How to start painting (again)

How to start painting (again)

Windsurfers at La Pocatière, 6X8, oil on archival canvasboard, $348 includes shipping and handling in continental US.

Sue Leo is a graphic design professor who has been my gallerist, my student, and of course my friend. She recently told me a story that should encourage all of you who’ve dropped your art and aren’t sure how to pick it back up. It’s about music, but it’s applicable to how to start painting again, for all of you who once loved art but lost the thread.

Sue’s always loved music. As a junior in college, she had a part-time job as a choir director. “I was probably the most affordable applicant,” she laughed. “I was just eighteen years old, however, I’d studied piano for thirteen years and had sung in choir my entire life in church.”

Marshall Point, oil on archival canvasboard, 9X12, $696, includes shipping and handling in continental US.

Fast forward, and life got in the way, as it always does. A rupture in her life made her a wanderer for many years. She moved from job to job, town to town, and church to church. Opportunities to sing or play were few, until she settled at Benedictine College in Atchison, KS. “So many things I missed,” she mused about her years in the wilderness. “However, all these things were waiting in the wings to return to me.”

In Atchison, Sue joined a local church and choir. Her choir is generally conducted by students under the aegis of a professor, who also conducts during breaks and high holidays. Sometimes, however, there are substitute directors.

“I am one of the oldest members and have been silent in comparison to the energy and enthusiasm of the young people. We have many strong voices, and over the last two years have attracted even more excellent singers.”

Quebec Brook, oil on archival canvasboard, $1449 framed includes shipping and handling in continental US.

One day last September, the choir director didn’t show up for their 8 AM warm up and practice. There was no organist, so the whole service was to be sung a cappella (which is far more challenging than leaning into the organ).

“Somebody asked, ‘has anyone texted her?’” Yes. Any answer? No.

Tick, Tok. Tick, Tok.

Finally, Sue spoke up.

“I volunteered to direct the choir that morning,” she said. “At first, I think, people thought I was kidding.” But, desperate, they took her up on her offer.

“It was kind of like riding a bike. You don’t lose your sense of rhythm and tempo. It felt and sounded great to me, and as I was coming back up to the choir loft, someone whispered to me how beautiful the singing was.”

The punchline? Sue’s now the substitute director of that choir.

Dawn Wind, Twin Lights, 9X12, oil on archival canvasboard, $869 includes shipping and handling in the continental US.

Do you remember what it felt like to draw when you were a child? You were totally in the moment, unconcerned with whether the world liked your work or not. That child is still within you somewhere. Sue’s experience is a reminder that your love of artistic expression is never completely extinguished. Are you wondering how to start painting again? Just pick up a brush.

My 2024 workshops:

  • Painting in Paradise: Rockport, ME, July 8-12, 2024.
  • Sea & Sky at Schoodic, August 4-9, 2024.
  • Find your authentic voice in plein air: Berkshires, August 12-16, 2024.
  • Art and Adventure at Sea: Paint Aboard Schooner American Eagle, September 15-19, 2024.
  • Immersive In-Person Workshop: Rockport, ME, October 7-11, 2024.