I recently read a little book called Steal Like an Artist. Very much enjoyed it. If you have even the tiniest creative bone in your body, I recommend it for insights on disciplines and insight into the mind of an artist, writer, musician, etc. (You can find it here or listen to it here)

I may be remembering incorrectly, but I believe there was a portion of the book about being an amateur and if you’ve been here long enough you know I’ve written and filmed on this subject before and how much it means to me.

A few years ago I began to share this message of celebrating the amateur with this Valentine’s Day cake I made for a friend…

Let’s start with the problem and end with the celebration:

As I see it, the problem is our ever-changing mindset that is so influenced by the media-driven world we live in. Every day we are shown that home makeovers can happen in 27 minutes as opposed to nine grueling months of drywall dust and screws found in the washing machine.

We want something and for many people, it can be delivered to their house on the same day as the impulse struck.

Filters take off 25 pounds with no sacrifice or grind required. And with almost every image we are shown a level of perfection that in no way correlates with our own lifestyle, budget, or circumstances.

Perfection and accomplishment are everywhere and have no qualms about telling us how we don’t measure up and probably never will.

Enter, the amateur.

She’s eager, a bit intimidated. She might not have time for professional classes, she’s barely got a budget for the tools. Beauty stalks her mind from sun up to sun down, but perhaps her duties limit her creativity time. Her skills are heartfelt…apologetic, and yet she gets a little better every time she puts her hand to it – whatever ‘it’ may be.

The amateur is a beautiful thing. She creates for the PLEASURE of it. Those with more developed skills are listed in the thousands, but she carries on. Maybe she’s not bogged down by lessons and rules. She simply wants to make something, be it dinner, a dress, or in my case recently, an oil painting.

I began in earnest about five weeks ago (after saying for the last year that this was a hobby I was going to pick up) and my time before a canvas these last few weeks has been some of the most enjoyable I’ve felt in a long time. I know ZERO about technique or rules or even how to achieve what’s going on in my mind – I stare at the canvas wondering how to get it out.

AND, I’m ok with that.

At this stage, I don’t want any advice or lessons, I simply am going to follow my own advice to others and “celebrate my amateur status”. Mastery will come in years and may involve some tutelage here and there. For now, I am content to push the paint around and feel the brush in my hand. Contentment; that’s a rare thing to feel in a world of projected perfection.

This week I set my camera up while I worked and stole like an artist, taking an OLD painting I found at a Paris flea market and recreating it in my own way. The paintings I’ve gathered at the Paris flea markets over the last few years are the style I want to emulate and turn into my own. There is something distinct about the ones my eye is drawn to, though they have all been painted by different artists over the years. They don’t look… modern, and I love that. I want that.

I found this yellow, torn ‘survivor’ on the ground propped up against a truck at the tail end of the Vanves flea marketa few years ago. I fell in love. This is the second time I’ve done this painting, the first being my very first attempt at oil. It was amazing to see the progress I have made and enjoyable to add my own touches (like a woman on the stairs with an oyster basket tucked under her arm). I can just smell those wet, seaweed-covered stairs going down to the water. The mineral, briny smell of the shoreline. I can hear the water suctioning as it gets trapped in her wooden shoes. In my mind, this is some village in Brittany and I wish I could share her harvest with her over dinner.

I filmed today’s video not for advice or even praise. I simply wanted to bring you along, especially if you needed some encouragement to celebrate your amateur self. So go plunk those piano keys, stumble through that aria, bake that pie – whatever it is, muck about, and enjoy yourself! Let me know what you think of the book too!

Steal like an artist. Celebrate your amateur status and carry on.