How Living in a Small House Made Me a Better Artist
Ha. So this post took me WAY back in all sorts of good and uncomfortable ways. The one word I refuse to use to describe it is "embarrassing," though, because that's a totally not-constructive way to view your progress! To start: this is going to be less about "artistic ability" and more about "just figuring stuff out." I'm totally not harping on any certain style and you may in fact prefer my old work over what I do now! That's a-okay! Just know I'm never goin' back again (if you sang Fleetwood Mac when you read that, we are automatically friends).
After we got married, Jonathan and I moved into a decent-sized rental house that was pretty vanilla except for a cool brick wall in the den. It had three bedrooms, two living areas, and a ton of (beige) wall space to fill. I cranked out paintings willy nilly without a whole lot of thought; basically as long as they were mostly earth-toned and not too crazy, they would fit in. I would not call it a "bold" approach. I garnered a lot of inspiration from prints I saw at department stores, which makes it all the more ironic that that is now the total opposite of my style.
A common theme with my earlier paintings - and even my current ones to some extent - is efficiency. I wanted to just make as many as possible, so I'd buy those black canvases and paint quick shapes on them and call it done.
So what changed (besides my picture-taking ability)??
We bought a 850 sq. ft. house, that's what!
When we moved, I came to realize just how much crap I'd accumulated in just over a year. We had to majorly downsize to a two-bedroom, one tiny living room space, and I had to get SELECTIVE. Since I lacked any sort of personal, unique, and BOLD style, I tended to buy anything that was A) On sale and B) Not totally hideous. As a result, I didn't really like anything I had, including my paintings.
Then I had to choose wall paint for the first time! I'm actually quite grateful that the previous owners had such an affinity for brown and tan walls (and ceilings... maybe not so grateful for that aspect) because looking at vast swaths of my "comfort colors" made me realize I actually don't like them much. They don't make me feel creative; and here I was painting with them all. The. Time.
Having a small house that cannot physically fit the average American's paraphernalia is the best thing that ever happened to my style and general happiness.
The approach to furniture and knick-knacks has evolved from "I have room for that. Why not." to "Does this enrich my life and is it worth the space it will take up?" Wouldn't you know it, once I started asking those questions, the answer was most often a resounding "NOPE." Applying that same mindset to my work afforded me a newfound pride and genuine pursuit of boldness in my style.
Below is a little style collage I threw together that spans the past three to four years. Something that really stood out to me as I made it (besides the gradual 180 with the color schemes) was how my control improved! The earlier paintings just seem a little more timid and desperate - like, I didn't really know what the brush and paint were going to do and I tried to paint despite that, instead of with it! It's as if the less I controlled the paint, the more polished and professional my style got! How does that even work??? Art is weird.
I've actually just been staring at this collage instead of writing for a while because it's making me feel stuff! Mostly I have a happy pride with how far I've come; this graphic is a visual compilation of hundreds of hours, paint, frustration, perfectionism, victories, and mistakes. If you've been a creative for a while and have a history of work, I HIGHLY encourage you to do something like this collage right here! Dude. It's pretty cool. I'm even more excited now to see where this takes me.
Love the phase you're in. Learn from it. Don't get too comfortable. You'll be amazed at yourself later. :)