Saturday, April 16, 2011
Keep It Simple (Not Stupid)
"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." – Albert EinsteinA couple of months ago, I realised that I was stunting my development – as an artist and as a woman – by not embracing change. I was clinging to the familiar, persisting with ways of thinking, working and being that I'd evolved when I was in my early twenties. None of them was working for me anymore. My father's long illness and death were a wake-up call. I was forced to accept that nothing remains the same – nor is it supposed to. Change is inevitable. To live fully, it has to be embraced. I decided to approach everything I did differently.I started with my art.I've been using the same techniques for my hard-edged enamel paintings for more than a decade: the same paint, the same types of brushes and the same, long, physically tedious process. The work on each has always been excruciatingly slow. So, over the past few months, I deconstructed and analysed how I do them. Then I researched new techniques and tools.I bought specialist brushes traditionally used by pinstripers for fine linework in enamel on motorbikes, hotrods and trucks. They're referred to as swords (after their shape) and are made of extremely soft squirrel hair. I taught myself how to use them by watching instructional videos on YouTube. I didn't practise, just observed. The first time I used them was on a new painting, a week ago. The linework took a few days rather than a couple of weeks. More importantly, it was enjoyable – not a muscle-wracking grind – and because I spent less time with the enamel fumes, it didn't make me sick. Maybe because I'm largely self-taught as an artist, I've often discounted my skills. I've always worked slowly and painstakingly but byy persisting for so long with outmoded techniques, I undermined my own confidence. It turns out I'm better at learning new things than I'd thought. I've also changed how I run the business of my art. My income has grown 1,000 per cent in just four years. However, the more successful I've become, the more complicated it has been for me to keep track of everything. At the beginning of this year, I found a book-keeper who specialises in accounting for artists and musicians. She agreed to work with my very wise tax accountant in Sydney to over-haul the bankrupt mess I refer to as my personal finances – on one condition: I had to spend several days filing several hundred receipts and matching them to bank and credit card account statements. Mind-numbingly dull, it forced me to confront how deeply the lack of a few, simple disciplines had impacted my time, earnings and efficiency. Albert Einstein once said, "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex... It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction." In every aspect of my working life, I thought I needed more: more space, more staff, more equipment, more time. But what I really needed was less. Unencumbered by outmoded, inefficient ways of doing things, I've begun to enjoy both my art and my life again. It doesn't take genius to understand that's a good thing.