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How to Slow Down

Often you will hear an art teacher telling their students to slow down: Slow. Down. But what does that mean? We always begin a painting with high hopes, choosing our colors and strokes with care... but at some point, usually right when we have invested enough time and paint that we don't want to start over, we look at what we have painted, and we don't like what we see. We feel a flicker of dread or even panic, and this panic causes our brush-holding-hand to flap faster even while our mind discombobulates. Our hand continues to paint the same wrong color, the same wrong strokes, but faster and faster. Soon, we find ourselves watching helplessly as our painting warps and melts grotesquely in front of our very eyes. We wave our brush-arm ever more wildly before us, as if battling a monster bent on our destruction. That's the moment. The holy moment. The moment where you have the opportunity to reconnect: Reconnect your hand to your eye, reconnect your mind to your heart, reconnect your brush to your vision. But how? What can we do in that moment when the painting is circling the drain and we feel filled with confusion? We don't want to start over, we don't always have a teacher there to ask, and there is no book or video that can give us the exact answers we need on the spot. There is one thing we can do though: We can breathe. We can pause. We can: Slow. Down. Your painting is not going anywhere if you drop your arms to your sides and take a breath. Or two. Or five. Stand back. Squint. Don't think: Feel. All the information you need is already inside you. You already saw in your mind's eye everything you needed to see about your subject the moment you chose to paint it. Just look. Feel. Allow yourself to absorb the feeling. Notice what you love about your subject. Notice what attracted you to it. Allow yourself to fall in love with your subject again. Now slowly, pick up your brush, wash it thoroughly, look again at your painting, and plan your mark. The most important thing about a painting is not how it looks in the end.

It's how you feel while you are making it.


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