Lately I’ve been reading (savoring, really) the book “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown and finding myself experiencing my art-making with a new sense of playfulness and vulnerability. Dr. Brown’s ground-breaking research focuses on shame and how we learn early in life to metaphorically and literally color inside the lines or not color at all, which keeps us from “Wholehearted living”. The past few months have felt like a time for me to re-discover for myself what that means for me.
In the many years I have facilitated art workshops for both adults and children, it is clear that creating art is a very vulnerable process, and easily shut down by even an unwitting offhand remark. I’ve nurtured others as they confessed that they, “used to love art but I’m not artistic.” I’ve never believed it when people tell me that, and I also haven’t believed in “mistakes” in art, just “discoveries.” I’ve been witness to the rebirth of countless “non-artists” into their own creative nature and it has been an honor to do so.
However, my own artistic experience has been somewhat muted. The awkward truth is that I have been so busy providing art experiences for others, I didn’t allow enough time or emotional space for my own creative growth. An astrologer warned me about this tendency years ago and every time I saw her she’d ask, “So, are you finally doing your own art now?” Hmm… Well, I’d give excuses…no time, no space. But on some deep level I also didn’t feel worthy of creating that time or space.
Then about nine months ago things shifted in my circumstances and my attitude. I decided it was time to be really disciplined about my art practice and yet make it playful. A friend said it best when she told me that like physicians who are admonished to “heal thyself”, artists need to “art thyself”. Every Tuesday and some weekends I go to the studio for my art play date with myself.
Lately those play dates have involved painting pressboard from the hardware store with unusual color combinations, then layering gorgeous Japanese papers with Lineco PVA (glue), painting over that, then adding wax over everything. I can never really tell what it will look like as I am working on it because the PVA makes everything white until it dries differently. The Japanese lace paper blends into the background in wonderfully subtle patterns allowing the underneath color to show through.
This layering of colors and textures feels very organic to me. Often I am part way into a painting and I absolutely hate it. Then I let it “rest” and dry. I come back to it another day and it has changed for me. I’m gradually realizing that part of why I hate it in the moment is that I can’t control it and I have no idea what it might look like so I feel really foolish and vulnerable. Yikers…true confessions of my inner control freak!
I am a complete novice with encaustic work and have no idea what I’m doing with the wax or what the result will be. However, I like the mystery of the wax, although I don’t always like the results. But that’s okay! I’m allowing myself to be a learner, find out what is fun for ME, and see what pleases ME. I don’t really care if anyone else sees it or finds my art pleasing. This isn’t about any of that. What I’ve discovered feels sort of raw, tender, very vulnerable but exquisitely joyful.
There are moments in that sunlit room that I forget my age, the cares of my life, or the passage of time. My head clears and I feel alive, alert, engaged in the moment. I remember this feeling from my childhood: the willingness to not know what I’m doing, make messy fun, and see what happens when I’m curious! It takes work to shut up the inner art critic. I tell myself that “this is just experimenting; it doesn’t mean it is ART”. That frees me up a bit and again I get lost in the textures, colors, and music in the background. I feel like this process is freeing up something else in me…not sure what, so stay tuned!
So, I ask you to see what could shift in your life if you gave yourself permission for regular messy creative play dates? What vulnerable, tender part of you hasn’t been allowed to breathe in years and longs to express itself if it was safe to do so? If you want a safe community of kindred souls, join me at VIA Artistica this coming Sunday, March 24th and let the discovering begin!
Register for the March 24 workshop at http://viaartisticapdx.com/events/touch-drawing-introduction/