Balancing Happiness Over Painting

by | Feb 4, 2011 | Blog | 15 comments

A painter friend, thinking about her next career moves, just wrote me this morning saying,

“I thought about what my priorities were, and decided that now is not the right time for really pushing for sales. I am at a really happy place for developing my art and style, accumulating inventory, and enjoying a good balance between work, family, and me time. Does that sound not very ambitious? It is kind of silly, but I am really loving my life right now, so I thought I just keep things going a bit until something is nagging at me to do otherwise. What do you think?”

Impressed by her honesty and boldness I replied, “I do not think of you as unambitious, in fact quite the opposite. Your decisions are right on regarding timing. I don’t know if you remember, but I have taken this entire year of 2011 for a sabbatical. I tell everyone it’s to paint, but actually its more about finding a new balance in my life. This month I have discovered new ways to be happy, and relax, and have not painted much. Making great work is always a self-reflection. If we are not happy, or are bored, this is what the painting will reveal, no matter what subject matter we paint, what materials we use, and how technically proficient we are. Painting is a mirror of our soul. And good painting allows the viewer to go deeper into a higher vibration. Loving life, as you put it, is the priority for everything, especially great art. So….we are on the same track and I applaud you for not only doing what you feel is right, but admitting your choices in a society that usually encourages production over happiness.”

So, what do you think?

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  1. Julie

    I completely agree with this! I am a f 44 yr old full time working mother of 3 children under the age of 6. I have just gotten back in touch with my artistic side in the past couple plus years. I have had a blast! I used to mainly sketch when I was younger and studied art a bit in college., but I started out this time with acrylics. I have purchased all of Nancy's books in the past 30 months and I probably now have EVERY golden product out there. I have discovered and played with everything from pastels to mixed media. We finished our basement and I gave myself and our kids an Art room! I mainly have made art for friends and family that do not have anything. I do birthdays, anniversaries, or just because! I love to take personal photo's and make something with special meaning for others. While I have admired those artists who I see sell their works for thousands of dollars (my husband loves that idea too) – today it is more about the PROCESS and how I am feeling when I make the art. My kids get to make art and I hang their pieces in beautiful frames on a speical wall. I am amazed at what they will paint on their own now. I love them telling me what their painting is about even though to others it is splotches of paint. There are times when I feel overwhelmed at how fast time is going and at 44 I may never get to be one of those artists whose pieces were purchased by celebrities, or have anything in a Gallery, or simply just help offset the cost of all my beloved supplies. But, my kids are young and I can only do so much. I would not want to miss precious time with my kids because they will not ever be this little again. So I try and paint when they are sleeping. It makes my heart happy to make art and play and hopefully give someone something pretty that makes them happy when they look at it.

  2. Beth Richardson

    Culture shown to make you healthier – The Irish Times – Tue, May 24, 2011

    Found this on facebook today from a friend who is an artist.

  3. beth

    The colors the shapes the intention of a piece of art, they all has a vibratation-an energy. I agree with the statement that art can heal. Thank you for this topic.

  4. Hamburger

    I agree – good advice Nancy. Follow the bliss. In my life, I've continually found that when I'm not following my truth, the "truth" becomes less apparent.

  5. {curly girl art}

    I totally agree and really enjoyed this post, that I had to link to it from my blog 🙂 hope you don't mind.


  6. Sandy Delehanty

    Hi Nancy,

    Elliott Fouts, owner of the gallery that shows my work in Sacramento once told me "I will never tell you what to paint, because artists paint their best work when they are enthusiastic about what they are doing." He is right of course. And yes, I think we also do our best work when we are happy and enjoying life.

    I am doing the same thing as you and your friend, I stopped teaching the local classes, just the occassional workshop so I can concentrate on painting. I am working on two very different series, portaits of single blossoms in oil, and paintings of people from my photos taken on my travels around the world in watercolor. Having great fun with both series and my critique group loves what I am doing too, so must be on the right track. Happy Painting, Sandy

  7. Lyne Marshall

    Nancy you have an amazing blog and stepping back is an interesting topic. If creativity is about inspiration and working from a unconscious level, rather like a child, then you need to know who you are in your art. That takes time, so time off is good. I love creative spirit and write about it on my blog and in my books. Kind Regards Lyne

  8. Janet Keen

    Great posts, I am doing the same this year and immersing myself in art journaling and learning new techniques, rather tahn producing paintings or mosaics to sell.
    I am also exhibiting Photography in different venues but have really decided to not be too obsessed about sales.
    I have bought Nancys Acrylic Revolution Book and it's fantastic.

    Regards Janet Keen

  9. Daniel Edmondson

    Great post, I have struggled with balance of creating art and selling art and I finally had to say just create and the sales will come and I am now in a more peaceful relaxed place..Thank you

  10. Egretta Wells blog

    There are many reasons an artist must take time out from the stress of selling and showing. The best one is that sometimes our work suffers in light of creating for the "sale", and not creating only what we want to create. Being an older artist, I am finished with the show circuit, galleries, etc. I put my paintings on my blogspot only and if they sell I am fine, if not I don't worry about it. In fact, they are my "babies" and I really hate to see them go! How wonderful to be free to create when and what I want!!

  11. art2heal

    I think for me, when I fail to take time to relax and assess, chaos creeps into my life and my work. Then the harder I try, unless I embrace and acknowledge the mess I've got myself into, the less authentic my art becomes. From there it's a downward spiral.

  12. Brian Benham

    I can relate to this post. I have 2 kids and a full time job, and I have gone back to school. All this comes before my art. But When I do have time to sit down in the shop and start a new piece I do my best work after I have had some quite time to reflect

  13. Jim Springett

    After a super busy year in 2010, now that we are in 2011,I'm not pushing to paint and sell immediately. By selling most of my inventory last year I do not have a physical inventory to use in a portfolio, or to have a solo show of my better paintings. This year I have been experimenting a lot more, buying teaching DVD's and attending workshops, all helping me to grow and get to a deeper level and enjoying the learning process a lot more, keeping it easy, and enjoying what I am doing is a key to beautiful art. I learned about painting the canvas using acrylic medium and gel, and along with a coating just before this step, the optical properties are very unique, making for paintings with greater luminosity and depth.Thank you for the suggestion, and is working to help me make such beautiful paintings.

    Jimmy Springett-artist

  14. Steve Emery

    I agree with this – the need to take time away. I left a co-op gallery I had helped to found and have taken the last several years to just let my paintings happen without the pressure of sales. Some sell from my website, and that's actually been more profitable (per painting) – but the point is that I'm not worrying about the prospective audience or buyer while I paint. No one looking over my shoulder and the inner critic has become quieter, easier to ignore. That's enabled me to move deeper into that emotional and aesthetic place you mentioned. I'm pursuing memories and relationships through images I didn't know were in here.

    And I can tell I'm still at the beginning. Someday I'll get back to the gallery scene – and I'll have a solid foundation in my inner world, as well as a great inventory to launch. But not soon.

  15. Beatriz Kim

    I agree. As artists we need our space to relax and allow the creative juices in our brains be free to explore. Some of my best art comes when I'm not trying, but just enjoying the process.

    I also agree that happiness should be a larger part of our lives than productivity.


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Professional fine artist Nancy Reyner’s blog about art, painting and creativity. Her career spans over 30 years. She lives in Santa Fe in the US. Subscribe below for free tips on art and painting.

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