Monthly Archives: September 2020

Same thing every day

I sometimes feel self conscious about painting the same themes over and over. It’s what I do. Every time I paint fish swimming in the treetops, it comes out differently. Every time I paint, I learn something new. Something subtle, maybe, about how colors mix together, how different brushes release the paint, and how various paints and brushes work together with my hand to create a line. Each painting builds on the previous one.

I recently heard a speech that encouraged the practice of drawing the same thing every day. That was validating. If you draw the same thing every day for a year, you will become very familiar with it, and you will probably get bored with it. That’s when you begin to improvise. You will find out what works for you, and you’ll discover things that you don’t like. Either way, you will learn things to improve your art. Without realizing it, you will develop your artistic voice. You will discover new ways to express whatever it is you have to say.

We don’t have to reinvent ourselves in order to be interesting.

We can keep doing what we are doing, and we can improve our craft and our storytelling. We can grow and improve with authenticity and subtlety.

I don’t think we need to find our next big thing. Maybe our next big thing is not out there waiting for us at all. Maybe it’s more like a seed inside of us that just needs to be tended patiently.


50″x44″ (in progress)

Paint gets laid down in layers. I start with a layer of gesso on the canvas. Maybe a layer of light blue will go on top of that. Then I begin to “sketch” the composition. From there, I just sort of play with the colors and shapes, beginning with broad strokes, and gradually refining and adding detail.

This is how the moments of our lives get layered. We keep what works and we refine or erase the rest. We go through “ugly” phases, which are just part of the process.

We’re not quite finished with that part yet.

I’m working on a large canvas. It’s a common theme for me, fish swimming in the trees. I add detail, and then I may obliterate with a big brush, and try again. All of those layers are still in there. That process informs the final result. The old details still lurk within the layers of paint.

In the same way, the details of my life still swim in hidden layers, informing today’s version of me. The disappointments and unsuccessful attempts dart about in the deep end, though the surface may appear calm or reflect something beautiful.

I must learn to forgive the fish that I’ve added detail to prematurely, remembering that painting is a process. I must also be kind when I’ve made a decision too soon and find myself uncomfortable or overwhelmed.


I walk in circles. I keep doubling back, or looping around to places I’ve been before. Without realizing it, I end up where I’ve been. Revisiting places that I can embrace, or at least experience again, and then loosen my grip.

A place is just a place, the glue is all in my brain. It wasn’t the place, that is just the scenery. Just the backdrop for the life that played out there. A place for people to spend time doing the things that people do.

When I’m one of the people, it takes on significance, because those moments helped to make me who I am.

So I saw the house I lived in as a child. The building we once owned. The house where I spent my wedding night.

I stood there, in the very rooms, but I was not quite the very person any more, and the rooms had all changed, too.

The paths are fairly well worn by now, and I imagine I’ll see a few more familiar sights before it’s over.