An Acrylic Painting of Palm Trees Bending in the Wind on a Stormy Day

Today I am celebrating the successful completion of my first commissioned painting of palm trees bending in the wind over a storm sky.

This was one of the hardest things I have done as a newer artist still finding my own voice and value. To take an idea from someone else, to see what they see and translate that into a painting stretched me creatively.

One of my clients who had bought another painting from me asked me to create a painting for her office. Her team is going through a challenging time and she keeps inviting them to be like the palm trees in a storm that bend but don’t break. Palm trees also gather strength from each other which is why they naturally grow in clusters.

Stretching Outside My Comfort Zone as an Artist

I didn’t have a clue how to paint palm trees or how to paint a stormy sky. I tend to paint more abstractly, use many mixed media layers and add Zentangle® patterns to everything. I love mark making and texture. But real palm trees with the right shape and shadows? Storm clouds with light and darkness?

I felt like the palm tree battered by the winds of a hurricane but my hurricane was in my head. Can I do this? This is hard? What if she doesn’t like it?

Thank heavens for YouTube videos like this fun video from Painting with Jane. She did a great job of discussing color, texture and what brushes to use. I love to paint with acrylics and learned so much from how to hold the brush to how to create the fluffy texture of the storm clouds.

Learning to Detach from the Outcome – Would She Like It?

I was my own biggest enemy when it came to completing this painting. When I paint for myself, I don’t really care if anyone likes it or not. I am detached from the outcome and joyfully engaged n the process. With this painting I found myself feeling nervous and concerned about the buyer liking it. Could I capture what she wanted? I wasn’t sure. At one point I asked my husband for feedback and bit his head off when he gave it to me. He’s generally right on with his suggestions, even when I don’t want to hear them. He helps me to be a better artist.

But finally, I called the painting complete. I stopped fussing and tinkering and adding bits of light to the palm fronts.

I sent off the email of the final image with great trepidation. Would she like it?

And then I had a transformational moment where I realized it didn’t matter. I had done my best and it was pretty darn good. I had stretched myself creatively, learned a lot on my journey and am a better painter because of this experience.

Plus, if she doesn’t like it someone else might. And I can always paint over it and create something new. Most of my paintings are layered. I love this effect of creating a palimpsest of energy, color and texture.

Finding My Voice and My Joy in the Painting

In that moment of detachment from her liking it or not, I freed myself from stress and anxiety. I reminded myself of the joy of painting, the love of color and texture and learning new techniques.

In the end, she loved the painting. It was a beautiful collaboration.

And I am grateful for this powerful opportunity to stretch and grow as an artist. I have new empathy for my business coaching clients when I keep asking them to stretch and grow, too. I am practicing what I preach. Show your work! Show the good, the bad, the journey and the joy.

Share Your Insights

Share in the comments a moment when you were asked to stretch as an artist. What did you learn? What can you celebrate today about your experience?