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Pushing through the ugly

We have all had times in our life that just seem ugly. We have challenges that seem too large or overwhelming to overcome. I have found similar threads in the creative process that led me to solutions that help me in every day life.

Every art project goes through an ugly phase. In the example of a acrylic painting, it is the phase just after the excitement of inspiration dies down and the first dark base layers are on the canvas. The form is rough and there are moments when you step back, rub your forehead, and think, "This doesn't look right." Perhaps the colors or off, the shape is off. It is just OFF! With each layer, you define and refine until it evolves into something you are proud of. That seems simple, right, just keep layering, but what do we do when it just feels impossible to move forward?


One pet portrait painting I did years ago, I struggled with tremendously. I had all the right tools, the right skills, but it just would not work. I kept striving and got more and more frustrated as a result. What should have taken me days was stretching into several weeks. It was crazy. So, I put it aside and worked on other projects in the meantime.


Then, one day, I pulled that ugly piece back out, got my supplies out, and put on a spiritual teaching. I started to paint, without thinking. Within a few hours the painting was completed and at that time, was one of the best pet portraits I had done up until that point. I sat amazed.


What was the difference? I had been STRIVING to complete it. Overthinking it. I had been so emotionally attached to a specific outcome that I was criticizing myself for not being able to achieve it. Pushing through the ugly is about persistence. It's okay to take a break when a solution does not readily appear, especially if it becomes frustrating, but it's also important to: create an environment conducive to creativity, get that problem back out, breathe, and keep moving forward.


The victory will be all the sweeter because you pushed through the ugly. Who knows, it could be your greatest victory yet!


This is the painting I struggled with.... meet, "Scooby".

Keep on layering. Blessings to you.


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