Lynn Ricci's Musings

What an Artist Hears - Dangerous Compliments and How it Inadvertantly Motivates Us February 10, 2017 12:57

First, this is a generalization because as we all know: people don't always fall neatly into one bucket or another.  With that said, and as any type of artist will tell you . .  . we are always our own worst critic.

Oh sure, there are people at the top of their game or those that have an overinflated view of themselves and their accomplishments that might not fit in the typical artist bucket. For the rest of us, we sometimes have an issue calling ourselves "professional" artists nevermind thinking we are actually good.

Many artists are not full-time.  Many of us work for a living and have successful careers. (Yes, this goes against the "lazy" stereotype) I believe that special creative drive we have as artists to think outside of the box, take learnings from other places and apply in new ways, continually improve our creative work, and seek encouragement through the "great job" compliments is what also drives us in the business world.  And the real entrepreneurial types display these qualities.  In the venture capital world alone I've worked with and met VC's and tech founders who are also accomplished photographers, DJs, and musicians.

Musicians, Writers, Poets, Painters, Photographers . . . anyone who captures that creative juice and turns it into something that others can't do is an artist. We all suffer at some point from the same affliction of questioning how good we really are. Some do this our entire lives, and others until we reach a level that we might start admitting to ourselves that we are actually pleased with our work.  Now don't get confused here and think that "pleased" is equal to admitting "greatness".

This is where the dangerous compliments set in and help motivate creative types to strive to be so much more.  We work at our chosen artistic endeavors - sometimes in a vacuum  - afraid to share what we've done because we fear it's not good enough.  The inner drive of a creative mind makes an artist keep at it - and its that repeated failure and yes, practice, that makes us improve and move to a new level.  Failure and repetitiveness can be a good thing . . .

Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Through this failure and practice period, we produce more and more until we finally decide to share with others.  Family, close friends - the ones we know won't laugh at us and are biased enough to give the encouragement we need.  From there we branch out and share with more people and when you've been at it long enough you inevitably hear the dreaded words . . . "This is the best you've ever done" or "each painting is getting better and better" or "you've reached a whole new level".  This should make you smile, feel proud and happy that you've achieved something big . . . but an artist hears: "Wow - how is anything you create now ever going to compare?"

I heard these compliments this weekend after completing a painting. (The one posted above) It was a different type of painting for me and I was feeling happy with the outcome.  I posted on social media knowing my friends would like it (some for real and some just because they are my friends) and I would move on and pick my next scene to paint.  I started hearing different comments, though -- things like "my favorite one so far" "Top 5" "You keep getting better" "best painting yet" and although I should have been thrilled, a part of me was intimidated and thought "Oh no, now what; whatever I paint next won't be as good!"

We are at odds with our own internal enemy.  Compliments to an artist can either be intimidating or inspiring (click to tweet). Don't let the compliment get you stuck, afraid to accept failure by moving out of our comfort zone and experimenting with our craft.  These are the artists that are afraid that maybe this is the best they can do and everyone will judge them on this one song, painting, or book for everything else they create.  Or, we can let it motivate and inspire us - believe that what we created is really as good as others think it is and keep trying to improve by pushing ourselves.

I spent some time last night selecting a new subject to challenge myself.  I like to think I am in the latter category that can get motivated to do even better.  Like Michael Jordan's quote - we will have some misses and failures - but that is how we learn and improve!


How Does a New Artist Get Gallery Representation or Build Art Relationships? January 5, 2017 11:10

What Does a Girl Need to do to Get Noticed in the Art World? It's a question I ask myself a lot . . .

Cape Cod Summer House ~ Painting of Your House to Take Home June 30, 2016 13:31

If you love Cape Cod as much as I do, maybe visit often, or even own a summer house, perhaps you would like to bring your Cape Cod house or Cape experience home with you?

Unemployment Offers New Opportunities to Create March 15, 2016 16:56

I'm officially unemployed. It took me awhile to come to that conclusion since I seem busier than ever - but, "officially" I am unemployed. Which brings me to a little problem . . . I'm enjoying being unemployed.

Preparing the Paintings for Paint Nights June 13, 2015 17:08

Paint nite 050615

It seems like overnight different variations of paint nights have popped up all over -- and people are enjoying picking up a paintbrush and creating.  After many friends asking over the years about painting, wondering if I could show them how, and starting to attend paint nights and raving about them I decided to start offering paint nights in my own home for friends -- hence the name Paint Pals. 

