artist emerging again

Painting is the act of discovery and you’re constantly enlarging your horizon or finding yourself every time you paint.
— romare bearden

"Sit here and choose which colors that you like," she said to me. For my part, I was shaking all over, near tears, and feeling like I wanted to vomit. 

The year was 2007 and I had been volunteering with a summer art camp that my children were attending. The teacher and I had had many conversation about creativity and she had decided there was something in me that needed to be released. She lovingly ambushed me the next time I showed up, showing me my board, and sending me to the corner to choose paints and fabric. 

I was terrified. It felt as if the entire world had fallen out from under me. Little did I know that it had. Everything from that day forward would be different. I finally gathered myself, chose my colors, and returned to my table. From the next moment when I picked up the paint brush, I have never looked back. 

It's not been a smooth journey but I tend to believe that no journey is. My being an artist sputtered to life during the many years it really took me to emerge. The most important thing I learned was to trust myself. All the skill in the world would be useless to me if I didn't trust myself.

It's been almost a year since I have brought canvas to the easel. Though I generally paint in my big art journal several days a week, I haven't been able to take my brush to a canvas. It just feels so permanent yet temporary to paint on the canvases. With my journal, I can keep it with me. i don't feel pressure to complete a painting. It is pure process; a playground of sorts. 

But the canvas is serious business. Maybe it shouldn't be; maybe it would be better if I thought of the canvas as a playground as well.  For now, though, the canvas is a bigger deal. I haven't been ready to invest in that way for awhile. 

Today, the canvases called to me. Briefly, I considered riding to the store and purchasing new ones but there are so many in the closet, behind the bed, stuck in corners. I felt the call to free them from the hiding places. 

top left, unfinished work:  top right, finished work needing photographed for digital images:  bottom left, blank canvases, mostly small and smaller. Not my favorite: bottom right: canvases to repurpose

top left, unfinished work:  top right, finished work needing photographed for digital images:  bottom left, blank canvases, mostly small and smaller. Not my favorite: bottom right: canvases to repurpose

I made piles of canvases, inventorying my stash from my big purchase some time last year. I have some finished work, some unfinished, others that need to be repurposed, and quite a few small to smaller canvases. Plenty to keep me busy until the next big canvas sale in the Spring.

My first project is to finish a painting I began a few years ago. I can't remember the inspiration or anything that was going on when I began it. So I begin with what I have; I begin again. Moments into it and the fear and doubt crept in. I questioned my skill level, my lack of purpose, and every next step I was trying to take. My trust was nowhere to be found. 

I had to stop and have a little conversation to remind myself that I know how to do this. I even recognize the familiar process of doubt showing up. Keep going, I told myself. Keep going. You've got this.

Part of my conversation with myself today was about my lack of discipline. I berated myself for not showing up to the canvas on a regular basis, for not having a set in stone routine. "Are you an artist or not?"I asked myself. "Then do the work, dammit."

Yes. There is truth there. On one hand. On the other, I know what has been happening in my life this past year. Beginning with the death of my mother fifteen months ago, I have been in a cycle of losing, of letting go, of surrender, of transition, and of reframing my life. I have not neglected my creative soul but I have needed to not be in front of the canvas. I needed to not create a product, a painting. I need to be with myself and my process. 

Now I am ready. I am more than ready. It feels good to back there and even though I don't have a lot of thoughts around the purpose, around the why of what I am doing, I am showing up. I have all confidence that in this way, I will discover all the answers.