When I was starting to take art lessons in college, I was intensely frightened. I saw the blank paper as a test I was bound to fail. The test involved me having to look at something outside of me and then make my paper look like that thing - and I believed I could not do this.
In truth, I have always been terrified of this test in more ways than just having to do with drawing. I have, for a very long time, been frightened by the idea that there is a right way out there, a realistic way, a way everyone agrees is good and right and that I am to either be it, draw it, or at the very least, work very hard to achieve it.
This thought is why, when I went to my first life drawing class, my hand shook and I sweated in ways new to me. It is why I felt, with every move of my charcoal across the paper, I was failing, and why, in the end, I quit that class (though I did return to studying studio art later).
It was the idea I was to copy what was out there that was so problematic for me. In a broader context, I think, for many of us, this idea is painful and throws a wrench in tuning in to our true selves and what we most wish to offer the world. Even amongst the realistic artists of the world, each still translates the vase, the model, or the landscape differently. One truly cannot copy anything; one always only expresses. But we certainly can run interference between who we actually are and what we offer with erroneous ideas of what has value and what does not, what is right, true, and "real", and what is not.
If I could go back in time and talk to that panicked self, I would tell her first to breathe. And after she had balked at the simplicity and uselessness of that advice, I would say she need not concern herself with copying anything, that it is her connection to life that is of paramount importance. It is her connection to life, not her copying of its various forms, that will guide her hand and give her a new form that truly contributes to the whole and fuels others' connection, appreciation, and love of life. And that is no test she can pass or fail, that is as it already is and that is true for everyone.
In my journal writing I strive to step outside my usual way of thinking about my challenges and open to another perspective in order to get the bigger picture. So, often, I write from this perspective in order to coach myself when I need it. This is a condensed bit of that guidance, from several years ago, I came across today and still resonates with me.
"Your World is So Waiting for You"
The world you want is waiting for you - the world you dream of and want to be a part of - not some cruel, scary dog-eat-dog world. It is the world you wish to create for yourself. That is the world waiting. That world loves you and when you acknowledge this, you are loving life.
Today when you pass something you hate, send love rather than resistance, and you will place yourself in the middle of a great cloud parting at that moment . You do not wait to bandage a bleeding wound. This is how quickly we ask you to move to act internally. We ask you to understand that when you feel pain or discomfort, anger, frustration etc. a cut has opened and you are losing blood = joy. And you don't want to weaken yourself by waiting too long to stop the bleeding. You get the bandage and work to help stop the loss now.
This is what we want for you: to tend to the loss of Joy now - loss of connection to life now. Don't stand around complaining about it - act- care for it. Act with love, to care for the wound. Right away. When you do - the loss stops and you do not become weakened by the experience, nor exhausted by it.
This is the I love you. Tend it. And when you do? The "loss" stops - the sense of despair, of losing connection (=joy) with life and meaning - stops. It has to because you're back in touch. It is life giving.
From the Inside