214: Creative contrast

Islands on the Bear River, 13″ x 23″, acrylic on canvas

While studying deliberate practise I’ve come to realize that a critical aspect of learning is maintaining a calm state of mind. Stress and worry do nothing but derail the learning process. Recently it has become obvious that in addition to crafting beautiful art we need to craft lives that are worth living. We love what we do and it is often too easy to push too hard. One of the implicit but erroneous tenants of deliberate practice is if we aren’t honing our craft night and day we are losing ground.

Hitting the wall of exhaustion and burnout not only defeats our purpose of creating amazing art but leads to an impoverished life. One remedy is to craft a life that does not adhere to formulas or expectations but is adapted to our unique nature. Surprisingly this can be done in a variety of ways and has been practised by many artists through the ages.

One of the best books on the subject of creating a unique life is Refuse To Choose by Barbara Sher. It is subtitled A Revolutionary Program for Doing Everything That You Love. It advances the nearly unique idea that we do not have to submit to the tyranny of specialization. The author acknowledges that many creative people love doing a variety of creative projects and that to limit them makes them less efficient, less creative, and most importantly, less happy. She outlines practical strategies that do not rely on supervisors, companies, or society. Essentially she advocates using our creativity to become our own patrons.


In recent experiments with deliberate practice I found that intertwining divergent creative activity with focused practice is extremely productive. The commingling allows me to decompress mentally and rest physically. It is a counter intuitive process that probably won’t work for everyone. But for me it is a step forward as I focus with increased effort on the Thick Paint project.

While painting Islands on the Bear River I took intermittent breaks and wrote on a book project I postponed for years. The book is not about art or creativity–it’s a fictional novel. Its complementary nature gave total respite to the part of my brain heavily taxed by the deliberate painting process. It is hard to describe the positive effects except to say it opened my mind and allowed me to relax more fully. When I returned to painting I had a definite sense of increased mastery over the medium and subject matter. I assume it altered my brain chemistry and allowed for a heightened mental state.

I’m writing my book on Wattpad because it allows for erratic workflow. Erratic being an unfortunate but inescapable aspect of my current life. If writing is part of your creative repertoire I highly recommend trying the the above process.

Brad Teare–February 2015

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Updated: 19th September 2020
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