I understand. I really do. If you feel like you can’t draw. If you go through all those tutorials and keep trying for a while, months even and can’t learn that one thing you really wanted to and consider yourself a failure and want to give up. If people give you those strange looks and ask “what is that? I don’t get it” when they see your creations. If you feel like you don’t have those skills, talents and experience to do art professionally. If you love painting and yet don’t feel confident of putting it out in the world. If your fear, self- doubt is nagging you and you keep making excuses not to create. If you say “I don’t have the time or money to do art. I don’t want to be one of those broke starving people.” If you think you can’t become a real artist and constantly compare yourself to the high skilled fancy world class artists out there. I feel you. I do. You know why? Cause I have been there. Done that. I mean, I still go through some of these things today.
You know what? It’s not easy being an artist and living your dream. The struggle is real. It takes a lot of hard work, effort, energy, time, money, pain even. It takes years to get where you want to be. But you know what? It takes the same things to build a life with that alternative career you choose instead of becoming a creator. Those feelings I described above you can and will face them in the other job you do too. Both paths are tough.
There is a difference though. This difference is how I knew art will be my career and not communication. How despite deciding to do art on the side and have a real proper career where I actually earn money and have a good life, I firmly decided and told everyone that I am going to be an artist. No matter what. Come what may. Because I may have led a good life if I chose another career, but not the best life as I am currently drawing, painting and doing mixed media. Because creativity is the way I can be the truest most authentic version of myself, the most real way I can connect with the world.
Here’s the difference if you choose your dream path. Because it is your calling. Because you have that uniqueness, that magic that no one else has to lead and inspire people in that field. Because you are serving people with your highest possible potential. Because no matter how much you ignore it, it keeps following you. No matter how much you push it away, it is all around you everywhere you look, think and feel. If you choose to do what you love more than anything else in the world, it will be fun. You will spend each and every day doing what you truly enjoy, getting one step closer to your fantasy every move you make. You will be happy and much more willing to face those struggles and difficulties because you chose the path that will take you forward towards the life you want to live.
So which hard will you choose? The good life or the best life? The alternative career or the dream career? I recommend the latter.
Today is the day you start a new artwork. You have set up your blank canvas or paper and feel it staring back at you. Oh no, what do I do now? You freeze for a minute. How did I manage to create last time, you wonder? Will I be able to make something new, something not seen before? Did I get the right idea, is it the right inspiration for this time? What if I get stuck? What if I choose the wrong size? Will it work? And on and on….
If you have been following me for a while, you know I don’t really like to plan out my works. Yes, I may start out with a basic idea or inspiration but I don’t exactly fully structure my work. I like to have that element of surprise and exploration, discover things along the way. I have no clue, no clue at all what the final result will be. So I know too well that feeling of a blank slate.
The thing is, and this is my personal belief (yours might differ- please don’t come at me), if you know exactly what you are creating, create dot to dot to that envisioned end result, it is not art. Art is to be on the edge of the cliff, to have that heart pumping little hesitant feeling of jumping off, then finally taking the leap and experiencing that feeling. That excitement is art.
That fear, that being frozen by that stare is normal. You just need to start, take that leap of faith, and fly.
I have said it before, I’ll say it again: what I love about being an artist is being as real, as honest, as vulnerable, as authentic I can with you guys not just about my artworks but also about life as an artist. Trust me. It’s not as easy as it seems.
This post I am not confident about but still taking the courage to share this. What you guys often see is the final artwork and some behind the scenes in my videos and photos. But today I want to go deeper.
You don’t see the struggle of setting up the camera and making a tripod out of a sketchbook and a bottle of moisturizer to get the correct height. You don’t see the minutes spent trying to get the perfect zoom to film. You don’t see the process of selecting the right thickness of paintbrush to match how intricate the pattern is. You don’t see the frustration of too little water too much paint or too much water too little paint. You don’t see the amount of tissues used in the process. You don’t see the painty hands and arms. You don’t see the washing and clean up process of the brushes. You don’t see the trying to find good lighting to take a picture. You don’t see the failed drafts of papers and canvases thrown away. You don’t see the tears and smiles. There is a lot that goes into it. A LOT.
Sharing with you some behind the scenes photos of what my set up is actually like…
When I first got on the road to begin my art journey, to find my unique voice, let me tell you, there were lots of bumps on the way. I faced failures (and still do).
I was entering a new unknown place, attempting something I had never done before, and to be honest, no one had ever done before. Because no one can create like me, and no one can create like you. We all have our unique styles. You are on your own journey. You are the only person that has ever or will ever take it. Isn’t that fascinating?
