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What Can’t You Do

Updated on November 20, 2019
PAINTDRIPS profile image

Denise has been studying and teaching art and painting for 40+ years. She has won numerous prestigious awards for her art and design.

My collage of the Darling Angel Girl
My collage of the Darling Angel Girl | Source

Tenacity

The artistic type is usually pessimistic and procrastinators by nature. We see the glass half empty and little chance of getter more, yet we just can’t seem to help ourselves. We work on our craft anyway because something deep inside compels us to continue against all odds. Those internal voices are hard to drown out and fill with “you can do it” mantras when they are so knitted into our very nature. Only the most dedicated artists find a way. It is tenacity and obstinacy that pushes us to try even common sense says forget it.

Hmong New Year Collage
Hmong New Year Collage | Source

The Question

What do you tell yourself artistically that you “can’t” do and are you right?

I asked some friends what it was they thought at one time or another that they couldn’t do and here are some of the answers.

Do something wonderful, people may imitate it.

— Albert Schweitzer
A collage of Bree
A collage of Bree | Source

New Things

Kristine: I always say I can’t do a new style of art (realism, modern, etc.) or use a new medium (like watercolors, or sculpture). No, I’m not right. I know I can, and have. You just have to d it. I’m just insecure when it’s something new. I have to be pushed.

This was a very honest response. Isn’t that how we all feel before we gather our courage and plunge into the effort, only to find we can do more than we think we can do? I know I started out painting with oils at the age of 12. I didn’t want to try watercolors because I had heard that they were hard. As it was I thought oils were difficult to master, but at least I could correct an error by painting over it. Because of watercolor's transparency, there is no “painting over” an error. It is there for everyone to see. Not only that but you must plan ahead. There is no white in watercolor. You had better block in where the white will be first because the white of the paper is the white in your image. You must paint around your white. I thought of this, as too much trouble at first. So it wasn’t until my 30’s that I tried watercolor and I have loved it ever since. I can’t imagine not painting in watercolor now. I love it more than oils.

What do you say you "can't" do?

See results

We have art so that we shall not die of reality.

— Friedrich Nietzsche
Darling Angel 3 Collage
Darling Angel 3 Collage | Source

Time

Becky: I can’t seem to find the time to invest in my talent as I would like to.

Time is an interesting paradox. Everyone is given the same number of hours in a day and it is up to us how to carve up that time and mold it into what we want. We can let it happen to us or we can purposefully stack and shape it to fit our needs. I saw a video once where a professor did an experiment with some students using golf balls and a large 5-gallon jar. He filled the jar to the top with golf balls and asked the class if the jar was full. Everyone agreed that it was. But then he pulled out a box of gravel and started pouring it into the jar. The gravel filled in the spaces around the golf balls until there was no more space and then the professor asked again if the jar was full. The students agreed that now it was full. But the professor pulled out another box, this time of sand and began pouring the sand into the jar. The sand filled in the spaces between the golf balls and the gravel until there was no more space. Now is the jar full the professor asked. Yes. Now the jar was absolutely full. But the professor wasn’t done and he pulled out a couple of beers. He opened the cans and began pouring them into the jar until no more would fit.

The professor began explaining. He said that the golf balls represent the big things in your life that you have to get done, such as getting a job, paying bills, preparing meals, taking care of your health and family. He explained that if he had poured in the sand or gravel first there would have been no room for the big things. The big things must be taken care of first. But then you have room for things you want to do such as hobbies, vacations, friends, and fun. And even then there is room for the small stuff, like video games, reading, movies, etc.

What about the beer? The professor said there always room for a beer. And there you have it.

Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.

— Henry Ward Beecher

Original Art

Brad: I can’t afford that piece of art!

I tried to tell Brad that he could probably afford prints of art even if he couldn’t afford original art. Many of us put our work out there on places like Society 6, Redbubble, Inktales, and Zazzle. These are royalty sites that will license our art for the average person to buy in print form on canvas, T-shirts, totes, stickers, notebooks, iPad covers, iPhone covers, cutting boards, and much more. I know I have my art of these sites and people have ordered things like bedspreads and tapestries with my art on it and I get a small royalty each time someone buys something using my images.

I think I really know what Brad meant though. I have seen work that I adored and wanted to buy but just couldn’t afford to have not even in a print copy. In some cases, if you are an artist and have the skills, you can copy work for your own display. The masters used to do that as an exercise for their students 500 years ago. When you copy a master’s work you get to know how they approached composition, color temperature, and brush strokes. Where all this gets ticklish is when the artist tries to sell that same copy as an original. That is called copyright infringement and fraud. You can go to jail for that. Today even copying in painting form, a composition of a photograph published in a book or magazine is copyright infringement and you can be sued for it.

Fairy Fiddler Collage
Fairy Fiddler Collage | Source

Final Thoughts

I try not to use the word “can’t” in my artistic vocabulary anymore. If someone asks me about a particular subject or medium I haven’t used before, I say I haven’t done it but I’m sure I can, even if I don’t feel too sure. That doesn’t make an optimist really. It makes me an illusionist. Nothing up my sleeve… presto.

