7 Business Lessons Learned By Painting (Even For Not-So-Good Artists Like Me)
My daughter and I talked today about the blessing of encouraging parents. (She brought it up, I swear.) She knows my parents well, growing up in the same Colorado town with them, and having my mom as her elementary school principal. So, my kiddo laughed when I declared that my mom was “too encouraging” with me as a child.
Me: “Mom, I think I could totally go to the moon. NASA would be such a cool place to work.”
Mom: “Sure, Sara Jane, they’d be fortunate to have you!”
I told my daughter, “Grandma should have said, ‘Um, Sara, you get sick when you read a book in a moving car. Space travel might not be your gig.’” But she didn’t. She dreamt big with me and for me. And I am thankful for it. Grateful I received that encouragement and not the opposite as some, painfully, do.
That “you-can-do-anything” encouragement instilled in me a “why not try it attitude” that still governs my wide berth of interests and hair-brained schemes to this day.
It’s why I started Fadooger. And it is that which bubbles up in me when I’m watching The Great British Bakeoff and think, I could probably do that…when I can’t. Or when I see professional artwork on Wayfair and start a folder on my Mac entitled, Art I Could Do. Even though watercolors, acrylics, or even crayons…are definitely not at home in my hands.
That brings me to tonight.
I painted two canvases tonight. Our mantle looked bare after the Christmas décor was packed away. It needed some art.
So, I made some.
I’m quick to say “I’m not a painter”. But, then again, who is? Maybe all of us. What if we are all painters, but in varying degrees? Have you seen quadriplegic, Joni Eareckson Tada, paint beautifully with a brush in her mouth because she is paralyzed from the shoulders down? We all can paint.
You’ve seen “art” that looks like paint tossed at a canvas. Or a blank frame depicting “the endless possibility within the human spirit”. I think we’re all able to create art, if we recalibrate our desired response.
If everyone can paint, why don’t we? I know for me I am usually happy to let someone else do it, or I don’t take the time, or on a more Dr.-Phil-level I fear failure. But tonight, as I was filling canvases with paint I made a few mental notes about how painting is a more fun than I remember and it makes me a better business owner and marketing consultant for my clients.
I saw these 7 business benefits in full color while painting tonight:
1. Think wider not bigger.
Experts love to tell us to “think big”. But what if the solution lies in front of me if I think wider, not bigger?
When I began to consider art for my living room I envisioned gorgeous watercolors, thick oil paintings, the perfect colors. But I wanted to personally to create the art this time. I don’t paint with – or own – watercolors. How would I accomplish this? I thought wider. What if the art wasn’t so literal. How about I remove the opportunity for our next house guest to ask, “Is that a cow or a horse?”
Expand your expectations and possible routes to the end goal for better inspiration. Think wider.
2. Start somewhere.
A blank canvas looks daunting. It’s fresh and unflawed.
I fill blank pages every single day. And in over a decade of writing daily I am grateful to say I haven’t ever struggled with “writer’s block”. Words seem to land in my lap, daily, like sandbags off the back of a truck during a flood.
Don’t let the white, blank, untouched canvas give you any pause. Jump in! This is one of many. Just start.
3. File some learnings away for later.
Once I started my concentric, geometric painting I discovered some things I would have done differently while I was painting. On this particular painting, if I’d gone back and changed my first several strokes it would have been obvious and ugly so I had to file away my learnings for next time. I skinned my knees, but I’ll know more next time.
4. Don’t hold back with your business.
I like to save stuff for later. If I buy a box of Hot Tamales at the movies I never eat the whole box. There needs to be some fun for later. I am a saver. This tendency works against my business-building at times. But I’ve learned to push through it.
For the painting I wanted a mixture of two different colored acrylics to achieve the desired effect. I forced myself to squeeze out more paint than I wanted. More ocher. More silver. Swirl. Swirl. (Technical artist terms.) Because I knew I couldn’t go back and recreate the mixture a second time. The percentage of silver would never be the same. I needed to squish it all out there now and not worry about future painting supplies.
Get it all out there now. Commit to the bit.
What area of your business do you need to squeeze out more?
5. Exercise discipline.
I was tempted to fiddle and fix tiny blob and hiccups. Ones only I would notice.
But messing with the tiny, inconsequential distractions potentially derails that area of the canvas or, potentially, the entire piece.
A fleck of paint where it wasn’t supposed to be becomes a larger smudge if I go back to the canvas to remove it. Spending too much time finessing a blog or a book or a product means it will take forever to get to market.
Focus on what matters, not the one-offs or might-happens. At Sprint we called this tendency to focus on the two percent that could go wrong “managing the red beads”. When you overextend to try and please the two percent of the business who feel differently about your product or service and it drains the energy left to serve the remaining 98%. Resist the urge to please everyone and fix and re-fix and re-fix.
6. Done isn’t always done in business.
Although it’s best to not spend forever tweaking the tiniest of details, you should feel the freedom to let ideas “marinate” and settle in to make sure you’re putting your best product out there.
I was done painting. I had washed the brushes and cleaned up when I noticed the second painting’s focal point was flat. Your eye wasn’t drawn to it. It was a mumble when it needed to be a shout. It needed something extra. So, I globbed up the brush and added a few accent strokes.
Go back and add the magic. Underscore that which needs highlighting. Make your “customer pathway” so clear a purchase decision is the next, logical choice.
Point them towards the bullseye so they understand your intent clearly, easily, and quickly.
7. Expand your grace for other artists.
A final great reason to create – paint, write, sing, carve, counsel, fill-in-the-blank- is the empathy it offers you for others who create. We all have someone in our life who is overly critical of every product, outfit, commercial they see and yet they don’t create.
When you put yourself out there, when you create, you expand your likelihood of extending grace to others who do. When painting, I left imperfect areas and moved on to complete the piece. I saw missed opportunities for a better piece, but I knew there would be other paintings. People in the marketplace are similar. They had to finish that song, write that last chapter, or choose a running mate. Respect their constraints and honor their efforts. They may do better next time.
My acrylics and brushes are shoved back up in my office closet. I won’t paint for several months, probably. But I liked the reminder that I could. And I enjoyed toying with these 7 business benefits in my mind as I filled the canvases.
Forget “keep calm and carry on”. Go forth and create.