Two years ago I took up a martial art (I have always wanted to do a martial art and the story of how I gathered the resolve is for another time.). It never occurred to me that doing a martial art would help my painting. It happened quite organically. I grew as a person and when I took the principles I learnt and applied them to my art process the results were astounding. This is some of what I discovered.
Fear is my friend
I learnt that fear was just like any other emotion. I was petrified of sparring (I still am). But I just kept doing it. I realized that the fear would not go away if I avoided situations that scared me. My instructor taught me that fear was my friend. Fear could help me focus. It could spur me on and show me what I needed to work on. I had never before thought of fear in this way. When I took this lesson to my creative work, I became a lot more confident in the creative process and in myself. I was no longer avoiding my fear of failure. When I felt afraid I kept painting, despite my fear, and eventually the fear went away. I could enjoy the creative process and take more risks with my work.
Ignore the audience. They do not matter.
In martial arts, you often perform in front of an audience. Your classmates and instructor observe your form in sparring and in your patterns. You get used to being critiqued on your performance. Initially, this was terrifying but with time I learnt to ignore the audience. I focused on my technique and became so engrossed that I would forget that the audience was there. When I applied this to my art the impact was extraordinary. I no longer obsessed about what others thought of my work. I allowed myself to become completely absorbed with what I was doing. And again, I was having more fun through the process.
Persistence and consistency trump talent.
I love martial arts but I am not a ‘natural’. I have had to work hard to reach my level of fitness and skill. What I learnt from training is that very few people are ‘naturals’. The skill of the martial artist comes from hours of repetition and self-discipline. Time spent perfecting the techniques until from the audiences’ perspective, it seems effortless. Behind those few moments of graceful execution that we see, is a lot of blood, sweat and tears. When I applied this self-discipline to my art,it made a significant difference to the quality and quantity of my work. Setting time aside and being consistent and persistent in creating made an enormous difference to my finished work.
These lessons from martial arts have changed the way I paint. I am a lot more productive, more confident and am having so much more fun. I put in the hours, I show up consistently whether I am in the right frame of mind or not, and, I see a clear development of my skill as an artist. This in turn, motivates me to keep working hard. I do even more work and so I refine my skills and reinforce my confidence in my abilities.