The Easel

All of my paintings have a story behind them, some more in depth and hidden than others. If you ever wondered about my source of inspiration for my paintings, here's your chance on one of them, Pride! 

So as of the summer of 2013, I began live painting at local events, ranging from pop up shops and art festivals to showcases and fundraisers. I’ll admit, the first time was nerve racking, and that never really changed. I’m more comfortable now but I still get a little nervous, especially when I have no idea of what to paint. Contrary to popular belief, it can be hard to paint “the ambiance” or “the mood” than most people think. Most artists have an idea or are flexible to paint ideas upon request.  

Each live painting experience has been different thus far. This particular event took place in Baltimore, MD, during the winter of early 2014. A few days prior, I had a bad feeling about the event. I knew the weather was going to be bad, did not hear much from the friends I invited, and did not have much inspiration to paint that week, let alone paint the day of the event. I was in a slump.

Fast forward to the morning of the event, it began to slush and snow. My feeling got worse. I began contemplating whether to opt out of the event or trek out in terrible weather to uphold my word, as I’m big about keeping my word. Unsure of what to do and already dressed, my roommate (a close friend) and I decided to make the normally 45 min drive to Baltimore, which ended up taking closer to 2 hours because of the snow. I very late and thrown off due to the crazy morning, as were most of the other artists, but still began to set up shop upon arrival.

Before the event started, I noticed that I, more specifically my easel, was the topic of discussion from the other artists (I knew or had seen most of them before). I was the bud of the joke. Comments were made as to how cheap my easel was, how it kept falling over, how I had to tape the back of the canvas to the easel, etc. They all had nice wooden easels, ideal for live painting and I had a $20 easel from Staples, more suitable for a poster board. Normally I would brush it off or laugh at myself to alleviate the situation, but with my art, I am sensitive and defensive to a fault when least expected. Although I’m sure they meant no harm, I took it very personal and started to tear  in front of my roommate. Embarrassing lol. She did not understand why I took it so hard even saying things like, “Who are they? They literally don’t matter. Stop letting them get you this upset.”

What she and the other artists did not know was that in being made fun of my cheap easel, I felt like I was being made fun of not having money (Yeah, I know. 0 to 100). This was the same feeling I felt when I was younger, when I literally did not have the money or materials for art. One of the artists, who I was the closest to the most, even jokingly said, “Yeah you definitely need a better easel. Look at it. I’ll even buy you one!” Although my easel was indeed cheap, falling over a few times, and requiring the canvas to be tapped to the back, this was the same easel that I used to paint the same paintings that they admired earlier in the night - the same easel I was using for months, showcasing, live painting, and selling paintings prior. If this easel had fulfilled its purpose in the past, it would suffice again that night.

After getting a quick pep talk from my roommate, I returned to my easel and the event started. I thought to myself, “Now, what am I going to paint? It has to be great!” Uncertain and on the clock, I just started painting though the annoyance and agitation. I was focused and determined. Somehow, the colors and lines just started to flow together, producing the end piece in about 30 minutes.

Somewhere in this creation, another friend showed up (they guy I was dating at the time) and surprised me. As the night ended, many people in the audience came up and complimented me and my painting. It felt good being so well-received. Who would have thought my cheap little easel from Staples would have not only helped me do a great painting, but gone completely unnoticed to the audience, as well. No one cared what I was painting on, only what I had painted!

3 lessons learned from this experience:

  1. Always be thankful for the genuine support of others, no matter how far or how little. My two friends came out in the snow, which did not stop, with 2 hours driving time both coming and going on a SUNDAY. My roommate gave me one of the most important pep talks in my art experience. The guy I was dating tried to lighten my spirits and surprised me (he said he couldn't make it then showed up last minute). It’s the little things that count when you’re stepping out of your comfort zone and going after your dreams.

  2. Always trust your gut! If it doesn’t feel right, it might not be the right time and place for you. You don’t have to take every opportunity just because it's presented or the thing to do. Although I still went to the event and ultimately grew from it, the weather was terrible and I just was not feeling it. Since I felt strongly about it for a while, I should have backed out earlier and/or found a replacement live painter. You and your craft should always be the first priority. Never place an event over your own livelihood and safety.

  3. Never compare yourself or let others compare themselves to you, regardless if it’s based on material or skill. You should never feel inferior or superior because of someone’s else work or circumstances. Always let your work overshadow your circumstances. Just focus on you and don't take things personal! Know that you are talented. Sometimes, you have to work with what you have to get to where you’re going. The only competition lies within yourself. You are your biggest competitor; so no artist should ever make you feel higher or lower about your work than you could.

I've grown in myself and my art since then. I value my art in such a high esteem now. As a result, I hold myself in that same manner, as well. My work (and who I am as a person) will always speak volumes for itself.