I would draw and the self-bashing would start. “You have no talent”, “Look at what a mess you have made”, “Who do you think you are anyway?”, “You really think people will like this?”, “You call that art?”, “Look at all the greats, you are nothing compared to them” and on and on.
What I didn’t understand then and what I have now understood is that every artist feels this way at one point or another. Because if you are doing something out of the box, exploring something untouched, you are not going to get it right a lot of the times. There will be tons of mistakes. Honestly, that is not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all.
Failure is to be welcomed. Let it in. It is a badge of honor, an award. Anyone can do the thing someone else is doing, make the painting that has been made so many times. What is so different about your art then? Be proud of yourself that you are putting out your voice in the world.
As artists, we need to be able to look at our artwork with an objective eye (easier said than done, I know, but give it a try). That is DIFFERENT from criticism. I have learnt to frame the criticism into questions, into creative puzzles. That’s what we are best at doing as creators. Instead of thinking, “Oh no, this paint is so watery and runny on the canvas. It is ugly”, I think “How can I turn this into something beautiful using my style?”. Instead of thinking “Oh man, this color didn’t stand out the way I thought it would”, I think “Hmm… what color can I blend it with or what color can I put around it so that I get the effect I was going for?”. Instead of thinking “This is such an ugly disgusting mess”, I think “Maybe this got a little bit too playful. Do I need to make this more structured and controlled?”.
Turn that criticism into analysis instead of making something gone wrong something bad about you. Convert your negative thoughts into a fun problem to solve, into a game. You got this. You have the talent, you have the skill, you have the uniqueness. You just need to steer your thoughts into the right direction.
Forget a unique style. I used to think I didn’t have any style, even an ordinary one. Until I realized that your style is your voice, your personality, your story, your reflection. We all have that, unique to our individual selves and all you need to do is bring that into your art and lo and behold: that is your unique style!
It is absolutely true that your story is totally personal to you, no one else can walk in your shoes. Only you have had the experiences you have had, lived the life you have lived. But it is also absolutely true that we are all humans, and we go through similar experiences, and can relate to each other’s stories and can feel the emotions in that journey. That is the power you have as a creator by sharing your unique style. People see an artwork that is unique, completely different to anything else, but yet it still resonates with them. You have expressed something unique to yourself, yet it is connected with something inside so many others.
That is why it is so satisfying to put your life, your journey in your work. It really means something when someone buys your creation which is a piece of you.
So how do you find your style…? Get to know yourself on a personal level. What are your preferences? Dig deep inside. What colors appeal to you? What composition? What patterns do you look at and go “wow”? Any favorite objects/animals /places you like to talk about? Who are the artists you most follow? What is their work like? Abstract? Bold? Dramatic? Quiet and calm? Realistic? What are you into? Drawing? Painting? Digital Art? Sculpture? Glass? Printing?
Outside of art, what do you generally like to do and look at? What are your favorites? Where do you like to hang? What brings you joy? What can you talk about all day? Do you have a particular story you like to tell? Really thinking about this and narrowing down your preferences will help you find your style. What feels good to you?
Another thing is you can’t let your fear of doing something different, doing something that is totally you get in the way. The fear of what others will think. The fear of how the response will be. The fear of messing it up. The key to finding your style is to let go. Let go of everything and fly free.
Step 2: Think to yourself that there are so many creations like that already, why would the world ever want to see mine? What is so special about my idea anyway? But I really want to do it and I will. Why can’t I just create freely and not give a care to what people think?
Step 3: Eagerly prepare your materials to start creating
Step 4: Get a cup of tea- because… can’t start creating without it.
Step 5: Hop onto YouTube, watch how to…. videos related to your idea, surf Google, Pinterest, every website and social media possible for things related to your idea. Have those thoughts again: “omg, they are all so good”, “the internet is full of so much talent”, “how can I create like that…?”. Then go to “Wait, did I just start comparing myself to other people again? I came to get inspiration, not to compare myself. My art is unique, remember?”
Step 6: Look around your studio at all your artworks hanging, think about the journey you took to get to this stage, think about all the support and encouragement you have received, feel good about yourself and your work again and feel pumped up to create.
Step 7: Notice the time. Where did the hours go? Did I just spend all this time in overthinking?
Step 8: The passion, the urge to create intensifies and you need to get something on the paper. You start creating and soon get into the zone.
Step 9: Finish your creation and post your work. Cause why not? You are proud of it, you are following your passion and want to share it with the world. Wow, look 3 likes! The world loves it! Well done! Step 10: Repeat for the rest of your life.
