Who of us has not had that feeling? Fear of creating. Fear of the big, white, empty canvas. Fear that a work might not be as good as we want it to be, or as good as someone else’s. You know how that feels … how that keeps you awake at night, supplies you with a multitude of reasons to procrastinate, and causes you to freeze before the easel.
I would like to tell you about my niece Madilyn. She is an artist, working in acrylic on paper and canvas. Her painting style is spontaneous and courageous, just like her. When painting, she wears whatever she wants, often pink and purple. Unicorns and sparkles are a common choice. She spreads her quart jars of acrylic, brushes, and canvases on the kitchen table. And, she just paints. Marvelous happy houses and smiling people. Rainbows and animals. If something is not the way she wants, she paints over it, or throws it on the floor and starts a new canvas.
Being so spontaneous, she makes a mess all over the table and herself. Who cares? She just strips down to her underwear and continues with her work.
Madilyn is 7 years old.
What my niece has taught me:
Making art is fun.
Madilyn does not do internet searches to see what others are doing. She does not tell herself she cannot do it or call herself names when something goes wrong. She does not think about that person who told her she had no talent. She joyfully plays.
Art can be made anywhere.
Got a kitchen table? A corner of the dining room? A seat at Starbucks? Go for it!
Dress the part.
Okay, so we may not all want to strip to our undies to paint, but having one special piece of clothing can tell you “It’s time to create!” How about designating a favorite old t-shirt as your “art shirt”? Or, a funky old hat? Personally, I have a box in the studio full of colorful cotton play clothes just for painting.
Throw it out and move on.
So, the piece did not work out. You learned what not to do! It was not a waste at all. Get a fresh canvas and do it again.
Put your art on the refrigerator.
Well, maybe not literally. But, share your work with others. Making art makes Madilyn happy and I smile every time I look at her canvas (below) on my wall. Enjoy your creativity and spread the joy around.
I often wonder what happens to my artworks. This 20x24 painting, "Poppies," left my studio in 2007 for a new home in Texas. Imagine my surprise to get an email from the owner this week, complete with a photo of the painting hanging in her dining room! Since 2007, the painting has traveled from Texas to Arizona, and now resides in North Carolina.
I have not written lately because I have been ill, first with bronchitis then with mumps. Mumps? I know. I can hardly believe it too!
So, I spent three weeks on my sofa, watching the passage of time through my lanai windows. Every day, there was this one little lizard, which are very common in Florida, who came to sit on the outside of the window screen. Each morning, he would climb up the five feet to the very the same spot, to get warmed by the sun. Safely tucked under the louvered glass window pane, he was safe from wind and snakes. And, every day, in the early afternoon, he would climb back down, probably on the search for food. Like clockwork, the next morning, he was back again. I named him "Mortie."
As difficult and disruptive as illness can be to us, it brings lessons…
Lesson 1: STOP PRESSURING MYSELF TO GET THINGS DONE.
The world did not come to an end because nothing got done for three weeks on my long "To Do" list.
Lesson 2: MAKE TIME TO NOTICE THE SMALL MIRACLES.
Mortie the lizard, that little life form, is just one of the many incredible animals and plants around me everyday. Get too busy, and I pass right without seeing and appreciating them.
Lesson 3: ENJOY THE MUNDANE.
A good night's sleep, tasting food, painting, laughing, talking with loved ones, walking in nature, even grocery shopping all now seem delightful.