the artist's notebook










the creative life

creative issues

learn to paint

inspirational artists





It may seem counterintuitive, but creativity needs routine. All the artists I know have rituals or habits that help ground and motivate them to do their art.

For myself, I always start with a clean palette. Immaculately clean. Then, I squeeze nice, juicy blobs of paint from the tubes onto the palette. Always the same colors, and in the same order. White, yellow, medium cadmium red, cadmium red, ultramarine blue across the top. Prussian blue, payne's gray, and black down the right side. Burnt umber and raw sienna down the left. Tear off a length of four sections of paper towel from the roll, fold in fourths into a rectangle, and place to my right. Pour some fresh mineral spirits in an old china cup with no handle and place that on the top edge of the paper towels. Check that a nice selection of clean brushes is in the red "French Market" coffee tin at the upper right of the table. Grab a canvas or board, and paint.

It may seem like I am just getting ready, but it is really more like a Japanese tea ceremony. Every action is done with slow reverence, in the same order, and with much quiet gusto. I really enjoy squishing the sensuously luscious paint onto the palette. There is a peaceful, all-is-right-with-the-world feeling when the colors are in the same familiar order.

The actual process of painting is messy. Life is messy. So, I start each day with this small, orderly ritual that helps me focus on my work.