Let me know what you think you “can’t” do and if you are wrong in the comments below. I love hearing your take on it.

Comments

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    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      4 months ago from Fresno CA

      blue22d,

      I believe style is something you develop over time. I remember seeing Jackson Pollock's early work and he was copying several different styles, Modern, Cubist, Expressionism, all before he found his own style. It is something you develop over time and practice. Yes, that whole different world is a place I love to go to. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • profile image

      blue22d 

      18 months ago

      I lied. I answered that I could not paint. I paint but I feel I am still trying to figure my style...at least some say you need a style. I started out in watercolors, then acrylics and now trying oils. To me, oils are harder. However, I stopped for a while and tried to brush up on drawing. Sometimes I take my time, other times I go for it! All I know is, when I paint I am lost in a whole different world...that is worth it all!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      20 months ago from Fresno CA

      Devika Primić,

      You are so right. It takes courage and determination to keep from saying can't when you really want to and try anyway. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      20 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      My positive thinking has helped me live in a foreign country. I had many challenges and had to confront these challenges and didn't think of not doing it. I knew it would be easy to say ''can't''

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      20 months ago from Fresno CA

      Lora Hollings,

      So true Lora. For me, creativity is one of the golf balls. I find it to be important in my life. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      20 months ago from Fresno CA

      Lynne Samuel,

      It's true that new things are scary. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Lora Hollings profile image

      Lora Hollings 

      20 months ago

      An excellent article, Denise, on thinking more like the "little engine who could rather than couldn't story." I loved the professor's analogy of the jar and filling it with different materials showing us that we do have the time but we find an excuse not to do something that is stretching our boundaries. This article certainly makes us re-evaluate our priorities and filling those spaces between the big stuff with opportunities to fulfill ourselves!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      20 months ago from Fresno CA

      William Kovacic,

      I think time is everyone's problem but we are all given the same amount of hours in a day. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      20 months ago from Fresno CA

      Rebecca Mealey,

      Thank you but I do say can't from time to time. I have to overcome it like everyone else. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      20 months ago from Fresno CA

      Bill Holland,

      Maybe it is running out of time and a sense of urgency that overcomes our fear of failure and helps us to try things we wouldn't try before. I think it is making me urgently finish books I thought I would never finish. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      20 months ago from Fresno CA

      Lorna Lamon,

      Oh, you are truly a brave woman, trying anything at least twice. Most people won't do that. If it isn't perfect the first time they don't want to try it again. I was teaching this one young girl art lessons and she refused to try anything that she hadn't drawn before and mastered. I kept trying to tell her that her mother was paying for me to teach her something new and she should at least try, but she refused. What a waste. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • lynnes75 profile image

      Lynne Samuel 

      20 months ago from Malaysia

      Valid points. For me, starting something new is always scary. But if you want it enough, then you do it. Also being onstinate does help, especially when someone doubts your capabilities.

      Great article.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      20 months ago from Fresno CA

      Mary Norton,

      I just know you can do it. It is all about practice and each piece you create will be better than the last one. I'm proud of you for trying. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      20 months ago from Fresno CA

      John Hansen,

      It's good of you to try anything now even if you thought it was too much then. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      20 months ago from Fresno CA

      Eric Dierker,

      Any sketch is a learning experience even if you think it turned out badly. I'm glad you are my friend too. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      20 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Back for inspiration. You give it.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      20 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Time - that would be my problem. At least, the gold balls get done!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      20 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I can certainly tell you never say "can't". Beautiful paintings!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      20 months ago from Olympia, WA

      In writing I'm pretty sure I can do anything I set out to do. Poetry would be a challenge, but I have no doubt I could do it if I chose to. I'm afraid I started this writing journey pretty late in life, so I'm running out of years, but I'm trying. :)

    • Lorna Lamon profile image

      Lorna Lamon 

      20 months ago

      A great question Denise - I have always been the eternal optimist so I will give most things a try. However, sadly painting is something I am not very good at but will still attempt because of the enjoyment I get. I believe the main thing is to give it a try and if you don't succeed first time then try again. Great read.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      20 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      Not to use the word can't. Denise, I don't know why I paint in watercolour only ever since I started. I suppose it is portable and not messy. There is also no smell. I thought that if I master this medium, it is easier to do the others. I don't really know. What I know is, if you want to be good at it, you must give it time. Thank you for your tips.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      20 months ago from Gondwana Land

      You make some great points, Denise, and it was a good question to pose to people. When I started out as a freelance writer I turned away a number of requests because I thought I wouldn’t be able to do them. Now I am wiser and, after tackling a few I thought were too difficult, successfully, I realise there is very little I can’t do. I will at least try.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      20 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Wonderful my fine lady friend. I cannot remember who told me to knock that crap off. Can't is a four letter word. I like to say that "If we don't have fun failing then we failed".

      I just drew a sketch of a man and boy playing soccer. It is so bad. hihihi Legal pads and pencils? hmmm - maybe a better medium.

    working

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