Living life and creating art are eerily similar. Sometimes what you had planned isn't what you actually wind up with. Here is how we can learn to live life in the same way we create art.

The Art of Life is Improvisation

Living life and creating art are eerily similar. Sometimes what you had planned isn't what you actually wind up with. Here is how we can learn to live life in the same way we create art.

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We’ve all encountered things in our lives that have gone in different directions than we had hoped or at least anticipated.  It’s what makes us human – living at the mercy of whatever life throws at us.

But that’s the art of life – the improvisation.  That’s where we get to be creative, work with what we’ve got, and sometimes, we end up being pleasantly surprised by what our efforts amount to.

I’ve found that “sometimes” can be “all the time” in three ways:

1.) We can choose to view the “hiccup” in a certain light, seeing the glass as “half-full.”

2.) We can just follow that detoured path and patiently wait, holding onto the idea that things will improve, hoping that eventually the “bigger picture” will come to light. This reminds me of a favorite quote: “Everything will be okay in the end, and if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

3.) If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.  We can just shrug off what we had anticipated, laugh it off, go with the flow, and surrender to the uncertainty, which is neither good nor bad – just be with it and experience what is rather than what should be  (i.e. “Man plans, God laughs”).

This is what my paintbrush teaches me day after day. I love the feeling of moving around a big glob of paint on a fresh linen canvas and having no idea what to expect.  Sometimes I feel like creating very exact detail…and sometimes I just want to throw some colors around on an empty space.

Painting is just a great exercise for learning how to live.  Or at least, it’s a lesson I need to learn myself day after day.  To have the courage to just start from somewhere – anywhere. To not judge it, and to just keep going, even if you don’t like how it is turning out.

Sometimes you have an image in mind, and you start with that idea.  And sometimes you even stay with that initial idea for a bit.

But when the paint smears, or you blotch something up, or your sleeves get on the paint and smear the nice clean line you just painted, it’s a little frustrating.  But then you just learn to go with it.

And with a bit of patience, and the determination to eventually see it to completion, you’ll get there.

And then sometimes, you start off painting, and you’re on a roll. You feel the adrenaline of creativity jolting through you like a fluid wash of watercolors, and then – HALT – painter’s block.  You have no clue what comes next.

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Or you keep painting and painting, determined to rectify the deviant path your paintbrush took, and the more you prod away at it, the worse the painting feels to you.

Then, it takes the greatest discipline in the world to step away and come back another day.

I am proudly a self-taught artist. And I am humbly taught by art every day. Painting is my daily course in life, and every day is a learning process for me. I’ve already learned firsthand that life usually never follows the exact road you map out for yourself. But coming down to my art studio every morning, I am reminded to go with the mess-ups, the hiccups, the slip of a hand and the dried up tubes of paint.

For me, there is no such thing as a calculated, strategized painting. Art is watching a sloppy collection of paint dribble down a canvas when I’ve accidentally left it standing upright to dry. Art is my elbow leaning on the coat of acrylics I just methodically applied to a piece, leaving a juicy elbow-shaped mark. Art is being willing to see things differently…and to love what you see.

I never planned on having my high school graduation in the Intensive Care Unit. I never planned on being on a first name basis with surgeons at eight different hospitals. But I also didn’t plan on finally going to college at 25 or meeting the love of my life online. Sometimes it’s the dents in our canvases that make lasting imprints we’ll cherish and remember with gratitude for the rest of our lives.

That’s why I love painting backgrounds. It leaves you open to infinite options. If you’ve set your standards low, it will be “just a background.”

And if something happens to emerge from that background – some kind of figure comes to light within the paint – then so be it. If not, it’s just a background, and it’s okay.

Because you’ve got day after day to keep creating.