“The object of painting a picture is not to make a picture… The object, which is back of every true work of art,
is the attainment of a state of being, a high state of functioning,
a more than ordinary moment of existence.”
I find comfort in creating. As a child, my grandma gave me charcoal pencils and a drawing pad. We drew fruit, horses and Donald Duck together. I remember the frustration of the charcoal smearing easily, giving the images an eerie rubbed- out look. I also remember the feeling of a sharpened charcoal point dragging pleasingly across granular paper.
Over the years, I learned that talent in a creative pursuit was more important than the process. Perfection replaced play. I stopped drawing and took on serious academic goals, where I was successful.
Artistic pursuits rested and waited for me like tulip bulbs beneath the earth.
Here We Go
At age 37, creativity could wait no longer. The whispers became assertive. Daydreams led to tentative ideas which led to attainable ideas which led to small actions. As a mom, it was easiest to put my children’s creativity forefront. Maybe we SHOULD get Bryce into guitar lessons, then, Hmmm, this music school feels right, maybe I could take a few lessons …
And I did. And the flood gates opened. The tulips burst through the soil, hell bent on being colorful.
I credit my guitar teacher for making lessons more than perfect scales and pristine fingerings. Each lesson was about learning and exploring the world AND music. I still got nervous each time I played and Mike (teacher) observed but I also experienced a content warmth when we played together and I made it through a whole section (mistakes included). I was in a creative setting where it was OK to just be. I didn’t have to blow anyone’s mind with my ability. I could play just for the pleasure of the sound, the experience and the beauty.
You Don’t Have to Write Right
Another artistic endeavor curled it’s finger, beckoning me to come and take a look. A friend mentioned the Loft Literary Center. She said it’s a hangout and teaching center for writers of all levels. I checked out the website and found the course list to be like flannel sheets in February; inviting, informal and crazy comfortable.
I chose Intuitive Writing as my first foray into the world of writing. Again, the format was loose and unintimidating. The teacher, Roxanne, had prominently written the mantra, Follow your energy! on the syllabus. Roxanne (a psychoanalyst) made up the intuitive writing label with the idea that we should write without censorship, without lifting the pen from the paper, without judgment. Our thoughts should flow from our hearts, down our arms and onto the paper. This, plus the sharing of our writing would be healing and inspiring. Rox would give us a prompt such as, What I really want to say is…and then we would write off-the-cuff for twenty minutes or so. We always had a choice regarding how much, if any, of our piece we read out loud. We could be vulnerable with our words. Our class experienced joy and connection with no fear of failure.
Painting My Soul
I had never painted formally until I gave process painting a try. There were seven of us in a studio off the garage of the instructor’s home in a Prius and Volvo neighborhood. We each had our own nook to create in. A gleaming blank piece of paper awaited. Amy, our small but mighty teacher, gave us almost no instructions except, Listen to your soul and happily make mistakes. She didn’t even play music (but normally does) because she wanted us to hear our own creative voice. I was grateful for my intuitive writing background. I didn’t need much guidance to get moving. Another student, a slightly older woman and 2nd grade teacher, needed more structure. I think she would have been more comfortable in a technique class. She had a difficult time embracing the freedom to be imperfectly perfect. I wondered how much fun the 2nd graders have in her classroom.
At one point, I felt uncomfortable because Amy encouraged me (assertively) to stick with one painting (a brown and gold abstraction), even though I was finished and wanted to move on to a different vision. I added a few more details and then asked again for a new piece of paper. Again Amy tried to talk me into merging my new ideas with the current painting. I saw this is as a potential mess. I said I wouldn’t like that and she said, No you don’t think you would because you are attached to this one. I actually didn’t feel all that attached, just done. She said it isn’t about the end product it’s about the process. I know, I know. I also knew in my heart I wanted a new start. I had to stand up to Amy and strongly tell her I was finished with the story in my first piece.
I did (hard for me).
I found my voice in the process.
She gave me a fresh piece of paper and I happily applied vibrant lavendars, teals and silver in the forms of flower petals and stones. As I glided the tip of the natural bristle brush over the smooth paper I was reminded of charcoal pencil tips catching on high grade drawing paper.
What is your artistic dream? Could you pursue it solely for the process? What if the end product was never seen or heard by anyone but you? How would that change the way you create?
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