Center Court

Jul 17, 2023

I had planned to write this post yesterday and in so doing check a number of things off my to do list which had grown substantially while working on my latest painting. Instead, I spent nearly five hours watching two grown men bang a small neon yellow ball across a low net. I squirmed thinking about all the things I had hoped to accomplish but the longer it went on, the more invested I became. Almost five hours! I have no idea how they kept moving. Why didn’t their arms drag as the match wore on? How could they possibly pivot, thunder and pirouette across the grass for that long? It was exhausting for me, let alone them.

In solidarity, I hung in there.

Last Thursday I attended the reception for my most recent show, Take 4, a group show featuring four contemporary woman artists. I’d been working like a dog to get enough paintings done. The excitement for me was actually delivering them to the gallery. It had been a slog, a good slog but still.

Someone asked me that day if I was excited. Not so much, really. But when I got there I was buoyed by the energy of the other artists and the people who came out to see us and our work. It was a really great night. 

Perhaps the best part for me was a mother who coaxed her reluctant daughter over to talk to me. She was a fan! Prodded by Mom, the girl showed me her work. It was fabulous. I gave her as much encouragement as I could knowing that being a working artist seems such a distant possibility when you’re that age. I remember in 8th grade wondering in what way could I possibly expect to follow my heart and be an artist. I didn’t see one. And nobody told me otherwise.

For me, being a painter was a luxury I could only afford in retirement. Sure, I dabbled throughout the years, but it wasn’t until I had all the time in the world that I tapped into that deep root that had so long gone un-watered. And look what happened when it finally was!

I thought about this while I watched the heroic athletes battling for supremacy on the court. Of the years of dreams and the support of family and coaches and of injuries and disappointments. And of perseverance. I wonder how many times they thought there wasn’t a path for them. Or how they could possibly be good enough to be recognized and accepted. As the winner observed, he grew up watching his opponent on TV. How many times did he wonder if he was kidding himself to dream so big as to imagine himself accepting his trophy from a royal highness?

Now, clearly, my little reception wasn’t center court on a world stage beamed into households all over the planet. Not by a long shot. And I’m pretty sure that talented teenager I met at the gallery hasn’t much confidence that she could do what she loves to do and have it met with approval and recognition. But if she just keeps doing the work, who knows what she will accomplish.

I will deliver this painting to its commissioner this week. Even as it sits behind me with a wet coat of varnish on it, I wonder how he will like it. If it’s good enough. If I’m just an imposter pretending to be an artist and that one day someone will expose me. From what I understand, this isn’t an uncommon sentiment among us creatives…or anyone, for that matter.

The antidote is to just keep doing the work. To seek out those who will support your dreams, and if you have a hard time finding those people, find some new ones or make up some imaginary boosters… and thunder and pirouette and pivot your way to being your own world champion. 

Painting: Sylas © Lissa Banks 2023