THE INSPIRATION PLACE PODCAST
Well hello, this is your host, artist Miriam Schulman, and you’re listening to episode number 62 of The Inspiration Place Podcast, and I am so thrilled that you’re here. Today we’re talking all about how learning to paint is one more way to learn how to manage your mind. In this episode, you’ll discover why I say how you do art is how you do everything. How learning to paint is really self development, because it helps you manage your mind and why it’s important to bring your life into your art.
And I guess I should say, and your art into your life. But before we get there I wanted to tell you about my free pet painting workshop, painting pets with passion. It’s a set of free videos and a live masterclass to help you get started painting pets in watercolor. It’s available during November, 2019. So if you’re listening to this while it goes live, and you’ve always wanted to learn how to paint your fur babies, make sure you sign up right away because come Thanksgiving, these videos won’t be there anymore.
In this series, you’ll learn how to easily draw a cat and a dog. You’ll get your hands on my watercolor supply list for painting pets in watercolor of course, and in the live masterclass, you’ll even get to watch me paint a schnauzer step-by-step from start to finish. To sign up, just go to schulmanart.com\paintingpets. No matter what time zone you’re in, you’ll get to enjoy those free videos. And if you can join me live, the masterclass sign up is at schulmanart.com\masterclass. All right, now back to the show.
There is an expression, how you do one thing is how you do everything. Another way I’ve heard it is that how you do anything is you do everything, and this couldn’t be more true than when it comes to your art. What I mean is that what I’ve noticed is that if people are, let’s say uptight in their painting, if they paint very tight, they tend to be uptight in their life. Learning how to relax while you’re painting, loosen up, accept your mistakes, overcoming your fears, and detaching and letting go of the outcome are all things that we have to learn in order to become better artists, but also help us enjoy our life. When you’re enjoying the process and you’re enjoying the journey, you’ll feel so much more comfortable with whatever the outcome is.
I wanted to share some stories today, so you’ll understand what I’m talking about. By the way, if you’re not a painter, this is still for you. It’s really a truism about how you do anything is how you do everything. Now, often I’ll get students who are very tight in their artwork. One of the nice things about when I get to teach in person is I can really see the correlation between people’s painting styles and their personalities. I had this one student who was very uptight. I’m going to call her Susan, not her real name obviously. It would take her a long time to paint anything. Well, I usually can complete a painting in one session and many of my other students can do that as well. Susan would work on the same painting for about three weeks in a row and sometimes longer.
This was also exasperated by the fact that she only painted once a week during the class she had with me when she came to my studio. So while she worked on her paintings, I always had to keep reminding her to let go and relax her perfectionism. Now, she did improve over time by relaxing, but what I found that was so interesting is that I noticed that when she learned to relax her painting style, she also seemed more at ease with herself. Here is another example. I had another student who did not like to spend money. Let’s call her Karen. This was so obvious in everything that she did, from the car that she drove to her unfortunate lack of dental care.
Now, of course it’s possible that her scarcity mindset came from a true lack of financial resources, but let’s assume for a moment that this is not the problem, because often scarcity mindset comes from what we’ll call confused thinking. For example my mom, my mother has all the financial resources she could need to live a comfortable life, still stashes rolls in her purse whenever we go to a fancy restaurant, it’s actually kind of embarrassing. My mother, she’s a size two, and she doesn’t even really eat very much, but she’ll often order a second bread basket simply for the purposes of purse bread. I assume this is because her parents grew up during the great depression and passed on their scarcity mindset to her. So the same could be true of my painting student Karen.
Every class, she would come with a very small piece of watercolor paper and not the good kind of paper mind you. I can tell just by looking at somebody’s paper, in fact, I can tell just looking at somebody’s finished watercolor paper, whether or not they used the good paper, because it really does make that much of a difference, but listen to what Karen would do. She would actually tape the painting to the table with just four tiny little pieces of tape. I don’t even know that these little pieces of tape even made a difference. And then at the end of the class, she actually would pick up each of the four little pieces of tape and save the tape to reuse it the following week. God knows if she kept it year after year, but certainly week after week.
