This week's OPA Blog article is by Lynne Wirthlin entitled "Pondering My Steps."  Join the discussion!
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Oil Painters of America

Pondering My Steps

By Lynne Wirthlin on December 14, 2020
Garden Roses by Lynne Wirthlin
16″ x 12″

Having a vision is not merely living in a fantasy world or wishful thinking, it’s a real thing. It implies having a mental picture of something and seeing it there before it actually is. Having a vision is possessing insight unrestrained by factual reality. I’m willing to say all creatives, in some way or another, were born visionaries. Without this bestowed gift we simply could not create. For us, living with such vision is a natural way of life, so instinctive we scarcely even know it’s there. One thing for sure, having a vision cannot be reached without first taking the necessary steps to reach it.

Taking steps is meant to lead us to a higher place, a new level. As long as we keep our eyes focused forward there will be progress, one step at a time. Which in turn leads us to a process, and a process means it’s going to take some time and effort.

Hyacinths and Tulips by Lynne Wirthlin
9″ x 12″

In my experience, being a visionary can be a mixed blessing. It can be both exhilarating and demanding at the same time. On the positive, happy side at the start of my painting, I’m all excited. My spirits are raised. Yes! So real is the success of my finished work, I can already picture the coveted red dot on my card. It’s going to be awesome. In reality, that doesn’t always happen. So, on the flip side, the realization sets in that there will always be more steps to mastering my work. To name a few are, studying the good practices of other artists; taking workshops from artists whose work I admire; taking classes to learn new things; visiting my local art museum to view the Masters, etc. 

Honestly, steps might not be the friendliest thing to a visionary. Putting in the overtime. The preliminary grunt work. It can sometimes feel so restricting. At a younger age, I wanted to hasten the process, leap over two or three at a time thinking I’d get to the top faster. If it were possible, I would have bypassed the part about steps altogether and gotten right to the good stuff. But after years of self-examination and growing pains, I now understand the lesson steps were trying to teach me. Whenever I skipped a step in the process, I had to go back and redo, undo, repaint, unlearn, relearn. Sometimes round and round, up and down I went. This madness usually landed me right back to where I started, and I had to take the same step I tried to avoid anyway. 

Sean Mallory by Lynne Wirthlin
12″ x 16″

Quoting the words of a great orator who once stated, “I ran up the steps, skipped over the steps, ignoring them, until I tripped on them, until I fell on them, until they taught me to respect them, respect the process”. Back in the day that was me, young and full of spitfire.

Through the course of my art career spanning 30(+) years, I’ve worn many hats. Graphic designer, product developer, art educator, illustrator, and now after an early retirement, I’m happily doing the very thing I envisioned years ago – full time painter. Each facet has had its particular set of steps to climb in order to learn the position and do it well. And as I ponder these, I see they absolutely prepared me for the next thing.

Pete McDonald by Lynne Wirthlin
12″ x 12″

There is a practice which has helped me gage my progress, especially when it seems little headway is being made. At the end of each month, I log the things I’ve accomplished. Although I keep a journal, this is a separate list. Simple bullet points I jot down regardless if it’s big or little, many or few, art related or not. 

For instance, June’s entry:

  • Moved into a new studio.
  • Planted a small garden.
  • Redecorated my foyer with a modern farmhouse look.
  • Canned homemade tomato salsa.
  • Sold one of my paintings. 
  • Created new color charts.
  • Worked on compositional layout for next painting.

A running list helps me keep track of when, where, and what I’ve done. Over time they all seem to blur together, and I would absolutely forget from one month to the next if I didn’t write it down. Each year I do this, honestly when I read it back, I’m totally shocked and amazed. Surprised even, because sometimes I underestimate my own talents and abilities. I guess I’m making progress after all, one step at a time. Thank you for reading.

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