Contests vs. Contentedness

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I love entering contests. I think they’re a great way to expand our quilting abilities. It’s fun being given an assignment. I like being forced to solve problems, and to push myself outside my comfort zone as an artist.

I admit, however, that doing any kind of artwork with a “customer” in mind does have a downside. Frequently the product  becomes more important than the process. If I don’t win — or, heaven forbid, make the short list of entries — I feel that twinge of failure.

If you need a break from any kind of competitive art-making,  “Life, Paint and Passion: Reclaiming the Magic of Spontaneous Expression,” (by Michele Cassou and Stewart Cubley) is your book. These authors encourage you to play, to have fun, to create –without an audience or a goal in mind. Seriously. Don’t worry about the final product at all. Stand before a blank canvas and feel what colors you’d like to use, what brushes you’d like to play with, what motions you’d like to make. The whole point is to just enjoy the process of creating.

I tried this with an art quilt I started yesterday. I had the colors picked out (blues). I admit that I spent a lot of time staring at the colors and then decided to go with a tried-and-true style. I might have had more success had I attempted painting, but I didn’t do well with my Zen quilting experiment.

Although the book is directed at painting, the ideas can easily be translated to quilting or other arts. Here are a few quotes from the book that are worth pondering:

1. If the judgment “ugly” persists, try intentionally painting an ugly painting. It can be an effective liberation from the tyranny of good and bad. (pg 54)

2. If you are afraid of not painting a beautiful painting, ask yourself: What would I paint if no one were going to see what I do? (pg 34)

3. If you find yourself experiencing resistance, ask: What would I least want to paint right now? (pg 107)

I am going to try this again. I’ve done some really great work when I’m just playing around, and I think there are some great lessons to be learned from this book. I highly recommend it.


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