I look back at all the paintings I have produced, exhibited and sold over the years and marvel. How did this happen? Recently I read a thought-provoking book about just how success, regardless of the field, is the result of someone doing something every day, often a very small step at a time. In the inspiring book “The Slight Edge” Jeff Olson talks about how a sports star’s success, for example, never comes suddenly, although it seems so to us. Their path to success is lined with many rather boring routines performed day in and day out, which are not so exciting at all in themselves, really. Bit by bit skills are built. Step by step large and small goals are achieved. Activities that are so easy to do (that most people COULD do, really), and that are as easy NOT TO DO.

When I look back, it is precisely this that has taken me to where I am today. Small steps. Day in and day out. Of all the activities and hobbies that I devoted myself to, painting is the one that has never got lost. It had been so easy to let it fall away, but I have kept doing something small, if not daily, then at least once a week. For whatever reason, this is what I have done. Even when it had been so easy to skip it, I have done something anyway.

My paintings consist of many thin layers of paint. Each layer is put on quickly, then it must be completely dry before I can put on the next one. I often have five canvases on the go simultaneously, and a painting session for me might be to put a thin coat of paint on all five canvases, then I cannot do anything for hours. Do I feel like doing it? Sometimes, sometimes not. But I do it anyway. Can I see an inspiring result of my creative process directly? No. To build my paintings take so long that I sometimes am almost surprised when they are ready.

It would be a lie to say that it’s exciting. Rather, it is about small moments of craftsmanship: to handle the material, to find solutions, make choices of direction. Of course there is joy and inspiration in there, but the process is made up of many small routine steps that just have to be done. It is not difficult, it’s not fantastic all of the time and it had been as easy not to do them. But I do them. That is what makes the difference. And suddenly I have made an impressive body of paintings. Suddenly, I have eaten my elephant!

Ania Witwitzka
The painting that illustrates this blog post is available for purchase.
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