Fear, Fate, & Painting On Canvas
Published on August 16, 2019
A huge stack of unused canvases have taken up precious real estate in my studio storage for over five years now. Don’t let their quiet demeanor fool you, though; these tall, slender beauties are quite the pain in the ass. They’re always taking up space when I need to store finished work, and—without fail—I have to move them out of the room and then back in again every time I’m hunting for a buried art supply. Total divas.
The worst, though, is their lingering reminder of that body of paintings I’m just too damn scared to create.
Last New Year’s Eve, feeling a bit feisty, I swore to the painting gods that this would be the year. I would transform those pristine white surfaces into a gorgeous body of paintings that would make every one of my cells sizzle and pump my heart up like a big giant float at the Macy’s parade.
No pressure, right?
Instead of passionate paint flinging, however, what quickly unfolded were months of sketching ideas, journaling about them heroically in my studio log, and basically creating more and more resistance around getting started.
It wasn’t until mid-May, during the Painting The Feminine Spring session, when the inspiration finally hit and a crack appeared in my resistance.
I spent almost an entire live call discussing with my students their fears around painting on canvas. We covered everything from seeing a new canvas as too precious to risk ruining, to how using canvas feels like something only “real artists” get to do.
Sure, I understand how their fears feel warranted. Canvas comes with a pretty lofty legacy. The great Renaissance masters painted on this stuff and then there’s all those beautiful photos of Picasso in his studio with stacks of canvases everywhere. It’s easy to be intimidated.
Though it wasn’t these types of fears my stack of aging canvases was bringing up for me. It was the body of work calling me forward that kept me at bay. I knew intuitively that this body of work would require me to dig deeper than ever before.
Let’s face it, painting is hard work, and sometimes the actual act itself takes loads and loads of courage when we place so many expectations on it. That’s why the mind is so stinking clever at coming up with petty fears to distract us. It will do anything to keep us safe and tucked in our comfort zones, free from possible disappointment, struggle or embarrassment.
I purchased those canvases years ago with the single intention to create a body of work that for me, truly embodies Painting the Feminine. Over the years, I’d finished three or four of them, but nothing ever felt right, so dust bunnies accumulated on the rest of those blank canvases, and I came up with a laundry list of excuses to avoid them.
But that evening, after our Painting the Feminine live discussion, something shifted. Not only could I see in my mind’s eye exactly what these paintings needed to be, I could feel their presence standing there, right next to me. Soon after we finished, I picked up an HB pencil and started drawing, as a river of emotion poured out of me.
Many of the women I meet at my workshops and retreats often put their hands in mine and whisper that it took them years to muster the courage to finally attend. “Why?” I always ask them, knowing that no matter who the woman is, her answer tends to have the same flavor of fear. The fear of not being good enough or the fear of not fitting in or the fear that they didn’t possess the talent/skill/experience to show up at an artist workshop/retreat is what keeps my students from from saying “Yes” sooner.
Then, with the greatest of love in my heart, my response is always of the same flavor, too. I squeeze their hands tighter as I pull them in closer and affirm that their timing was absolutely perfect. I assure them that they couldn’t have picked a better time to be there; that it was their fear, as much as fate, that paved their path here.
So you see, this is why I’m not surprised that after five years, I finally gained the courage to create that body of artwork my Soul has so longed to express. It took both fear and fate to lead me here. Making art is not a linear game.
This is also why—after six years now—I keep offering the Painting the Feminine eCourse each Spring and Fall. I know in my heart-of-hearts there are women still making their way here.
So today will you join me in honoring all the mysterious ways fear and fate paves our artist paths? Let’s both take a moment to notice how a slight shift in perspective, the support of kindred spirits, or simply the passing of a time can soften our relationship with fear and together—let’s pinky swear—that we’ll trust everything is always flowing at the most perfect of pace, even when fear makes us believe we are stuck at a stand still.
Right now you are exactly the artist you are here to be. Relish in it.
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