Paint Pals has grown quickly and I am now receiving requests for private girl's night out parties, as well as requests to go other places like church groups, sales meetings for team building, and private parties in homes.  It has taken on a life of its own in the last few months. But for any of you who do this, what I find as a challenge is creating the paintings that a non-painter can paint well in 2 hours time.  A few nights stretched into a third hour as people struggled to complete the painting - never mind the finishing touches I might have added myself. 

It has made me step back and really think about the teaching element when I am relying on nearly 35 years of ingrained painting experience, and finding the right level for a group of people with varying skill levels. I am reminded of my art teacher in school and I wonder if they ever got frustrated - teaching a class with different artistic skill levels and keeping the class moving at the right pace to keep the artistic kids challenged and the ones with no skills motivated.  All teachers for that matter need to teach to the common denominator -- but in small at home classes, I find I can give individual attention that the big classes at restaurants and bars and storefronts can't give given their class sizes. 

I've been creating paintings to build a Paint Pals calendar and I force myself to paint differently - modifying my style, number of colors, etc to offer paintings that people can complete and be happy with. I'd love to hear from other artists that get involved with teaching these types of classes -- what works and doesn't work! What subject matters are most wanted? How to keep students moving along? How to gear subject paintings skill level? In the meantime, I will continue to hone my skills as a teacher to hopefully deliver the best customer experience I can to those who sign up for my classes!

Spurts of Paint(ing) May 9, 2015 10:17

Christopher Columbus Park, Boston at night Columbus Park, North End, Boston Over the last 6 months I have concentrated more on my artwork.  I am not sure where credit is due for this change . . . an unusually harsh winter here in the Boston area, a muse that made me want to be creative, or a high level of stress that called for therapeutic time and to pick up a brush . . . but whatever the reason(s) I am happy to be concentrating on my artwork again!

One of the differences with this current spurt of activity is that I've challenged myself -- not relying on subjects I've done before and know how to approach -- but instead finding more challenging compositions, different lighting situations with nighttime scenes, including people (which I've always avoided), and larger canvases that made me think more about detail.  I believe I've grown as a realism artist during this period.

With social media, I've shared completed work to a great response that encouraged me to keep pushing myself.  It was the cheering section I needed to instead of doing one painting and stopping - have others lined up and ideas brewing.  From this interest, I decided to explore offering Giclee prints for those who were interested in buying a print, and built an ecommerce website on Shopify to market my work.  I was thrilled as the first orders rolled in for paintings and notecards!  As an artist, we always doubt our work, but this has been very uplifting.

So, what is a Giclee? Giclee (zhee-klay) is a French word meaning a spray or a spurt of liquid. Apropos since I paint in bursts or spurts! They are incredibly accurate prints made on-demand, on canvas with either a traditional stretcher bar or gallery wrapped and ready to hang, and in the size you want. Giclees may not replace an original oil painting, but it allows people to buy a painting they like, at a lower price point, and enjoy it hanging in their home.  I had seen them offered a lot during my gallery browsing last summer and it's a nice way for artists to offer their work to a broader audience.

I'm off to finish a painting of Fenway Park . . . and it may just make its way to my Giclee offerings!

Chatham On My Mind May 28, 2014 08:30

Chatham fish pier, Aunt Lydia's cove, Chatham MA

Chatham Fish Market

I read a book once by Peter Mayle, A Year in Provence, and loved one line in the book that went something like: We saw the house in the afternoon, and by dinner we had mentally moved in.  That feeling was something like when I went to Chatham for the first time.  After my first afternoon, I knew this was where I wanted to summer, own a cottage, and it became in a blink of an eye my "happy place".

I just finished this larger canvas (24x36) of the Chatham Fish Market and was pleased with it.  Now I just need a house in Chatham to hang it in!  Actually, I may approach some galleries in Chatham this summer and see if I can get some of my work placed -- but that always seems so daunting as a few have turned me away before - or made comments such as, 'well, we like to show "local" artists'. Eventually, I tell myself, since I have already mentally moved there.

Use Your Gift as a Gift May 17, 2014 08:17

A dear old friend did something incredibly nice for me.  They wouldn't let me help pay, waving their hand to shoo away the idea like a bothersome fly.  "I am happy to do this, I don't need the money", my friend said in their very generous way.  And so it was done.  But was it?  I didn't feel so, especially when they followed up with another generous offer of tickets for my two boys and me for a sporting event - and we Bostonians love our sports.  Great seats, great time.  Now I really wondered how could I pay this friend back when they are so generous to me but won't take money?  Give them a gift back!  An offer they couldn't refuse. . . a painting.


