In a recent Instagram story Dallas Clayton said something very profound that made me stop in my tracks.
“Making art has almost nothing to do with being the best.”
Now, when I first heard him say this my old perfectionist mind did a quick, “Say what?! Not true.That’s just an excuse.” But, then he elaborated.
“I’d rather be a mediocre bowler and have fun every game than be really good and be mad when I get a 299.”
Oh Dallas, you are so wise! Making art has nothing to do with being the best. If we do make it about being the best then we’ve missed the whole point! We become the tortured artist instead of the happy doodler.
Hey guys! In case you haven’t seen it yet, I’ve added a new page to my website called “Coloring Pages” where I’ve posted two FREE downloadable coloring pages for your coloring pleasure. I hope that you love them as much as I loved creating them!
I’d love to see your art work! Use hashtag #artaffirmationcp and tag me @theevapeterson on twitter or instagram to share!
Six years ago, during the second semester of my architectural graduate program, I decided to take a watercolor class. I had always admired the delicacy of watercolor paintings, and the luminosity and movement they often embodied. I imagined myself sitting outside with my pallet full of paint, effortlessly painting beautiful landscapes.
I walked into the first day painting class full of hope and creative excitement, but by the end of the hour I had just one thought.
I. Hate. Watercolors.
You see, as long as I can remember I have been a very precise person. A perfectionist to put it nicely. A control freak to put it bluntly. So when I couldn’t control this water and paint the way I wanted to, it really frustrated me.
My desire for perfection and control runs deep, especially when it comes to academics and my career. Since childhood I have taken school very seriously. Architecture school was no joke. It was intense. We had a huge workload, and were expected to work around the clock to get it done.
For instance, one of my professors would come up to our studio around midnight a few nights a week, and if you weren’t there working he would call your cell phone and ask, “Am I not giving you enough work to do? Where are you?” We stashed cots and bean bags in our studios so we could sleep a couple hours a night without “wasting time” by going all the way home to sleep.
During those six years I spent in architecture school, I averaged about four hours of sleep a night.
I was also constantly stressed out. Not only was school extremely intense, but I had it in my mind that I must be the best. I must be at the top of my class. I wore my perfectionism like a badge of honor.
As you can imagine, all of those late nights and constant stress eventually took a tole on my body. Half way through graduate school I began to have headaches every single day, and soon suffered from chronic migraines. The migraines quickly became debilitating.
I sought medical help, but when my doctor recommended more sleep and reducing my stress I, in my infinite twenty three-year-old wisdom, made the decision that changing my lifestyle. So, she prescribed a few medications. The medications worked, kind of, they helped with my migraines but also came with a slew of side effects.
By the time I finished graduate school in 2011 my body was completely broken. Not only did I still struggle with migraines and panic attacks, but I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue. Basically, my body had been under so much stress and for so long that it could no longer properly regulate the hormones I needed to function like a normal human being.
I had accomplished my dreams, I graduated at the very top of my class and got an excellent job, but at what cost? Today, five years later, I’m still dealing with some of the health problems that I developed during that time.
A big part of finding health and balance has been to give up that perfectionist mentality that in the past I so closely identified with. Now make time relax, to let loose, and I prioritize activities that bring me joy and peace. I’ve learned to do my work, and then let it go instead of redoing it over and over until it’s “perfect.” I’ve learned to stop comparing myself with others, not worrying about who is the “best.” And, most importantly, I’ve learned to be patient and forgiving when I do inevitably overextended myself and get stressed out. I’m a work in progress.
Which brings me back to the watercolors. A couple weeks ago I got the insatiable desire to try watercolors again. I kept reminding myself how much I hated it the last time I tried. I hadn’t picked up a brush since that class, back in grad school, when I got so frustrated. And yet, the desire would not go away.
Yesterday, I finally went to the store and bought some paints. Expecting to become all frustrated and impatient again, I set up my little art space – water, paints, brushes, paper, paper towel – and I attempted to paint a simple tree.
Guys, it was so much fun! I was no longer interested in trying to control the paint. My desire for perfection was replaced with curiosity. I embraced the unpredictable nature of the water. I was patient with it. I loved it!
That first little tree painting, the one you see above, is far from perfect. But, I had so much fun creating it that really I couldn’t care less about what the finished product looks like.
For me, the key to happiness is enjoying the process. Because everything is in process. Everything around us is constantly changing. Trying to tightly control my work and my life almost destroyed me, but this watercolor experiment has shown me just how far I’ve come in the past few years. It’s shown me just how much I’ve grown.
Now, I treat life more like a watercolor painting. I go with flow.
I recently asked one of my favorite humans, the one and only Tiffany Han, what her top book recommendations are for those of us embarking on a life of creative entrepreneurship.
