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A Letter to My 2016 Self

Dear Kerstin,

You are just starting your journey in yet another new style of Oil Painting, something called the Direct Painting Method. Soon, you will discover palette knives and you will have your "Ah-Ha! Moment realizing that you can paint more freely and easily than ever before with minimal clean up. Enjoy it. You have been waiting to fall into this for years.

Here are my tips to help you on your journey, so you won't make the same mistakes I did.

Regarding Creation-

If you are using a wooden panel and cradle you must gesso it. And any wood you want to paint on should be Gessoed. Period. You will probably Gesso it more than twice. You should have a dedicated Gesso Brush. You should wash that dedicated Gesso brush. Sand effectively.

Don't let others borrow your paint brushes. No one will take care of them they way you want them to. Even if its just a film shoot and they aren't actually painting. Don't.

It's alright to play with different sizes, formats, and surfaces with your works. Find what works best for your style. Don't think about what others are doing. Paint big if it excites you. Paint small if that excites you. Do remember to paint the sides of your paintings.

Learn how to frame your own works. You will spend too much money hiring someone else and then realize too late how easy it truly was once you had the $30 hand drill.

You don't have to be an oil paint purist. Feel free to mix your oils with weird mediums, or paint on things that aren't meant to be painted on.

Experiment with different styles and techniques. Maybe set a goal of one new technique a month. It doesn't matter what size the experiment is. You won't know what works unless you fail. Create texture, carve into the painting, add too many layers that will take years to dry, maybe do one of those cool paint peel paintings: the sky is the limit for experimentation so you can find your style. Cooking competition shows will be a great source of inspiration.

Try painting different subjects and compositions at least once. Even if you fail miserably, you can at least say you tried. Then again, you might fall in love with something you thought was too hard for your skill set. Or, you might end up with a bunch of faceless figures...

Regarding the Biz-

Not all online competitions are legit, but some are necessary to help your resume in the beginning. Vary it, don't give all your money to just one online gallery.

Actually check your emails everyday. Respond to emails when they come in. No one wants to work with a disorganized artist.

Your social media doesn't need to be picture perfect. Show people what you are working on and interact with them daily. If you do want to up your social media game, invest in a better camera. And a headshot for your website. Don't engage in FOMO or compare yourself to artists that are years ahead of you in their career.

Find a mentor ASAP! They don't have to be an oil painter, but in the visual arts is good. How do you find the right mentor? Maybe its someone 3-5 years ahead in their career, or 20 years ahead in their career. Its okay to have many mentors. Once you find them ask many questions.

Network. Help others. They might not remember what you created, but they will remember your heart.

Regarding Your Internal Journey-

You will use painting to express your emotions. Some won't be your best works. Some will be downright ugly - you are allowed to paint over those with zero judgement. You are also allowed to destroy them.

Schoolwork, personal life, and/or work will become so overwhelming you will want to stop painting for months. Don't. You love it. It de-stresses you. At least paint something you would want to see in your own home even if you don't share it with the world.

You will always have the internal struggle of "am I a draftsman or an artist?!" You can be both. But how do you really want others to view your work? Don't crack under the self-inflicted pressure.

You will have dry-spells when NO ONE will buy your work (original or commissioned) and you will question yourself about everything. Its okay. Its normal.

There are bullies out there who want to see you fail and get their personal jollies from bringing you down. Don't respond to them and don't let their words faze you. Who cares what they think as long as you are doing what you love.

Remember to ask for help if you need it. <3


Kerstin circa 2021


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