I don’t have the patience! (part 2)

Okay, I’m ready to try again.

My intention is to start a series of posts addressing the questions people ask me about my work.  Some of you may recall that my patience was tested the other day when I wrote my first post in this series — about patience! This time I’m writing offline and saving every few minutes. I’m determined not to repeat the experience!

When people look at my artwork, and particularly after they view the film about my process, they invariably comment on patience. Either they exclaim, “I could never do what you do! I don’t have the patience!” Or they admiringly ask, “Where do you get such amazing patience? It must be your Buddhst practice.”

I suppose it’s natural that they have this reaction, looking at the intricacy of the images which take months to complete…

Not seeing the stitches and thinking they’re smaller than they really are…

When they hear that I wrap horsehair with silk thread — by hand! — they are convinced I must have supernatural levels of tolerance.

The truth is very different.

I’ve thought about this a lot — mostly because it surprised me to be thought patient.

People who know me… well, let’s just say that they generally have a different impression. I would love to be an infinitely patient person, but I often struggle with my impatience, my resistance to how things are (almost always different from how I think they should be). I often don’t take well to being inconvenienced, I’m sorry to say. And as for my Buddhist practice… well, it’s rather undisciplined.

But with my work…  I simply enjoy my work.

Realizing this, I reflected on when patience really comes into play. It has nothing to do with small stitches or long work hours or months to completion. It has to do with resistance… or dislike.  Annoyance or intolerance. We don’t need to be patient with what we like — or with what we don’t even notice, for that matter!

I enjoy the process of creating a silk thangka. I revel in the fabrics, I care for each stitch. Sure, I get impatient when the thread tangles and frustrated when I have to re-do a piece. Just as anyone does when they break a glass or burn some toast.

But generally, I’m happy when I’m working. I like seeing the image come together, even in its slow details. I love when the thread wraps smoothly around the horsehair (more about horsehair in my next post in this series). There’s not much I’d rather be doing. So there’s really no call for patience.

What do you do that seems to require patience but is actually transparently pleasurable to you?

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  1. Moira04-25-09


    Thanks for an interesting perspective on patience! It’s so true! When I am working on a piece that I love, or even focusing on a challenge that I’ve willingly undertaken, it feels more like a labor of love than something requiring patience. There’s such a feeling of fulfillment as it comes together.

  2. Carol McIntyre04-26-09


    Well stated! I resonated with your statement “We don’t have to be patient with what we like.”

    People have often made the same comments to me about my work, particularly when I painted in watercolors and then when I worked in pencil. Working in pencil can be percieved as requiring patience because it is tedious, but I always thought of it as meditative. The stroking of the tiny lines of pencil was comforting and that slow process of seeing the image evolve from the paper was gratifying………though, there are always those moments of frustration when something does not seem to work. It’s kinda like eating popcorn…you cannot stop eating!

    Keep up the blogging.

    Your fellow blogging student.

  3. Magdalena04-27-09


    Patience is something I’ve been working toward my whole life. When I’m painting, as you say, is a time when there is no time. For me time stops, and I enter a timeless place, quiet, focused. And before I know it the painting is done…to begin again on another.

    I’m grateful to have this love of art-making. Your “work” is greatly appreciated by me because I can only imagine the time it takes to complete, and how much beauty it brings to the lives it touches.

    fondly, your blogger mate, Magdalena

  4. Krista04-27-09

    LOL – love the photo! I love your introspective thoughts. It seems that while working your craft, your mind is engaged in the process as well and, as Carol said above, perhaps meditative. I very much agree with Carol’s statements too.

  5. Elizabeth04-27-09

    Nicely put! I too get comments about people’s lack of patience when they see my pressed flower pictures – but to me patience isn’t even a factor – it’s a state of enjoyment for me.

    Having patience when the kids track mud into the house for the 15th time is another story…


  6. Leslie04-27-09

    Thank you all for your comments. I’m pleased to find that so many artists have a similar experience.

    It would be nice if our artmaking actually helped us to develop patience… but we probably just love what we do too much for that.

    As Elizabeth so neatly said, “Having patience when the kids track mud into the house for the 15th time is another story…” I guess we have to work more with THOSE moments if we want to grow patience.

  7. Kim Bennett04-27-09


    Thank you for this insight on patience.

    Writing requires patience for me and being a person of a few words, I sometimes gravitate to people who keep their words short and thoughtful.

    Your post has allowed me to see not just creating but also having patience is a way that we can enrich our lives.

  8. Kim Bennett04-27-09

    BTW Like the image Got Patience?

  9. Alyson B. Stanfield04-27-09

    Leslie, Great observation! We’re patient with what we enjoy. The image is great. I do, wish, though, that it featured you doing your work–patiently. (I’m going to keep stressing that artists use pictures of themselves and their work whenever appropriate.)

    I guess I didn’t know that WordPress automatically generated related posts. That’s an interesting feature!

    Think about linking phrases like “Buddhist practice” or “thangkas” to previous posts in which you wrote about the subject–so that they new people visiting your blog can get some background.

  10. Denise West04-27-09

    Leslie, your work is amazing and truly beautiful! I watched the documentary video to understand what you were talking about in this post. Wow! Wrapping a horse hair – I can totally relate to your absorption.

    I have been told that there is “interest-based learning” and “importance-based learning.” My husband can do the importance-based stuff all day long. He doesn’t have to love it, he just does it.

    Not me. I’m an interest-based learner. When you said, “We don’t need to be patient with what we like — or with what we don’t even notice,” it made me think that you are a lot like me. Regular things are drudgery, but I can’t think of a more enjoyable way to spend time than making my art. Well, okay, reading a good book or watching a good movie or taking care of plants are right up there…


  11. Louise04-28-09

    Wow this is great to see so many comments.
    It’s true Leslie, your comment about not having to have patience to do the things we love is right on target. I’ve never quite looked at it as having to have patience to be able to do handwork either. I just love it. And far more rewarding than doing the “importance based stuff”. That can drive me bananas.
    Patience for me is more likely linked to dealing with different aged children, listening and guiding, keeping all those parenting issues in check when they are mixed with the other obvious emotion that you really don’t want them to screw up!

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