Image I am sure all of us that dabble, or do mare than dabble, in some form of art have given pieces of your work away as gifts from time to time.  The joy is so much greater to see the recipients face light up and know how you have given a one-of-a-kind expression of your friendship or appreciation.  We also, more often then we let on as artists, have doubts up to the point of unwrapping if the work is really good enough.  No matter what the level you are at, its the gesture - the time spent thinking, planning, creating - that goes into the piece that is what gets appreciated.  That person knows you thought of them the whole time and it wasn't a quick run to the mall to buy something, you made it.

I am including a picture of the painting here.  It was from a special photo they had taken and I hope that my friend has a chance to hang it, enjoy it, and know how much I treasure their friendship when they look at it.

So, think about sharing your gift as a gift more often!  And if your talent isn't painting, pottery, sketching, jewelry-making, or photography but something like gardening or baking -- do that!  Make up beautiful pots of mixed flowers that can be enjoyed or their favorite cake or pie. Better yet - don't wait to use it for a thank you or birthday gift - just do it to be thoughtful. It's an old-fashioned gesture that is missed!

Take a Step Back to Go Forward December 7, 2013 10:26

I take breaks from painting - not by choice, but due to life.  I work, have a family, am a single parent, and I have other commitments and things I am involved with.  There are weekends that start off where I look at my canvas, excited to get started and I think, I will just get the laundry started and then get started, or I should go shopping first and start this afternoon, or the phone rings and company is on the way . . . and before I know it its Sunday night.  Life. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="360"]Image Me at Paint Nite[/caption] But with life getting in the way of too many weekends lately, I decided to schedule some time with a friend to attend a Paint Nite in my favorite location - Chatham, MA.  You may have heard of these events - they set up in a bar or restaurant, bring all the supplies, and an instructor guides a room full of (mostly) women sipping wine through a painting in two hours flat.  Not exactly what I had in mind for my next artistic creation -- but I found it was fun!  And, more importantly, it reminded me that art is part of my life and I need to make time for it - even if scheduled into a two hour block. By taking a step back, and participating in a class that I thought was strictly for novices or beginners, I was able to move forward and get my head around the realization that my artwork is a part of me that I should not ignore.  I am happy when I am creating - whether writing a book (I write, too) or creating a painting or doing something crafty . . . By putting all of life's responsibilities first, not only would I never really find the time to paint, but the frustration of looking at those lovely blank canvases week after week is enough to drive you mad . . . and then who cares if all the socks are matched up in the laundry basket? [caption id="" align="alignright" width="428"]Image Our two hour masterpieces![/caption] Also, I found that by letting myself approach the class as just a fun night with a girlfriend over wine, relaxing and talking, not expecting to gain much, I learned a new trick.  Something simple that I may have learned years ago and forgot, or never knew at all - but it gave me a sense of excitement to get home and paint and try this technique again.

Lastly, even if you paint as just a hobby - or never painted at all - I would suggest trying one of these Paint Nites as an entertaining night of exploration.  All 32 of the women (and one man) at Chatham Bars Inn the other night let their inner artist out, had fun, and went home with a new creation. And isn't that what life is really about - having fun, being creative, enjoying friends and continually learning and pushing yourself to try new things?

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="374"]Image Paint Nite held at Chatham Bars Inn, Chatham MA[/caption]

Drawing Skills Are Fundamental September 6, 2013 13:32 1 Comment

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."Pablo Picasso
When I was a child, I liked to draw.  I would copy anything that I saw: pictures on a lunchbox, a scene in a magazine, animated characters from comic books or MAD Magazine.  As I got a little older, I would get up very early on Saturday mornings and draw along with Captain Bob (You need to be from the Boston area and of a certain age to remember Captain Bob). My teachers were never happy with my "doodling" in class but I just couldn't help myself. ImageLike many budding, young artists, I took art lessons with grand aspirations of working for Disney someday, or Hallmark, or even moving to France and spending my days with an easel and fresh canvases.  My family would visit the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) and I would dreamily drag my feet, slowing my family's progress through the giant museum.  All I wanted was to spend long periods of time staring at the paintings; thinking about what the artist was striving for, how each brush stroke was formed, what paints were mixed to get the desired color and the creation of light, or stare at the finely carved statues and wonder how the artist saw the finished form in a block of marble.  Later, I attended MassArt and was able to spend as much time at the museum as I wanted without anyone saying "move along, slow poke . . .".  For practice, I would fill sketchbooks with vignettes from famous paintings and shaded sketches of statues from Boston museums. Thoughts of a career in art still filled my young mind. Fast forward, let's just say a good number of years, and I now live in Burlington and have two children, a dog, a cat, a mortgage and I work in a finance department.  Not exactly the carefree artist lifestyle I had imagined for myself, but I'm very happy.  The bonus is . . .  I still get to paint! No, it is not my day job; however, I paint for enjoyment, satisfaction, as a challenge, as therapy, a creative outlet and even take on commissions every now and again. And sometimes in work meetings I catch myself still happily doodling like a child in class. Challenge for the week:   Perfecting your drawing skill is essential to any art form.   Keep a sketchbook and find subjects to sketch for practice.  For example, there are plenty of interesting places around your town or city that you could sketch outside.  Or, set aside time and explore some great works in person, or at least online, for inspiration.  I am lucky to be close to Boston with so many great museums such as the MFA or The Harvard Art Museums or, one my favorites, The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  What is your favorite place to sketch?

