This article originally published on Sunday, March 30, 2003
The advice still applies.

Let’s NOT do what we ought, but what we want

A cry for help appeared on a list serve I subscribe to. An artist gave up painting for years. She’s now determined to take it up again. Unfortunately, all her paints are so hardened in their tubes, they are almost unusable. Can anyone tell her how to salvage them??

I’m not sure how welcome my advice would be, but it’s clear to me the universe is sending a message here, loud and clear.


What a huge obstacle she has overcome! The urge to paint again is wonderful, and I wholeheartedly tell this artist to go for it.

But the artist is already stuck again. “I can’t paint until I fix my paints.”

Where have we heard that before?

Well, I used to hear it every day. And sometimes, when I’m down or overwhelmed with the simple problems, I still hear it:

“I should do the laundry first.” “I really need to run a few errands first.” “I’ve got to get this mailing out this week–I’ll work on some new art ideas later.”

Sometimes it feels like my passion for my art, the work of my heart, is the last thing I take care of.

To that renewed artist, I’d say….

Maybe those paints are ruined for a reason.

Maybe the universe is sending a message here. You can paint again, it says, but maybe it’s time to really start anew.

Here’s a powerful thought: Maybe you don’t have to do penance by fixing those tired, dried-up old paints.

Maybe the message is, “Go out and buy wonderful new paint. Buy some of your favorite old colors, but try something different, too.”

Maybe it’s time start fresh with new ideas, new inspiration, maybe an entirely new direction.

Maybe it’s time to play with colors again, to regain the same sense of wonder and excitement when you first began to paint. And then to move ahead in a different way. Forge a new path.

But to do this, you need to get rid of everything that held you back the last time.

You have found your inspiration to paint again, and you’re determined to really set aside the time and energy it deserves. And that means not wasting time and energy working to revive dead paint.

What a lesson for me today! I’ve been sitting in the middle of an overwhelmingly messy studio, bemoaning the fact that I “should” clean up before I get back to work. Then I get the note about dried up paint. Sometimes what is easy to see in others is what I need to see in myself.

Maybe it’s really okay to just jump right into making something today, messy space notwithstanding. Maybe it’s okay to do a little cleaning up after I have fun.

Hmmmmm… Okay, I’m putting away the dishcloth now!



  1. This is ON TARGET for me. I’m within about 2 hours of finishing a piece I’ve worked on for a couple of months, including a prolonged design phase. I decided this morning to do it FIRST, then start the laundry, pay bills, clean the kitchen, etc. This sweet little voice in my head, that’s sweet only when she knows I’m determined to put my art first today, keeps trying to say, “just get the laundry started, then you can work on your art in between loads.” Your note helped me say NO to that voice, and to do the art work, that pleases my soul, first, today. Thanks. Loving my horse!


  2. Agreed! When I don’t really want to work on something in the studio & always say “I have to clean up” something before I work. Like having a clean palate before starting a new piece…except that’s just an excuse because if you’re (I’m) really feeling the groove nothing stops me from working. πŸ™‚

    Thanks for repeating this ~ I missed it the first time & it’s good the second time around! Tam πŸ™‚


    • So glad the message is still timely.
      I’m now down to just clearing off the exact amount of surface I need to get working. Which is often a ridiculously small space…..thank goodness! :^)


  3. Pingback: Tweets that mention LET’S NOT DO WHAT WE OUGHT, BUT WHAT WE WANT | Luann Udell -- Topsy.com

  4. I agree. There are times I find myself looking at all the little things and errands that I “should” do first. The real truth is they become the excuse for not creating or delivering art. As my wife likes to say at times “just produce the product”. With that said I’m going to go make some art. The errands can wait. Thanks for the reminder.


  5. I was dashing through my studio looking at my dirty floor, covered with kitty cat foot prints, bits of fabric and general junk. I started to say ‘sorry for the mess’ to my friend, but stopped. A clean studio is a studio crying out for the creative process to make it messy again. I’ll clean it up later. πŸ™‚


  6. Ah, Luann, how timely that I took the time to read the SAQA posts this am instead of filing them away in the “unread SAQA postings” to languish with all the other “not yet read” postings from months ago…I am so guilty of the “putting off” because the house needs cleaning, laundry needs doing, groceries need to be bought, then prepared into meals…yada, yada, yada. And now I find myself being diminished physically by a degenerative disease, where holding a tooth brush in the morning is a major accomplishment…and I still worry about doing all the other stuff before I walk into my studio to create…and mind you, I was, and still am, what I would call an “emerging artist”…I have an nice studio filled to the brim with everything I could possible use and probably never will use up, yet I do this little dance each and everyday, knowing full well that now my time is limited with an expiration date…BUT this morning I decided NOT to do the usual, I read the SAQA postings and followed Rosemary’s link in her post to your site…and I read your blog post of Feb 5th, 2011 – inspiring and motivating, to say the least; Your words made me hear that tiny, quelled voice inside me, crying out for me to pick up the brush, the needle, the “whatever” and create something, anything, and from that beginning perhaps the void will fill again…thank you for your thoughts, they really touched me…
    anna rice


    • I am SO HONORED you took the time to write & let me know your thoughts. And I’m delighted you were inspired by my post. You’ve made my day!
      Now….go to your studio and made stuff. Make beautiful stuff! :^)


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