Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas
staring you in the face like some imbecile.
You don’t know how paralyzing that is,
that stare of a blank canvas,
which says to the painter,
‘You can’t do a thing’.
The canvas has an idiotic stare
and mesmerizes some painters so much
that they turn into idiots themselves.
Many painters are afraid in front of the blank canvas,
but the blank canvas is afraid of
the real, passionate painter,
who dares and who has broken the spell
of `you can’t’ once and for all.
I went to one of those Canvases & Cocktails places tonight, where you learn the basics of acrylic painting in the company of friends all while enjoying an adult beverage or two. I’ve been to a few of these classes in the past, and while I’ve always enjoyed myself thoroughly, I’ve also always found it a bit intimidating to sit down in front of a blank canvas. The taught, white fabric stretched neatly over a wooden frame is so pristine and full of potential, and I worry that a wrong brush stroke here, or an over embellishment there will ruin the entire piece. Unlike photography, where I can play with my camera settings for different effects or layer on adjustments in post-processing, every decision I make while painting feels so significant, so irreversible. Of course that isn’t true at all since anything can be erased with a little white paint, but it is that feeling of permanence, combined with an innate need for perfection that I find to be the most challenging aspect of painting.
The instructor last night was wonderful. Every now and then she would ask us all to stop, put down our brushes and close our eyes. This gave our mind a rest, and helped to break the cycle of obsessing about the tiniest details and inherent flaws of our paintings. These little breaks freed our minds from negativity and self-doubt. And she was right. It’s amazing how different something looks, when you return to it with ‘fresh eyes’.
This need to step away and see things from a different perspective is necessary in photography too. Sometimes I overthink a situation, trying too hard to make something happen or focusing too long on tiny imperfections. The noisy, bossy, left-side of my brain can get too involved in my creative pursuits, trying to take over, make a plan, ensure success! But in reality, those are the exact times when I need to let go, step away, clear my mind, and break the cycle of negativity – to create space for the intuitive, creative right-side of my brain to once again take the lead .
So how did things turn out last night? Well let’s just say I exercised my creative license and went a little rogue. The class was geared toward painting a decorative skull in a Broncos football helmet. I, on the other hand, ditched the helmet and went with a more Día de Muertos theme.
Guess the right-side of my brain isn’t such a pushover after all. 😉