I recently had a heart-to-heart conversation with a friend, in which I lamented that I was getting burned out on painting miniatures. I paint a lot as a commissioned painter.
One of the problems that has been bothering me is that I was struggling to focus. Of late, it has been difficult to focus on individual projects–can’t seem to sit still. There is a bit of pressure to finish these projects, too, so without solid productivity on any single task, I feel a bit worn down.
“Butter spread across too little bread, ” as Bilbo Baggins (The Hobbit) would say.
Anyway, my friend asked me an interesting question: “Are you having fun?”
Such a confusing question. I asked what she meant by that. I think she meant to inquire whether I was doing any fun leisurely activities in the middle of working.
“Are you taking time to have fun?”
Well, I did go see a movie and played video games. That was fun. And I think that was it. I realized that I hadn’t actually painted miniatures for “fun” as a relaxing activity. I had given myself deadlines.
I was an artist that had self-imposed limitations on my enjoyment of the activity. The creative juices were being funneled into a claustrophobic space with no escape.
I don’t paint my own miniatures that much. That is, I paint them when I need to before some event or league, but I never really just paint them for the sake of painting.
I mentioned that I’m somewhat uncomfortable being asked: “Why don’t you advertise more? Go to more conventions? Do you have a website?” These types of questions put me into some kind of panic, truly, because maybe what I’m currently working on or doing isn’t something I find worthy to be told.
My day-job is super competitive and it is there in the workplace where I will drive myself toward excellence. Not for pure ambition sake, but it is simply my responsibility.
Outside my job, however, I am not competitive.
My friend told me, “If they ask that question; why you’re not doing more with your work or competing at bigger conventions with your painting, just answer, ‘I just like painting'”.
It’s the best answer because it’s the truest answer. I realized that there’s a difference between being a competitive painter and painting really well. It’s a mindset. And I want to just paint.
Maybe it’s the same for life. There’s a difference between being alive and living. I want to live.
It’s very hard to paint model after model, or in the metaphor, living one day at a time. My mind is always on the next task, the next project–my head is always in the future (sometimes in the past). Just paint. Just live. I’m going to paint for fun.