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.
From the Inside