I’ve been reading some motivational books recently—more specifically listening to audiobooks during my ungodly commute. Jen Sincero is amazing to listen to; I recommend You Are a Badass to anybody who hasn’t read it. No seriously, go get it. I’ll wait…
Something that she (and others) talk about is getting out of your comfort zone. If you want a life you’ve never had before, you’ll have to do things you’ve never done before. And a lot of those things will be different enough to be very uncomfortable. This is just what i need to hear regularly to reinforce the decision I made a few years ago to be a writer. I allow myself be talked out of it regularly, even though nobody is trying to discourage me. I just give up on myself; it’s too much work, or I’m not as talented as real writers, or they’ll just look at me as if I’m cute for trying. Or, I don’t have a degree, that’s a good one to fall back on. Listening to these motivational materials is so effective to help us keep momentum when the doubts attack.
Aside from writing, my partner has challenged me, himself and another friend of ours to have 5 paintings done by mid-December. Not a problem, I thought as I penciled in time on my calendar. We’ve been painting with each other for over a year and we’re in the flow. So I thought.
Somehow this is more real. This time I have an idea that I’m really excited about. I mean, this has potential and I can’t wait to see the series up and in person. Before that, though, i have to paint it, which is what I began to do yesterday. I decided to get in the studio and get going.
First, I had to have coffee. Then, I needed a nap. I was thinking about my wonderful ideas and how I would execute them. Which made me terrified. Like, I-couldn’t-get-out-of-bed terrified. This is irrational because, as I’ve said, we’ve been painting together for a while. Our friend is out of town, and Partner was at work. It was just going to be me painting in peaceful solitude with my own music playing and cats keeping me company. So, I breathed and got out of bed to get to work.
First I was angry at everybody. Then, I had to find a reason to be angry at them, which wasn’t all that difficult. Why did you stack stuff on top of my canvas? Now it’s all warped. So, I got a new canvass out. Who took my ruler! How am I supposed to draw a straight line without a ruler. And my paint brushes; where are they!? Doesn’t anybody around here respect my stuff?! I’m never painting in this studio again. I will find someplace by myself to paint. WHY DOES EVERYBODY HATE ME? I’M NEVER TALKING TO ANYBODY EVER AGAIN EVER!
The canvas can be fixed by getting it wet; it should tighten up again. Oh, and the paint brushes were neatly standing in a container designed specifically to hold paint brushes.
I approached the canvas. This was really really frightening. I’ve been slapping paint on things pretty regularly for over a year, but this… this was a brilliant idea that I love and that I think has true potential. If I messed this up I’m messing up my dream. I thought about taking another nap right at this point. Tomorrow is a good day to start painting.
Breathe. Get back to work.
I have a fairly good eye for sketching, but that part of my mind was blinded. So, after a few pencil lines that I didn’t like were on the canvas, I sat down and looked at the picture I was working from. I thought back to high school when we would put a grid over a picture, then make a grid on our drawing paper and break it down that way. It’s like the drawing grids in the Dell Variety Puzzle magazine; you don’t know what you’re drawing; you’re just making each square in the grid look like it does in the guide, and when it’s filled in you see you’ve drawn a turtle, or a person riding a bike. If you had known you were drawing a person, your left brain would have kicked in and messed it up trying to make it look like a person. But, doing it square by square, your right brain can just do space relationships.
I pulled up my picture on the computer again, lightened it, overlay a grid and printed it. Then, I lightly sketched a larger grid on my canvass. Panic receded and a peace fell over me as I made lines I was drawing in each square match the each individual square in the reference picture. I threw my left brain off course even more by working on non-adjacent sections. I’d do the top middle, then go down to the bottom left, just making the lines match. Partner came in at some point and aimed a light at my canvas, which helped immensely. (Don’t tell him about my fit earlier.) (But seriously, this is why we need coaches, editors and people with other perspectives in our lives.)
I stepped back, and I liked what I saw. The sketch was coming along to be what I wanted. It needed something else that I couldn’t put my finger on, so I stopped. I came inside and began writing again. Honestly, after all that I did need a nap. While lying down with my cats I got a nudge from inside saying that I didn’t have to stay 100% faithful to the reference picture. I listened, and the feeling inside me said I could move the angles of a couple of straight lines in order to make the perspective more dramatic. I feel like that’s going to improve it greatly, and I’m glad I didn’t begin painting right away.
Jen did warn that if we weren’t 100% committed to make a change—like become a visual artist no matter what—then as soon as things got tough we would give up. Nothing was even all that difficult and I was ready to quit and take a nap. This is, if I’m not mistaken, when I usually give up. So, I will persevere. I’ve done it before when I had decided I would do something. In my early 20’s I learned Spanish in spite of things being thrown in my way, thinks like not speaking Spanish, some people making fun of me, or scorning me, or simply my being really really bad at it and clumsy. I thought I was giving up a few times, but before I even properly quit trying, I was listening to Spanish music again trying to make out the lyrics. This just shows that I CAN do these things; I just have to WANT to do them, and DECIDE to do them.
Thank you for sharing this meltdown with me. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have.