Painting is Terrifying

Nov 12, 2015

A sage teacher once told the class that you had to be brave to paint. As she passed on that terrifying concept, a loaded palette knife hovered over my painting. No truer words were spoken, I thought, sizing up my next move. Each moment your hand touches the canvas, the clay, the wood, the metal, you risk totally screwing up what, until that very second, you might have been pretty happy with.

There is a certain agony that goes along with the creative process. Unbidden, self-doubt joins me in the studio, freely critiquing my progress (or lack thereof), never holding back a negative opinion. Colors are scrutinized, shapes are criticized, brushstrokes are deemed too tight, too loose.  Focus is lost, meaning becomes foggy. Step by step, lessons, experience, choice and instinct are called into question.

So when I come to this point in the evolution of a painting I gird myself against this commentary and look for the silver lining. Yeah, I think I'm pretty happy with where I am. It'll do for now. There's a lot yet to do. I can always change course, change colors, start over. Sometimes the cheerleading works, sometimes not and I walk away feeling a failure.

It's a life lesson too, you know, being brave. Living a meaningful life isn't for the faint of heart either. There are choices to be made and, sometimes, bonehead decisions to be reckoned with. And you never quite know how it will all turn out, until it does, or doesn't. We harbor self-doubt and listen to critics whose opinion may or may not be valid. We often make decisions that are self-destructive or hurtful to others. And we suffer the consequences. We don't always have the luxury of a do-over. We can't just paint over our mistakes.

But the sun rises the next day and again we face the shaping of our lives. If we're lucky we can stand back and say we did something right. We can look for a way to shape a new existence or at least better an old one. We can mend relationships, we can mend ourselves. We can learn and grow no matter how much we already know or how big we think we are. Life is like that. But it's sometimes terrifying and courage is almost always something you need to have on your palette.

Painting: Warmed by the Sun [unfinished] © Lissa Banks 2015