I love the way the brush feels in my hand, smooth, steady. Slight pressure and the stroke thickens, leaving a dark line. A slight flick of my wrist and the slow caress turns light and wavy on the sturdy paper. Suddenly there is something where there was nothing, a small outline of shadow appearing. The tip of the brush dips into water, ripples magnifying, small waves against the lip of the jar. Tiny boats of color swirl on the surface before diving deep and wildly into the depths, mixing to form an ominous hue.
Painting is anything but calm. On the surface, the moment is hushed and the procedure slow, the repetitive movements slowly lulling my mind into oblivion. Inside every dappled brushstroke is a poem, an aching thought emerging in a million little details that you didn’t even know was there. There is a slow beauty upon looking at a watercolor painting, imagining the artist bent over, lost in each breathtaking moment, hand purposefully nudging paint across canvas, slowly straightening to view the finished piece.
You see the whole picture with watercolor. Mistakes aren’t hidden, you can’t add copious amounts of paint to cover a silly stroke; water blends where it goes, the real artist at work.
It is fundamentally terrifying for me to paint. But not because I’m afraid to paint. I’m more afraid of what I’ll discover about myself. Painting isn’t simply typing words on a screen that can easily be erased. The picture always tells me more about myself then I knew, there once I look up from the work. When my mind isn’t able to focus, and the elements are splayed unevenly across the page. Caught up in my thoughts, too much water on my brush invading the paper, running off the edge. Moments spent trying to paint the perfect image only to realize the mess I’ve made trying to turn myself into someone else. The days when I’m able to sit down and let myself flow out onto the canvas are the most thrilling and petrifying.
Suddenly, there I am. No backspace to hit, no “cancel.” Creating is one of the most vulnerable expressions we have at our fingertips. Our inner critic comes out to play when we have laid ourselves bare – given to the world something new, a tiny peek at our souls. I’ll freeze, wondering if I’ve given too much of my self, left myself open to attack. Even though most of my paintings collect dust in storage or hang on family members worn walls, my default is to walk past the studio door, let the paints slowly dry in their shallow cups. I’d rather not attempt in case I show too much, care too much, or they care too little.
That is probably where most of stay – worried about the outcome, what those darn people will think of us, our visions wilting behind closed doors like a forgotten vase of flowers. The truth is, we should be able to create solely for our own enjoyment. Whether the world ever sees our creations shouldn’t be the bar by which we measure our worth. The importance is that we start, not that we perfect. Think of what might change in your life if you start defining Success as trying rather than a specific, culturally-driven result.
If we let ourselves value what we do, the purity that comes from within us, we’ll be able to let those nagging voices of doubt slowly fade into the background. We can begin to embrace what our creativity says about us, more eager than afraid to see what lies beneath the surface.
“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” ~E. E. Cummings
And I never feel so alive as when I’ve finished; the brushes, spent soldiers, lined up next to the sink to be washed.