Since 2020 is coming to an end and 2021 is about to enter our lives, I thought I should make a list of my art goals, what I want to achieve in 2021. So here goes, a short and sweet list:
Post on blog regularly
Post on YouTube regularly
Do some events (workshops, exhibitions, bazaars, etc ..…)
Grow my artistic connections. See more art- in person.
Use all previous art materials before buying new ones. Use all the paper, all the canvas, all the paints, all the pens, and everything else. No more unnecessary excited shopping.
Not be afraid to fail. Try new things and learn new skills (have a long list of what I want to explore, but haven’t yet). Not going to list all the things here- will surprise you with them as I create them J
And of course: create, create, create.
Do any of you have any creative goals for next year? Would love to hear yours.
This is me signing off- I am off to start achieving this goals. See you next time!
2020. The year of changes. The year of adjusting to new living situations. The year of transitional phases. And let me confess here: I am not good with sudden changes that I am unprepared for. I freak out. I need time to adjust. There were days I didn’t feel like myself and didn’t have any motivation to create. It was not easy coming to terms with being in India for a while (didn’t at all expect 10 months!) in my ancestral home. But, once I accepted the situation and slowly started to get used to it, what kept me sane was art. I broke down a lot of times missing my beloved studio in Tianjin, but with art materials, a laptop, inspiration, a table and a chair, I found that art can be created anywhere, any place can become a workspace. And it actually turned out lucky for me, as I made my workspace in my grandpa’s office. When I worked there, I could feel his presence next to me and him blessing me from above. I realized that I can use a time like this to get inspired by these new experiences and environments and add to my artwork.
When I first started making art, I made it for myself. I made art for the pure reason that it felt good and it was fun. And that reason becomes stronger each day. Especially now, in these difficult times worldwide, I truly believe art is more important than ever. We need to stay aware and be reminded of the beauty in the world. We need to stay active, keep our creative minds alive and get those stories, words out of our heads and into the real world. Whether it’s a book, movie, comedy, music, painting, poem, dance, sewing or cooking, it is what connects us with each other, with the world.
Here is how creativity (I have been drawing, painting and writing) helped me survive 2020 and how it can help you survive these tough times as well (just give it a shot):
1. This is one that I think all of you probably already know. It comforts us, soothes us, helps reduce stress and see everything in a positive light. It is therapy, it is meditation. There are so many physical, mental, emotional benefits to doing any kind of creativity.
For me personally, it helped me escape. It was a way to get away from the crisis, the scary thoughts, the headlines in the news. It was a positive outlet to let it all out. It was a way I could take my imagination to other places and create my own dream world.
Lockdown and quarantine made us miss a lot of things. Home, close ones, travelling, restaurants and cafes, our schools and workplaces, shopping, cinemas, meeting and hugging friends and colleagues… the list goes on and on. Well, if you can’t do it in real life, draw it, paint it, sing about it, write about it, dance about it, make a video about it, laugh about it, it will make you so happy. Create your own world.
2. It allows me to express myself without talking when I can’t convey what I want to in words. Art allows me to take an internal emotion (happiness, sadness, stress, fear, anger, excitement) and externalize it visually. It gives me the perspective I need while at the same time also enables me to share it with other people without explicitly stating what I want to convey.
3. It allows me to embrace my human side, to show my real vulnerable side when I want to. With your creativity, you make people feel. The beauty of creativity is that it transcends all cultures, all languages, all borders. In the end, it is a human experience that brings people together. It gives that sense of community.
4. It allows us to document important, historical and memorable events. And we have had a huge number of those this year. It allows us to spread awareness, to raise our voices on issues we are passionate about and want to talk about. In your own style. In a way, that you know people will identify with, and resonate with. I know I know, I said creativity allows us to escape from those headlines, from these events, and it does. I am not contradicting myself here, if that’s what you are thinking. Creativity allows us to do both things.
There were times this year when I sat down to write or draw and I was not able to escape those thoughts, those images, those news articles. It was all that was going on in my mind. So I took that burning fire and poured it into my creativity. And then shared it.
5. It helps express gratitude to our warriors, to those people out there who are risking their lives to help save lives. I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to our warriors, who continue to be out there. Thank you for everything! You are super awesome!
In addition to being thankful for those amazing people, creativity allowed me to be grateful for so much more. Before 2020 happened, I used to count my blessings but 2020 made me so much more aware of the power of gratitude. And creativity played a huge factor in that. From running away from all things Covid in my artworks, to writing about the real world news in my poems (and vice versa), I became thankful for the simplest things. All it took for me was a paper and pen or a laptop and a word document, to remind me that ok, we are going through a tough time but there are so many people who are less fortunate than we are. It keeps me grounded and humble.
