Painting, Juggling and Business


Untitled, copyright, 2018, Molly Larson Cook

The beat goes on as I continue to work on new pieces for the upcoming show.  And I’ve expanded the canvas, so to speak, by bumping myself up to a slightly larger size.  The new one above, as yet untitled, is 22″ x 28″ and I had fun working again with a wider surface.

As a writer, I know what it means to find one’s voice and also one’s genre.  Yes, there are writers who do it all, and I’ve done most of it myself, but I know where I’m most comfortable – where my voice can speak most clearly and resonate best.

As an artist, I’m learning the same things, and it’s a joyous moment when it all comes together.

Musicians say it works this way as well whether they’re playing classical music, pop or jazz.  Actors get it, too – the moment when the character “gels” and they know they’re in the groove of the role they’re playing.

When it happens, you stop thinking about what you’re doing and just do it.  The words “Paint first, think later” become the mantra.  Don’t get me wrong – this doesn’t mean you never think.  It means you’ve done the groundwork and practice necessary to finally take you to a place where you no longer have to “think” about every step. You’re free to “paint first”  and do it with confidence.  I liken it to an early experience of learning to juggle.

In the beginning, learning to juggle is insanely awkward and messy, not to mention frustrating – dropped balls everywhere.  I was advised to practice over my bed so the balls wouldn’t roll under the furniture.  An old-fashioned telephone booth works, too.  So you practice until your arms hurt and then one day, one surprising day, you get all those balls in the air and don’t drop a single one and you’re on your way.  You stop thinking about it and just do it.

After this breakthrough, I could juggle balls in the air as well as lemons at the market, stones at the beach, anything handy.  I could bounce-juggle balls as I walked along a sidewalk or danced.  I learned to juggle with a partner, passing the balls back and forth.  Juggling, not thinking.

And so it’s going with the art these days.  And as I’m more comfortable with the paint, I’m also becoming more comfortable with the – oh, no! – business side of the work.  Because there is a business side.

In that endeavor, I’ve been reading a great book for artists titled simply, The Artist’s Guide: How to make a living doing what you love.  The author is Jackie Battenfield, artist, consultant and instructor at Columbia University.

We make choices – we can be “Sunday painters” and never want to sell a thing, but we can also choose to be “professional artists” in which case, Battenfield’s book is a terrific guide with a realistic look at what it takes as well as all the help you might need to get there.

Battenfield describes the book as one intended to help artists at all levels including those who might be “resuscitating a stalled or dormant practice.”  Bingo.  That’s me.  I have a significant birthday coming up in March and no time to waste on this resuscitation.

Back to work – bring on the gesso!


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