Chapter 3:

Learning to Surf

Learning to Surf  Acrylic on muslin 2016

Learning to Surf
Acrylic on muslin

Rip currents and rushing a lifelong practice

I painted so often this year that I found patterns of when I am most creative. It’s either super early or late: 6-7am or 9-11pm. Weekend on Saturday mornings from 9am - 12pm or late, always really late. So, I try to keep Saturday mornings open if possible. There’s also little tricks I do to warm up my hands like knitting for 30 minutes or vacuuming. Somehow, the paintings turned out better.

I am also stubborn and inpatient. Strokes of “I’m tired, Wynne...” and “I can’t do this today. Can we have a sandwich?” shows up. But I ignored those feelings and painted anyway because I was like, "Oh, my goodness all this time that I’m wasting not painting… I should just try anyway,” and hoping of to catch a wave - instead I get caught into a rip current every single time. Sadly, re-working the painting.

Surfing looks like a sport that needs a lot of attention and presence. I’m pretty sure that every surfer checks two things before jumping into the ocean; and that’s the state of his body and the water. I do that too. I check myself and I check the conditions but instead of accepting what is, I just jump in anyway because I'm impatient, not listening to the signs and rushing. 

I can see that the more I paint the better skillfully I’m getting at it. But I feel sad because my impatience and stubbornness has very nicely lead me to forgetting the joy of painting. After reading biographies on my favorite artists: Georgia O’Keeffe, Richard Diebenkorn, Matisse and Cy Twombly, making art was their life's work. It was a lifelong practice and in none of the readings did I read that they were trying to get “better” at it; they were just trying to explore facets of it or learn something from the experience. So, I felt disappointed to realize that I was rushing through a lifelong practice.

Since my practice is about self-compassion... I'm trying to learn to love these qualities. My impatience means that I’m always excited to take the next step. Like a horse that’s ready to run, I need to learn to give myself a space to do that in order to release the inner fuel. It can perhaps more exercise or a more challenging hike. Maybe, I can start there.

As for my stubbornness, I haven’t thought of something for that yet. For now I am aware of it and hope that it continues until I learn the lesson. I am gracious for it because it also has elements of persistence and perseverance. I’m a bit scared about how that will turn out but I’m sure that at some point it will all collide and something will come about.

I do know now the meaning of surrendering. To surrender to the conditions of what is; to not paint if I’m tired and to absolutely paint and wake up earlier to do so because that’s the best time to. And to not rush, that there’s no use in rushing through a lifelong practice.

- Wynne Leung


Painting Process

A short step-by-step of the painting process

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