The Absolutely, Very Serious Reasons for Play
Learning to paint well takes dedication. Watching the Creative Catalyst artists, there is no question that they’ve put in the hours to become masters of their craft. Their skill is the direct result of a lot of hard work.
In this week’s interview, artist René Eisenbart gave this advice to artists, “Find ways to keep on painting.”
Whether you are a seasoned master or just starting out, you will face burnout and boredom. There will be days when you are exhausted and you will have to answer the question, “Do I paint today?”
This is why Eisenbart’s advice is so important. It encourages us to find ways to keep do the work. And sometimes the answer to doing the work is play.
What might be play for you could be serious work for the artist next to you. Either way, it’s important to know when play could be your most important tool.
Play Keeps your Hands Moving
Maybe life feels especially hard or things are just too darn busy but there will be days where you won’t want to paint. One day can quickly become two, five, or a week. You look up suddenly and it’s been months since you’ve last painted.
Play keeps your hands moving. It keeps you going back into the studio. It keeps you in the habit of making art regularly. It’s this habit of making art regularly that will allow you to see the most progress in your skills. Play gives you a way to create good studio habits and keep working on skills. It gives you a low bar of entry on days where even low bars feel high.
Play Decreases Risk of Burnout
Burnout is a real problem for artists. Art takes deep focus and like anything else, yes, there are tedious parts. You’ll be halfway through your fifth commission and realize that if you have to paint one more glaze you’re going to snap your Kolinsky sable (the good one) in half.
But before you do, spend an afternoon doing something with those supplies stuffed in your lower studio drawer. Play with that pristine pack of art pens. Cut stamps. Paint collage paper. Do something that reminds you of the creative sparks that are so invigorating in making art. And after you’ve shaken off some of the impending burnout, head back into the work.
Play Encourages Breakthroughs
Breakthroughs come when you least expect it. Driving in a car. Taking a shower. Gardening.
In art, they can also come when you’re trying something medium or subject adjacent. Color concepts you couldn’t quite navigate in your big abstracts suddenly make sense when you’re thinking about a smaller still life. Composition seemed like too big of an idea for your portraits but when you try adding marbling to a piece, it all seems to make sense.
Sometime you have to work through the problem with a new angle (or medium or subject) for it to finally make sense.
You’ve learned your mediums. You’ve mastered the glaze. You can tell how much water a flat and a round hold. But check in with yourself once and awhile and see if you need a break from the hard wok (fun but still hard work) of learning to be a great artist. And when you feel the need, take a break and feel the power of play.
What role does pure play have in your studio practice?