If you aren’t familiar with Tiffany’s work she is the creative guru behind the amazing podcast “Raise Your Hand And Say Yes.” I have been devouring her work since hearing her interviewed on a friend’s podcast a couple months ago. (You can find a list of all my favorite podcasts here!)
So, without further adieu, Tiffany Han’s must read book list:
I’ve heard Tiffany mention this book time and again on the podcast. McKeown helps the reader to declutter their life and mind by determining what is essential and eliminating everything else. I cannot wait to read this book. My type A workaholic personality is probably the authors target audience.
According to Ellen Degeneres this book has been used by creative souls all over the world to, “channel creative energy, unlock potential and overcome the fears that stop us from reaching our fullest potential. With courage, following the right formula and working hard, the book proposes that passion can be turned into purpose.” Love it!
This book is all about breaking down those nagging fears and limiting beliefs that hold us back from following our crazy, creative big ideas.
And that’s it folks! Short and sweet. As I work my way through these books I will definitely keep you updated. I’ll be posting more about my current literary obsession,Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Liz Gilbert, very soon.
Do you have other recommendations? If so please let me know in the comments!
Yesterday afternoon I arrived early to a bar where I was to meet a friend for drinks. Per usual I had listened to a podcast on the commute. While debating how to kill the extra time a thought came to me:
It never stops. The distractions are endless.
Rarely do I take time to think for myself. Instead I just listen, respond, regurgitate.
So, I sat down and started writing in my journal. The following words flowed from my pen.
I am constantly listeneing to someone elses voice, reading someone elses words, admiring someone elses art. Now, when it comes to formulating my own thoughts I have difficulty. It’s really quite sad and somewhat scary. My mind goes blank. I’m out of practice.
At work I constantly listen to music. While walking around the city I listen to podcasts. At home I almost always have a TV show on. On the train I’m scrolling through some social medial site. Moreover, I typically I feel the need to do at least two things at once; detailing floor plans and listening to a podcast, typing an email and eating, watching TV and drawing, watching a movie and scrolling through instagram.
I can’t seem to just focus on my work. Just draw. Just watch a movie. Just walk. Just sit. Just be still.
Where is the white space? Where is the time to think?
I remember back in school when I wrote papers, long papers, expressing my thoughts and feelings about a book or an artistic moment. I had opinions and I knew how to express them. However, since then it’s as if my mind has been white washed by the constant availibility of entertainment. It’s like I’m addicted. The likes, the follows, the comments, the drama; they hit me like a drug. They leave little room or time for original thoughts.
This is why I love writing blog posts. It requires my total focus. Maybe some people can multi-task while writing, but I am not that talented.
Writing gives me the opportunity to sort out my feelings and articulate my opinions. In my journals I pour out my heart and soul, and in each blog post I refine and articulate my ideas.
It’s time to limit the media and prioritize my original thoughts. Only then can I truely show up as my authentic self if this world. And I, like everyone else, am here for a reason. I have something unique to share and I plan to spend my entire life expressing whatever that is thorugh my writing, my art, my being.
How do you limit and overcome the distractions in your life?
“Positivity through creativity” is a concept that I’ve been chewing on for quite a while.
Positivity – Our mainstream media is completely consumed with messages of fear. One of America’s presidential candidates, Trump, is literally riding that wave of fear to a presidential nomination. With all of the horrible events that have been filling up our news feeds lately I’ve realized the importance of putting as much love and light into this world as possible!
As corny as it may sound, I believe with all my heart that what the world needs now is LOVE! Period.
Creativity – Sketching, coloring, cross stitching, building things, and creating computer graphics (even for something as mundane as a work presentation) always brings me so much joy! Since childhood I’ve turned to art during my lowest, most difficult moments. I’ve also turned to art when I am overflowing with love! I literally drew EVERYTHING when I was a child. Give me a pencil and a stack of paper and I would go to town for hours!
I find that I can most quickly get in the “flow” by creating something. By “flow” I mean a state of inspired focus and positive energy. In those moments I know that I am part of something bigger than myself, and that thing is flowing through me. In those moments I am happy, I am content, I am full of love.
I feel called to stand up and say something. Do something. I want to consistently put love into the world, and what better way to do it than through the thing that brings me the most joy – art.
So, I am starting a #positivitythroughcreativity movement.
First, I started an instagram account called @theevapeterson where I am sharing daily sketches created from a place of pure love.
Second, on August 1st I will be adding an “Art Affirmations” tab to this website where I will share free downloadable affirmation coloring pages created to inspire and uplift those who use them to create art.
Want to join the movement and spread the love?
Use hashtags #positivitythroughcreativity and #artaffirmations so that we can connect!