6. It builds up your resilience and gives you time to reflect. Creating something is not easy. I can vouch for this. You first need an idea, a plan, a process of how you will go about the creation. Then you gather all that you need to begin that process. And finally you start creating. Maybe you stick to your plan the whole way through and get it on the first go. But maybe halfway through the process, you re- assess your creation and find that this is not what you wanted and then you change your plan. The second time you get it or maybe you change your plan again.
All this takes time, effort and energy and you end up spending a lot of time with yourself. During this creative process (and this happens every single time, no matter how much you create), you start to think about a lot of things. You observe yourself and understand and know yourself better. You become calmer, more patient, and more resilient. You learn and grow and emerge into a better person from when you first started the project.
7. It gives you the freedom of expression. For me, that is my favorite thing. There are no boundaries, no rules. I can create whatever I wish, however I wish, whether that’s in writing, drawing or painting. And in the process, I can learn new skills and techniques.
Remember in my previous blog post I wrote about creating an inspiration file…? Linking it here in case you haven’t read it: https://gurmsart.com/2021/03/20/how-to-stay-motivated-to-make-art/ . Well, part of my inspiration file is adding to my list (two lists actually: one is for artwork ideas and the other is writing ideas) in my journal. I keep adding whenever I see something that inspires me and comes to mind.
Before I was stuck in India, I had never in my wildest dreams thought that I would create the artworks I did this year. And the poems that just flowed out of me enough to be a book, its crazy. I could never have imagined that. None of this was in any part of the file. Which I thought was super cool because that is the beauty of creativity. Anything at any time can inspire you and change things around. I am happy that my freedom of expression and 2020 gave me a way to dive into my family memories, history and stories through my colors. I am glad I wrote about my feelings for all things life. I LOVE IT! I REALLY DO!!!
Woah, just realized how long this post got. If you read to the end, thank you. I hope this helps. If you are feeling low, just go create something and see the magic unfold. Turn your fear into beauty. Turn your frustration into hope.
really wanted to talk about this, share my thoughts on this, let my feelings out about this as so many people have approached me about this.
People who think they are not good at art but want to try. People who think they don’t have the talent but want to use their imagination and ideas to create something. People who are interested in painting but are afraid of how it will turn out and so don’t want to do it. People who really have the urge to draw something but are not confident about it. How do I start, they ask me? What if I make a mistake and don’t know how to fix it? What if it doesn’t turn out good? What if people don’t understand my work and judge and criticize it? Etc etc etc…
I am going to be totally honest and real with you here. Let me tell you something. Everyone, you included, has an artist hidden somewhere inside of them. Art is NOT about good or bad, right or wrong, talented or untalented. In fact, there is no such thing as bad art. There really isn’t. There is no such thing as you doing something wrong in art. There is no such thing as making a mistake. Art is about being as creative , as unique, as out of the box, as experimental as you want to be. It is about playing, it’s about imagining, it’s about exploring, it’s about just enjoying the process and having fun. It is all up to you. There is NO limitations or restrictions. There are no rules. Art does not have to be traditional. Who knows, through your imagination and creativity, you may even invent a new art form or art style! So no need to be scared or have lack of confidence. Everyone has their own unique artistic style. So embrace yours! Accept it as it is. Just grab some art materials and start creating something! Anything. Whatever you feel like. In your own special artistic way.
Maybe in the process something changes while you are making your art and the end result doesn’t turn out what you wanted it to be. Maybe when your painting dries, something goes “wrong” or it seems “incomplete, like something’s missing” and you are not satisfied with it. You want to “fix it”, “make it better” “correct it” “make it complete “. How, you ask me? Its simple! Just make it part of the work. Huh, you laugh, it can’t be that easy. But is is! It really truly is! To be honest, I have felt this way with my works too. Want to know what I do? I take it is as a chance to experiment, take advantage of what I am feeling and turn it into something else. And guess what? I feel even more satisfied with the new work than I ever would have with the work I had previously imagined. That’s what art is about- learning, growing, discovering something new everyday, making a totally different artwork from the idea you had when you first stated creating the work. And that is perfectly ok.
As for people not understanding your work, judging your work, criticizing your work- I won’t lie. There will always be some people like that. That’s ok. That’s their thinking, their mindset. You cannot get affected by them. You heard me. You cannot get affected by them. Yes, you can listen to them, hear what they have to say and maybe incorporate their suggestions in your next artwork. Who knows? Maybe it will help you improve, make you discover something new and exciting about you and your art. Use it as constructive criticism. But don’t take it to heart. Don’t hear them and give up and not create anymore. There are also always many people who love your style, who understand your work, who are fascinated by your work, who encourage and support you , who look forward to your next piece. Focus on those people.
