The Easiest Way to Create Your Most Authentic Art

“I teach myself to paint every day.”

I think there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding professional artists. We have a level of skill other artists aspire to, and we often present our work with confidence and pride. Mistakes aren’t as visible, leading to the assumption that maybe we didn’t make any (ha!) and so often this leads to the idea that we’ve “arrived” at some place of achievement where doubt doesn’t enter, where struggle is past, where we are just able to do exactly what we plan to do in our work.

And maybe that is true for other artists. I can only speak for myself, and, having painted in watercolor for twenty-four years, I am still teaching myself to paint.

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I am not learning how to paint in the way I was as a beginner. The techniques and abilities that come with experience feel pretty natural. I know how the paint will move when the brush touches the paper. However, the greater problem, how to paint like Angela Fehr, is always with me.

I don’t know what my style looks like either!

You see my paintings and recognize the artist, and I love that. That happens because I have learned to look for ways to express myself in my paintings. I’m here to paint from the heart.

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Today there is a photograph of an amazing sky on my studio table. There are about five variations of that scene in varying stages of development. I’m inspired by that beautiful sky, but I don’t want to just show what I see in the photo, the details, colors and shapes. I want to bring myself into the scene, and, five versions in, I haven’t figured out what that looks like yet.

I don’t know what it looks like, but I will know it when I see it. I joked yesterday that discovering my heart-led style is a lot like finding my husband. I didn’t know what type of guy was right for me at first, and you know what everyone tells you, “When you find Mr. Right, you’ll know.” And they were right! Finding someone who “gets me” is vastly superior to being with someone who checked all the boxes but never quite connected with my heart. So I paint, believing I will know MY painting when I see it, trying out ideas, exploring different iterations and looking to feel a spark, that heart-connection between self and scene.

Yes, I’m going to talk about Trust again.

And I’m going to use my husband as an example. (He’ll love that.) When I first saw Wade, I remember thinking, “Well, that is the stereotypical awkward farm boy. I wonder what kind of girl would end up with a guy like that?” Literally those were my thoughts!

I would never have fallen for Wade if we hadn’t gotten to know each other. It started with fun; hanging out with a group of friends, and then later just the two of us. He got my jokes, and I was surprised by his sense of humor, which made him interesting enough for a closer look. Playful fun created an environment for connection and intimacy. It built trust that grew into a lifetime relationship.

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You are building a relationship with your authentic creative self.

Nurture it! I have found that the quickest way to start an argument with my husband is to try to force deep sharing. There are few things he dreads more than to be pulled into a heart-to-heart talk without warning. One of my daughters is just like her dad, so it’s not just men! I have learned, however, that humor bridges the gap. If we are able to laugh together, it creates a bond that is so much more effortless and natural. Shared humor brings people together. Healthy humor creates an environment that feels safe and accepting, which in turn opens the door to deeper connectivity.

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In the studio, playful exploration is the way I welcome my creative self into the painting. I take time to enjoy my creativity instead of continually trying to focus it on producing results. My best ideas have come through play, when the hoped-for outcome was set aside and I was just present in the moment, painting to my “happy.” Asking “what if?” and then trying it out.

For the rest of my life I will be learning what it means to paint like Angela Fehr, and being surprised and delighted by the results. Painting like me means painting to please myself first of all, creating work that is authentic because I’ve learned that I can be my truest self in this relationship between artist and art.

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