This behavior reminded me of my grandmother Hannah. My grandmother would use the same teabag at least three or four times. So she was also a child of the depression. We actually have a running joke in my family that if there is a bit of leftover food, what I mean by that is not the type of leftovers that could make another meal, but the kind of leftovers that would barely feed a cat. So we will say, “Should we send it to Hannah?” And we still repeat this joke even though she’s been gone for over 20 years. All right, let’s get back to Karen, my scarcity minded painter. Every week, her complaints about her own paintings were the same, and she would ask me for help, and she would ask me for advice.
She wondered what she could do to make her paintings better. Why were they so washed out looking? Why couldn’t she get the color she wanted? And the answer seemed so obvious to me, she just needed to use more paint. Yes, I would very gently and very kindly suggest she do this. After many times of telling me this, I did try to fight the frustration of telling her yet again, please just use a little bit more paint, what are you saving it for? It was that scarcity mindset that was driving her to hoard her art supplies. Now that was Karen’s issue, but I also see other kinds of hoarding, again, both in life as well as in the art studio. There are students who do invest in the very best art supplies, however, they deem their supplies too precious to use.
So remember I said I could tell that Karen had the cheap paper. I can also tell from a photo of someone’s watercolor painting. So often my students will share their paintings on Facebook. I can actually tell just by looking at the photo, whether they’ve used the good stuff, which by the way, in my opinion, or is the arches 140 pound cold press paper or whether they use the Codman’s, which is a much cheaper, but student grade paper. Oh, and by the way, if you do sign up for that pet portrait series, you’ll get the complete watercolor supply list of all of what I think is the really good stuff. So yes, I can tell just by looking at a finished watercolor and a photo on Facebook and the paper makes that much of a difference. I actually demonstrate that inside of my signature class watercolor secrets. I do the same exercise painting on cheap paper and then show it side by side on a piece of good paper.
But this is what I hear from students when they post their first painting attempts that they find disappointing. They’ll tell me, actually they did buy the good stuff, but they’re waiting until they get better before they use it. Unfortunately that bad paper makes their paintings look less than. So they can’t even enjoy their progress, they can’t see what kind of progress they’re making. And they would make an immediate improvement if they just switched to the better paper, but they can’t make the same progress on that bad paper, because everything looks worse on that bad paper and looks better on the good stuff. There are many things in life that you have to do it the right way, or you’re not going to enjoy the experience. I’ve been told it’s like that if you go skiing, I’m really not much of a skier, but people who ski say, “If you go to ski, you really need the goggles, you don’t get stuff in your eyes.” Like things like that. You need to have the right thing to enjoy it or when I play tennis, you need a good tennis racket because it does affect the game.
It’s also like this when you cook or bake, you want to use the finest ingredients and the best tools. My 19 year old son likes to cook his own meals, mostly because he’s a college wrestler now and actually for the past few years, he’s been a wrestler in high school. And he likes to follow a protocol so that he can track all his macros, how he can keep his weight in check and he’s actually nutritional pager so he’s really into food and what he eats and when he puts into his body. But he actually bought his own knife to use since he didn’t like the ones we have in our house, I guess we don’t have the good knives. When he was home this summer, I did borrow his knife and I can see why he likes it, it’s definitely nicer than ours.
When I was writing this out about the good knife, the good paper, the good pots, the bad pots, I actually remembered how much I wanted to treat myself to a set of Creuset cast iron pots. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. When my son left for college with the good knife, he also helped himself to the good pot that we have, not a Creuset, but something pretty similar. He managed to slip in my enamel based rice pot I don’t know if it’s called a rice pot, but that’s what we use it for. So the Creusets are cast iron pots with the same enamel surface, which means that they are really easy to clean up. And since they aren’t that tough lawn stuff, you can actually use metal spatulas when you cook and not poison yourself with plastic spatuls that might be releasing microscopic carcinogenic particles into your food.
These are the things that I lie awake thinking about at night. And if you’re wondering yourself, if these are hashtag rich people problems, don’t forget that my own father died of cancer when he was 31. So that specter of cancer is a dark shadow that sometimes is lurking nearby and it’s never far from my thoughts. The Creuset pans are very pricey. At one point, I thought I would buy one at a time, maybe a different color each time, but I was really tired of the cheap ones my husband buys at the grocery store. And I told him that I was planning on buying these Creuset pots. So I’ve been selling a lot of artwork lately, and I really wanted to treat myself. When I told him I was going to get these Creuset pots, we actually had a little argument over it because he doesn’t like the Creuset pots because he says, they’re heavy.