Want to know a secret? You ready? You sure? I am letting the cat out of the bag. Let me tell you about my biggest fan. Before you say, that’s me . Let me tell you that no, it’s not any single one of you. My biggest fan is me! Yep, I am my biggest fan. Surprised? Let me explain. As long as you, the creator of the work, are satisfied with the end product and confident about your idea and what you did, it is enough. It is more than enough. If you love what you have created, if you are happy with the final piece, if you understand the idea and style behind it, if you have embraced and accepted your uniqueness then you don’t need any other validation. Seriously. Then no amount of what other people think or say will affect you anymore. It’s your artwork and you are proud of it and you believe in it. Say whatever you want to world- I am ready. Become your biggest fan and it’s all good. Not to say that compliments don’t feel good! They always do! Use those as encouragement and motivation to push yourself, keep improving, and create something better and better every time.
As Lisa Golightly said: “There is no right way to make art. The only wrong is in not trying, not doing. Don’t put barriers up that aren’t there- just get to work and make something”.
Well, after all this, what are you waiting for? Go grab some art materials and do some art! Happy creating!
The Date. November 24 2019. The time. 9:41 pm. I am sitting in my bed in Tianjin writing this. I am just a simple girl who loves art and wants to do art for the rest of my life. I can’t believe my dream is starting to come true and I am slowly getting there. It seems unreal and overwhelming to me at times the amount of appreciation, love, support, encouragement, and blessings I get from you all. I feel on top of the world that you are approaching me, becoming aware of me and what I do and I am getting known and you are interested in my art. So happy and excited for the future and new possibilities and doors to open. I really can’t thank all of you lovely beautiful people enough….
Ok… let me take you a few hours back to something that changed my life and helped me discover and gain confidence in myself and a new possibility of something I can do (which I admit I was straight up refusing and didn’t want to think about at all before this (even though people have been asking me for some years now, encouraging me to try once and see how I feel)) … but that all changed today… when I realized how fun and enjoyable it is, when I was so real and natural and didn’t even have to try, where I can truly be myself just like I am when I am creating my art.
Stop the suspense and get to the point- this is not a thriller, it’s a blog post… you are probably screaming at your screen. Ok ok….point taken… time machine- to the past please….
The Date. November 24 2019. The time. 1:06 pm. “You are a natural with kids”. “Why are you so nervous? You don’t need to be. Just talk freely and openly like you always do”. “You inspire us”. “It is nothing, no need to be scared, you can do it”. “They called you because of your art, your talent and your personality, just chill and be yourself”. “You should and can totally do it”. As I walked towards the Taj Pavilion Lido Restaraunt in Beijing, all these words that people said to me when I told them I was nervous, unsure, uncertain of what would happen or how it would all turn out came back to me. But I am not a professional at this.. I have no experience of this… will it go ok? Today’s the day. The day when I test the waters and see how I feel. The day of my first art workshop. The day of my first live art teaching session. The day I can finally, with confidence and surety answer the question so many people ask me, “Do you teach art?” (but that’s getting ahead of myself, that’s for later).
I reach the main door of the restaurant. I can see the kids already on the tables, the teachers and parents surrounding them. I take a deep breath and as a one last self-motivation say to myself: “You will do great! You are Gurm, you love both art and kids, just be yourself, just go with the flow”. I put on my best smile and confidence (umm do you put on confidence?, anyway moving on) and walk in. Inside, I am greeted to hugs, waves, smiles, appreciation and applause. That already made me feel less nervous and like myself again. Ok, let’s do this!!! It’s pretty chill!! The kids are already drawing and have their materials ready so I just join in the fun. So I just talk art, chat about my life, joke and play and do art and have a good time with the kids, parents and teachers. And we all enjoyed and had a blast together.
Sometimes in life, you just need that push, that awakening, that motivation to try something new ,to take that road to new beginnings, new adventures to discover what is in you, to know what you are capable of… I have always loved both art and kids and I knew I should go for it no matter how nervous, how uncertain I was of how it would turn out…
Thank you so much Gurukul Beijing for inviting me to conduct and lead this art workshop, for allowing me to experience the extraordinary talent that these amazing kids (and parents too) have, and for giving me the memory of a lifetime that I will cherish forever!!!
It was one of the best experiences of my life. One of those moments where I laughed to myself at how silly I was to feel nervous and hesitate about doing art classes and workshops. It came so naturally to me. I didn’t even have to try. So yes, the answer to “Do you teach art?” is “I will start to very soon”. So be ready!