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Mar 27, 2020
I don't believe the old adage, "Hindsight is 20/20." But, I do believe that looking back at my life I can see patterns that are obvious to me today when they weren't obvious at the time I was living that part of my life.
Many years ago I saw a message on a movie marquee and I felt like I'd been hit over the head with a glory stick. "It's never too late to have a happy childhood," Tom Robbins. It was the 1980's in Bend, Oregon, and that organized jumble of letters on the Pat and Mike's movie house marquee. I passed that sign a couple of times per day and the message took root in my heart.
My childhood had been a slog and I grieved not having a preponderance of happy memories. I wasn't willing to gaslight myself and "forget" my childhood, but I was willing to mine it like a forensic anthropologist, sifting through every last piece of the past, looking for the pieces that linked into a form that gave me joy.
I searched for every last piece of good memories. To do that, I came up with a plan -- I would shift my meditation practice a few times per week towards my goal of living a happy childhood (at last) and I would journal and repeat affirmations.
This was pre-internet, so I was informed by every psycho-spiritual book I could find at the local Deschutes County Library. A couple years into that practice, I married and had a baby. Now more than ever, I intuited that I must sustain my practice of happiness, so that I would be a loving and effective parent.
Though I had no articulated idea to create art that mirrored my practice, that is exactly what happened. In 1995, I had an epiphany and began what would become my Paint Happy series. The following introduction to the book I wrote 6 years later, describes my perception of the process.
Paint Happy! Introduction by Cristina Acosta: (©2002, 2004)
I painted for many years before I realized that I was chasing a myth. Somewhere along the way, I came to believe that to become a good artist, I needed to acquire an ever increasing knowledge of methods and techniques.
My attention to technique garnered me a job as the production artist for a billboard company. After a couple of years painting billboards, I could copy any image given to me in any style, from simple cartoons to photo-realism. By that time, the holy grail of technique seemed disappointingly empty. I had given nearly all of my attention to developing the skill to paint whatever I wanted and very little attention to discovering what I really wanted to paint.
For a few years, I taught college drawing and painting classes. While the students gained “the basics” I noticed that for most of them, consistent academic study didn’t seem to encourage innate joy and enthusiasm for painting. I knew that if I didn’t teach any basics my students would be adrift, eventually becoming frustrated by their lack of ability to correctly mix the colors they needed or to understand what they saw in a painting. I thought that there must be some way to teach artistic skills without getting in the way of a student’s unique vision of the world.
Surprisingly, my epiphany came with the experience of motherhood. By the time my daughter, Isabella, was eighteen months old, she was painting every day with me. Watching her, I couldn’t help but notice that her experience of painting was entirely different form mine. She painted with complete abandon. She was never hard on herself. In fact, when she finished a painting that she really liked, she’d put her brush down and clap and cheer! If she didn’t like, it, she quickly pushed it aside and moved on! She never tried to paint like anyone else (especially her mother!).
Whenever Isabella finished a painting, she would show it to me. I’d look at the piece and very clearly tell her what I admired about it. Her natural style of learning augmented with my minimal positive insights enabled her to learn quickly and define her own style.
During Isabella’s toddler years, I was so inspired by her obvious happiness while creating that I decided to take an hour or so each day and paint in the same fashion. The more I opened my mind to painting with the attitude of a child–albeit a very “experienced” child! – the more my work evolved.
Within a few months, my style of painting had completely changed. My work flowed so naturally that the images seemed to paint themselves. I became passionately excited to rediscover that creating could be so simple. My images reflected my joy, and “paint happy” was born!
Learning to paint happy was the key that opened my creative soul. Whether you’re a new painter or an experienced artist looking for new energy in your work, you will enjoy learning to paint happy. My book guides you to connect with your playful inner spirit while you learn the basics needed to become technically proficient.
I don’t intend for you to permanently paint images in my style. My style is the result of my particular life experiences. You may wish to copy my exercises as closely as possible, then taking what you’ve learned, immediately create an image of your own. With practice, your innate sense of design and personal style will develop. So open this book and enter a world of color.
Follow along with your paintbrush in hand, and chapter by chapter the beauty of the world around you and within you will be revealed through your painting.
Enjoy and Happy Creating, Cristina
Making art is a spiritual practice as well as a physical activity, so it won’t always be easy. I’m not going to lie. It can be a schlep. It’s been both for me – easy and flowing as well as tedious, scary and frustrating.
Overall, it’s the joy of my life. Since I wrote this, my daughter has graduated from college and we are both making art. Life has been good.
Paint Happy! Learn to Paint Art Book by Cristina Acosta ©2002, 2004, North Light Books, F+W Publications Paint Happy is out of print. Used copies of Paint Happy are available on Amazon Paperback: 110 pages Publisher: North Light Books; 2 editions (August 2002) (2004) Language: English ISBN-10: 1581801181 ISBN-13: 978-1581801187 Product Dimensions: 11 x 8.5 x 0.4 inches
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