How does he know they’re heavy? We actually have one, my mom accidentally left here and I’ve conveniently forgotten to return it. By the way, she doesn’t even listen to this podcast so I will return it though now that I ordered my own. Anyway, I’m not sure why the fact that they’re too heavy is his objection. As I was writing up this podcast, I paused my writing in order to order my blue Creuset crockery. That’s the danger of working online, you have access to easy shopping, 24/7 at your fingertips whenever the work gets a little hard and you need to, I don’t know, numb yourself with some shopping. But then when I was shopping, I had a little moment because one of the secrets to our successful marriage is that I have my own credit card. And as long as I stay within reason, meaning stay in budget or at least pay the bill when I don’t, he’s not really supposed to scrutinize the items on the bill. And when I was trying to check out for the Creuset purchase, which I had rationalized in my mind that I deserved it. Not that you need to always rationalize, but I had sold a very large painting on Etsy, no less.
And the proceeds from that sale completely covered the cost of a full set of pot. So it was real excited to order them and the site didn’t take PayPal, which is another way that I’ll hide my purchases from my husband. So when my Amex got declined in the moment, I had no idea why but then at that point I just wanted to order it maybe, because I wanted to tell you that I ordered it I don’t know. So I had to wrestle for a moment about whether I would go ahead and order them anyway, using our joint card and have to deal with him knowing how, exactly, how much they cost in addition to being heavy. By the way so after I ordered the pots using my family visa, I did get an email from American express asking me to verify if it was me, who is buying the pots. And I can actually see why they would doubt it was me because after all, most of my purchases on the American express card are either for my vegan food delivery service or my exercise classes. So it’s a little bit of a disconnect why all of a sudden I’d be interested in Creuset pots.
But they are pretty and did I mention that they’re blue? They’re really pretty. The point of all this is that one of the reasons that I don’t enjoy cooking is because I don’t like cleaning up, even though my husband does help me clean up, I don’t even like listening and to complain about how I make things that stick to pots. So getting better pans definitely is going to make this process that much more enjoyable. Plus that I mentioned that they’re pretty, never underestimate the aesthetics of life. That’s why we’re artists after all pretty things do matter, right? Let’s get back to our theme. How you do one thing is how you do everything. Don’t be afraid to use what you have put out the good China, use Creuset pots if you have them, use your best paper and for heaven’s sake, don’t be afraid to use your art supplies.
If you want to be a creative person, just go all in, do it. You’ve already spent the money on the supplies use them. When you start with the beautiful stuff, you’re going to be inspired to create beautiful stuff. Now I do believe that art can help you in almost any area of your life, because instead of numbing yourself with food, alcohol, social media, or in my case, buying pots, you can process your emotions through art. It’s been that way my whole life with art since I lost my father, when I was five years old, this was in the 70s. And the thinking during that time was that you don’t bother children with sad things. So when I was growing up during this time, I was always given the message not to be sad or somehow I wasn’t supposed to feel sad, but of course I was sad.
I didn’t even really understand what happened to my father, I still remember at his funeral asking my mom, when would he be back? And instead of anyone sitting down and explaining it all to me, I was given a book. This was Judah Forest book, The 10th Good Thing About Barney. It’s a story of a little boy who loses his cat and it’s a beautifully illustrated children’s book. The illustrator is Erik Blegvad I think that’s how you said he’s Danish. I’m not sure that the story in the book really helped me grieve my father because the message of the book was that you think of things that you love about a person when you say goodbye. And I really barely knew my father, but it was a beautiful book. And I was absolutely in love with the illustrations of the cats.
Art definitely helps us heal both in the creation of art, as well as in the enjoyment of it. This story also reminds me of another one of my students, I actually will use her real name, Deb Blonde, who signed up for my classes because she had just lost her best friend. And she was trying to overcome that heartbreak. Her friend was an artist so she wanted to feel closer to her friend by learning how to paint. She told me that the emotional side of painting has really helped her overcome that heartache. Since that first class she’s actually taken all of my classes and now she’s currently working on building a business as a professional artist and she’s inside my artist incubator program. That is the lighter side of what happens when we’re mourning our loss. Other things come to fill its place.
