Maybe it was the reoccurring patches of blue in the sky. Or maybe it was the hours of staring into luscious layers of Alizarin Crimson. Or maybe it was just the Dr. Pepper commercial which had me singing “I gotta’ be me” at the top of my lungs. But after a hiatus from painting, my recent emersion into the world of color, line, shape and form reminded me of the power of the brush. Anxiety and stress relief may come equally from gin and pills but they don’t provide the focus and centeredness that painting does. And it doesn’t give you a hangover.
Why is that? The experience is not mine alone. What does one find by doing it? What happens when one puts a mark on the page? What does it get you? If your answer is something like “After enough marks you get a painting to hang on the wall” then you are missing the best part.
When we dare to take a blank surface and fill it with authentic marks we dare to be self-defining and we are doing it “out loud”. Because an extension of self has become an actual “thing” the possibility of others seeing it looms large. It becomes scary, even if we are painting in the basement with the lights off. No matter how long you’ve been creating, the armor of achievement can’t fully protect you from the fear that you might look like a fool if someone sees you, especially if you are continually finding original, honest things to expose.
When you connect with this process you are ‘right here right now’—your eyes engage, hopefully you have chosen a subject with content that will keep you engaged. You feel a response. Intuition and practice suggests you make a move. Sometimes it’s right, sometimes not. But the mistakes are not lethal, they are lessons, they open your eyes to new possibilities. What if?
Allowing new ways of seeing that might reveal truth to you, rather than manufacturing outcomes, offers insight in other areas of life. It opens you to the idea that what we think is the best thing, may not actually be the case. And what’s missed in trying to meet your expectations could be where the ‘meaningful’ lies. You drink in the present, not waste the moment predicting or planning the future. We are people who want to know the end. But no matter how hard you try, you can’t see it until you are in it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFntFdEGgws (My favorite illustration of this.)
Process painting allows the “end” to unfold in both expected and unexpected ways. Watching it, accepting it, feeling the fear and doing it anyway puts life in perspective for me and it almost always leads to song.
This week you will relinquish all control from knowing the end. I will be in charge–eh, eh, eh… Fresh paper or underpainting both work.