Picture this… you’ve followed an artist online for the last year, you really like their style of work, their influences, how they express themselves and they’ve even inspired you to pick up a pen and start drawing. But after a year, you’re looking for more, you want to begin to expand your capabilities, you want to try new things, and this artist just seems stuck! You’re keen to keep growing, so you look for new artists to inspire and motivate you.
Here’s the thing, as an artist or crafter you’ve got to be flexible! We live in a society now, where everything is instant, and if you can’t meet the needs of people who are looking to you, they will look elsewhere. They will just google and find someone else who is doing what they want to do, and follow them instead.
There is an artist online who I’ve been following for about the last six months. And before you ask, no, she is not like the artist I mentioned in the example above. This woman rocks! Her name is Leigh Ellexson. Leigh caught my attention through one of her sketchbook tour videos. She flipped through her sketchbook showing what she’d worked on over the last few months and I absolutely adored her style. Leigh works with a limited colour palette and she doesn’t use black for outlining, at all! I’ve been really inspired by her to try to do something similar, to do a piece where my palette is limited to 4 colours, and to try not to use black for outlining my work, so I gave it a go.
To be honest, I’d say I felt a little bit cagey when I was doing this drawing, uncomfortable even. I found it quite difficult to spread the colour evenly over the page so it still looked visually pleasing. As I struggled my way through the piece I found myself wanting to go back to where I was comfortable… with my prismacolor pencils and with no limits on how I do colour. I started really thinking about the way I always do things and it was then that I realised just how important this whole exercise had been.
“How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog-it’s here a little while, then it’s gone” James 4:14 NLT. We’re not promised tomorrow and we just don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring, so it’s important to be flexible with what we have and what we do. Through this exercise, the Lord showed me how I’ve been holding onto things. I’ve been holding onto creating art in a particular way using particular products… sure I’ve dressed it up by saying “well coloured pencils are my medium”, but now, deep down, the truth is I’ve been holding onto things and they may not be here tomorrow. Well… Prismacolor could go bankrupt and then is no more Prismacolor coloured pencils, or my financial status could change and I might no longer be able to afford them, or I might lose the use of my hand. What on earth would I do then!!
I love V8 Supercars and when Craig Lowndes drives (he’s only the best driver eva!!) he has his foot flat on the floor pressing on the accelerator, his leg is fully tensed. He’s fully focussed and concentrates intensely on driving to get in front of all of the other drivers, so he can be on the podium at the end of the race. Incredible pressure is being applied to the accelerator, but at some point in the race, his foot has to come off the accelerator as he’s going to need to brake. Whether it’s to take a corner or to defend his position, his leg will need to bend and flex as it’s lifted off the accelerator and put onto the brake pedal. You can drive a v8 supercar with your foot just on the accelerator, but if you do, you’re going to crash. If you’re not prepared to bend and flex to brake, then you’re going to wind up in the kitty litter! And it’s the same for us as artists and crafters.
Back to the scenario that I opened with. If I’m not flexible and I keep doing the same old things, week in, week out, month in, month out, year in, year out, I will become boring, I’ll crash with my followers… and why then would anyone want to read what I have to say or buy my work? We have to be prepared to be flexible. We need to be able to look up from the page and pick up a different pen, try a new paint or even give pastels a whirl if that’s your kinda thing. It’s how we stay relevant and interesting in such a fast paced society. We’ll be easy adapters.
What this doesn’t mean is that we can’t become masters in a craft. In fact, I personally believe that people are starving to see the true masters in their craft stand up and show their work. What the Lord has shown me, is that we can work hard to develop our skills to master something, we just can’t hold onto that over and above Him or everything else because it might not be here tomorrow. As we let go we’ll become better artists and crafters for it.
Do you know that the first flex is always the hardest, but once you start, you’ll find you it gets easier the more you try? I hope you take an hour or two to think about how you can be more flexible with your art or craft. If you do, share a link to your page in the comments below! I would love to follow you and watch your flexibility unfold as you become an easy adapter.