“Your turn to lead” 10×10, oil on canvas

I looked at my notes from the guided “best advice ever” run. They were a hot mess– ever try to type and jog at the same time? But I knew what I meant even if autocorrect left some questionable lessons. 

One of the pieces of advice was that every run has a porpoise, I mean purpose,  and coach encourages you to think about that at the start. Is the purpose of the run to clear your head, beat a time, improve your fitness, think about a big decision you have coming up, enjoy nature, explore a new trail? 

When I apply this to my art practice it releases me from unnecessary pressures. Not every painting’s purpose is to create something completely awe-inspiring and new. Today’s wasn’t. The purpose for today’s painting was to explore a familiar subject using a long-forgotten tool– a brush! I wanted to capture the spirit of the band with as few strokes as possible. And sure, when it was all said and done, I took my trusty palette knives to it, added some bits of texture here and there. But I formed the shapes with a brush just because I wanted to mix it up. It was a trail I’d run a hundred times but not for quite some time. Oh, hey, old friend, I remember you! 

I started painting brass bands years ago. The goal this round was not to get caught up in fingers or foreheads but rather general shapes and colors. 

One of the refrains on the guided run is, “This is about running. This is also not about running.” This resonates with me deeply when I replace running with making art. When I let it, my studio practice trickles into the other aspects of my life– am I too focused on the details? Do I need to step back and see the “bigger picture”? Am I giving something a bigger and more intense purpose than it needs? Does every family dinner have to end with heartfelt affirmations of love and admiration or do some exist just to build what can look like a boring but important routine?

Sometimes I like to imagine that a brass band is following me as I go through a mundane day, celebrating my little victories– finding that envelope I lost, remembering to send that email, having a great but hard conversation. Sometimes the purpose of a day, a painting, a moment is to celebrate.

What’s the unique purpose of your art or practice today?