Death has a way of interrupting and being a disruptor in our lives. Although I have heard from some students that they hit a creative block after a loss, many others have the opposite reaction, and the death acts as a catalyst for their creativity. They decide not to postpone investing in their art anymore after losing someone, perhaps they start to feel their own mortality on the horizon after a loss. What I know for sure that if you can move past those initial muddy waters of loss that you’ll find yourself in, if you can move past that and start creating any way, you’ll find yourself a better artist because of it.
You’ll never hear me say about my own life, my father shouldn’t have died or I wish it didn’t happen, because I assume I am the person I am today because of that loss. I may not have become an artist had I not had that emotional lump in my throat that needed to be released and found its release in the drawings of cats and a picture book. Bringing your life and your own heartache into your art will make you a better artist as well. It’s kind of the same advice that writers hear that you need to write what you know, when you’re bringing a person or a place or an animal that you feel strongly about into your work, it will show. Many times people take my pet painting classes in order to immortalize or memorialize a beloved pet, and those paintings are some of the most beautiful and most meaningful because the emotions that they feel for their pets show up in their artwork.
If your pet is also part of your life, it should be part of your art. Many of you know I love painting animals and these animals have not been my pets, but the reason I love painting animals is because I tend to anthropomorphize them. These animals become a conduit for some of my own human emotions. I don’t even have to be consciously aware of what emotions I’m putting into my art, because those emotions, they just show up anyway. I may be unearthing years of emotions that have buried deep inside. Moreover, I also do the reverse with my art, meaning sometimes if I want to feel a certain way, I will use a painting as a conduit for that. For example, I was feeling particularly vulnerable during the beginnings of the Me Too Movement because they brought up long buried memories of abuse. Instead of painting my sadness or feelings about that event, I painted a large hippopotamus that made me feel grounded. I also painted a mother bear because she made me feel nurtured.
Now, remember what we’re talking about today, the way you do one thing in your life is the way you do everything. So don’t be surprised if aspects from your life show up in your art, like being a perfectionist or perhaps scarcity mindedness, or other unprocessed emotions. Creating art can teach you to be more relaxed, more free and less of a perfectionist and the rest of your life. It can help you live in the now, enjoy the good China and treat yourself to some of the finer things in life like heavy Creuset pots. Because really, if not now, when? I mean I’m 50 years old, I’m not a young bride anymore. Let me enjoy the damn good pots. And it works both ways, wringing your life into your art, like painting a beloved pet will naturally make your art more meaningful.
And if painting your four babies is something you’ve always wanted to do, then I invite you to check out my free painting Pets with Passion Series. You’ll learn how to draw a cat, you’ll learn how to draw a dog even if you think you can’t and you’ll also find out what the good stuff really is of. You already know how to draw, and maybe you just want to be a better water color painter. You’ll find out what the good stuff is for your watercolors as well. Plus, you’ll get to watch me paint a dog. Painting pets isn’t a trivial thing painting pets is important. Think about all the people who were touched by the story of Barney and how the art helped heal the pain of one little five year old girl who grew up to be an artist.
To sign up for the pet painting class just go to schulmanart.com/paintingpets. No matter what time zone you’re in, you’ll get to enjoy those free videos. And if you’re able to join me live, the masterclass sign up is at schulmanart.com/masterclass. This video series, like all my video series, won’t be up forever. I’ll be replacing it with something else. So if this is something you want to do, you owe it to yourself to watch them right away and make time for yourself. Because if not now, when? Let’s wrap this all up, I want to remind you to subscribe to my podcast. If you’re not yet, I want to remind you to do that right away because I’ve been brewing up some really amazing special guest episodes. For example, our agent Lilla Rogers promised to come on my show. We’re talking all about illustrating children’s books. And I know of you also like my solo, like this one next week, we’re talking all about why art is your legacy.
If you want to be notified every single time, I have a new show. Make sure you subscribe to my podcast right away so you won’t miss a single one. And if you’re feeling extra loving do me a favor and leave a helpful review over on iTunes. If you put your Instagram handle, that’s the @ your name at the end of the written review. I’ll give you a shout out over on my Instastory. Okay guys. Thank you so much for being with me here today, I will see you same time, same place next week make it a great one. Bye for now.
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