art to be fun. My waste basket receives my offerings more often than my art journals or walls, but I’m learning to experiment freely and enjoy the process. I’ve spent years quilting, beading, weaving, etc. Raw art is new to me. I posted this on my FB page because I think ALL women could find this motivational in all areas, not just artists. Well said, good job.

  2. Thanks for the encouragement! I recently got my fingers messy with paint, paper, and glue and while I have no idea what I’m doing, and am sure that I suck at making art…maybe there is hope for me after all!

  3. Love this post, it’s full of great wisdom! I’ve written about these things many times over the years since I myself found “my creative voice”. Love it! Thank you.

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