How to Always make a Beautiful Painting and Be Generally Comfortable in Life

Wilson Peak in Telluride, Colorado, mixed media on canvas, 40" x 30", ©Kellie Day
Wilson Peak in Telluride, Colorado, mixed media on canvas, 40" x 30", ©Kellie Day

This painting was a complete mess and I almost painted over. Somehow it all came together at once.

The recipe is easy: Stay in your comfort zone. Do what you know how to do, what you’ve always done. Be safe. Pay attention to the details and do them carefully, making sure everything is just right. Voilà! Beautiful painting.

Great paintings or great art is not made by staying in a familiar place. Nor is a great life lived this way.


Next week I will be in New Orleans all week long, training with Golden Paints to be a better art educator, to learn techniques and products I haven’t used before.

I’ll be staying in the French Quarter in a nice hotel, and I’m pretty darn excited to say the least. But there is also a lot of discomfort that’s going along with leaving my ten year old son for the week for various reasons. Let’s just say that the universe has been testing me.

This from a friend on facebook:

“In an interesting book, The Ultimate Anti-Career Guide, the author, Rick Jarow, talks about threshold guardians – like the gargoyles on the outside of European cathedrals, trying to scare people away from reaching what they desire most. When you’re close to achieving something enormous, the threshold guardians are larger and more intense.”

Every time I take a step out of my cozy little environment to travel and push the boundaries of my art, it involves facing some worries I have over traveling and leaving my son. The last two times I’ve done so, the gargoyles have reared their ugly heads, making the trip nerve wrecking on some levels. Yet to trust, to breath, and to keep moving ahead into new places is the only way for me to grow my life to the grander places I want to be.

It’s the same with art. Lately every time I’ve tried to push myself and let go and see what happens, I’ve made some serious crap.

The alternative? Stay with what’s safe. A nice, cozy painting that will get public approval. It’s culturally pleasing to make people feel comfortable.

Being an "artist" means being willing to make stuff you don't like for the sake of learning ©Kellie Day

Being an “artist” means being willing to make stuff you don’t like for the sake of growing

Consider this:

Next time you are creating art, pretend you are a highly successful artist (maybe you already are!), who’s paintings fly off the gallery walls, and who has been written up in all the arts magazines. You’re highly successful. Feel it, breath it, see the $50,000 checks … Now, paint whatever the F*** you want, because you can. And know it’s worthwhile. This is a great exercise for allowing yourself to have the confidence to try new things with your art.

Great art is just somebody fearlessly laying down all their personal crap on a canvas that happens to look cool.

As a long term web designer, I have had to constantly evolve what I do because the technology is constantly changing. Every time I reach a place where I am comfortable with a new platform, I have to learn the next thing. My clients deserve the latest, and I’m not happy with giving them less. What this has taught me is the rolling, wave-like rhythm of reaching a comfortable place, stalling out and chilling on the swell, and then JUST when I start to get bored, flying down the next wave of having to learn the next great thing. Then I rise to the top again. Then I fall. Repeat. Such is life.

My illustration of the great wave by Hokusai

My illustration of the great wave by Hokusai

Still, I could choose to stay home sketching conservatively, eating Fritos and having nothing to say at the dinner table. No thanks.

Always remember that when you are pushing yourself, and everything in life seems to be pushing back, it may be because you are on the brink of doing something very important for yourself.


Kellie Day mixed media artist


  1. Kathleen says:

    Mmmm, fritos…. Seriously, though, this is AWESOME, Kellie. So true to keep reminding and pushing yourself and reach!!! And reminding us to do the same. So meaninful and valueable. Thank you for sharing.
    Leaving your son for short periods HAS to be worrisome for you – will pray for calm, peace, and safety for you both☺. You are doing well, though, by stepping out and reaching. Don’t let worry stop you!!!

    • Kellie Day says:

      Thanks for the well wishes Kathleen! I appreciate your encouragement, and am so happy that you enjoyed the post! I hope all is wonderful with YOUR beautiful art making! xoxo

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