The Need to Paint August 22, 2013 07:47

I awoke this morning, very early, due to a rabbit in the yard.  How could a quiet rabbit wake someone?  Anyone with a young, active dog and a glass door in their bedroom can tell you it's possible. Fenway, our springer spaniel, began a low growl which woke me just in time to see the object of his attention and before the barks erupted that sent ole Peter Rabbit scurrying to and fro.  It was 4:45AM. So, instead of my last hour of sleep, I was able to watch the sun come up, the sky change colors, the light  stream through the trees changing the leaves to a bright sap green and the play of shadows and light across my yard and flower beds.  What artist would really like to get up and go to work when they know they have a big blank canvas sitting in the corner waiting to be painted? Artists get a bad wrap sometimes.  They have been characterized as a generally flaky, off the wall, lazy, self absorbed and crazy bunch of people.  Well, some can be - but that is true of anyone, not just artists.  What people don't always see or understand, is the inner drive to create.  The power of that first flicker of inspiration as it takes hold and becomes a flame.  The need to make something - whether a painting, drawing, writing, sculpture, photograph, or whatever your craft - with your own two hands and mind and be able to sit back and smile, thinking "I made that". I'm going to finish my coffee and go to work.  It's going to be tough, but we artists can be responsible, too.  And, there is always later tonight.

Capture What Inspires You August 11, 2013 17:44

"I dream a lot. I do more painting when I'm not painting. It's in the subconscious." -- Andrew Wyeth

As I have mentioned, I work.  Yes, in an office.  Full time. Not the most glamorous or creativeImage of environments yet there are days that I see inspiration all around me at the office.  Magnolia and Dogwood trees in the springtime outside of my office, in shades of pink, cream with the vibrant new green of early spring.  A winter sunset that fills the sky with blazing oranges and reds and deep, magnificent purples behind the tree line. The seemingly haphazard stack of papers, steaming coffee mug and eyeglasses that actually come together just right for a still life.  The guy leaning back in his chair staring Imageout the window while on the phone with the sun hitting his profile and folds in his shirt just right . . . . . You know the feeling, when the color, shape, composition hits you in a certain way and you wistfully say to yourself, "I wish I could paint that right now". Well . . . who's stopping you?  Yes, your boss.  Probably some co-workers.  And the general reliance on a paycheck . . . but you can take two minutes and quickly sketch out the composition or take out your cell phone and capture the fading sun or pink dogwood outside your window . . . for later.  Capture what inspires you. And it's not just at work that I have these feelings of immense jealousy for those who don't need a paycheck and have boundless time on their hands. I see scenes everywhere that I have captured in order to paint later.  A field full of wildflowers while on a hike with the boys and our dog, a historic lighthouse on the Cape, a quaint street scene when awnings are out, there are cafe tables on the street, and pots of flowers everywhere.  Those moments when you don't hear the person you are with talking anymore, or when you stop in your tracks to stare.  You will know it when it hits. I keep a folder on my computer called Pictures to Paint and that's where these snapshots and mobile phone pics go to wait for me.  And when I do get one of those rare weekend days when I can devote time to painting, I sometimes go to that folder and pull out a gem.  Right now, I am planning to paint two water scenes of Chatham from photos I took 3-4 years ago! And remember - if you create a work of art that is contest worthy or you want to sell you need to make sure its an original and not a complete copy or derivative work from someone else's photo! If you need reference photos, one source to check out is The MorgueFile. Challenge:  Its summer and it's a great time to capture pictures while on vacation or while you are out enjoying nature.  If you don't have one already, set up a folder and start filling it with photos or thoughts on what you want to create.  When you are ready, it will be there waiting for you.  The tough part will be to select which one!  In the meantime, while you build your file of possible works of art to come back to, there are several websites that offer a daily or weekly challenge such as The Daily Paintworks  or Illustration Friday  which will keep you active!

This post originally appeared in my local paper.