I’ve spent most of this afternoon reading The Blank Canvas by Anna Held Audette. Yes, I’ve been adding my own notes.
I do think that the previous owner of the book was on the same quest that I am, but perhaps didn’t have another creative outlet to parallel it to or wasn’t as mired in mind weeds as I am.
But I did have to put the book down when I got to a section where she’s talking about fantastical ideas and not to do them. On the one hand, she’s right. On another, I’ve recently been told the same thing about fantasy writing. And on the other (I’m a mother; yes, I have three hands), I don’t like this world and the fact that it doesn’t have magic and I want to escape often, so fantasy is my way to have a break from the harsh, cold, hardness of this doomed planet and the foolish idiots inhabiting it. Admit it. If you’ve been reading my stuff (my blog, my books, whatever), then you’re probably like-minded with me and you know it’s true because you feel it too.
I have a quote from Bob Ross hanging near my easel: That’s why I paint. It’s because I can create the kind of world that I want, and I can make this world as happy as I want it.
That, for me, is truth. When Audette was talking about the many ways to get unstuck and giving examples (all of which were good), none of them resonated with me because they all dealt with this world and people, places, and objects within.
Yes, I will go back to the book and continue reading. There is good advice. I do see many parallels, as I mentioned earlier, between what she’s saying as an artist to being a writer. I can pretty much line them out. In some ways, it frustrates me because I know that I should be able to take the principles I apply to my writing to my painting. I know this. I’ve even lined them out. This book pushes the comparisons even harder, to the point that I was laughing because they were so clear.
As I was having dinner tonight and watching The Magicians, the character, Quentin Coldwater, fixes a broken cup and says, “Like I helped it wake up to remember what it was before.” It took me right back to why I like fantastical, imaginative ideas as well as Bob Ross’ quote — it’s why I write fantasy and I know I must paint fantastical ideas: I want to wake up these ideas to remember what it was before. It’s incredible to “take nothing” — a piece of paper (even on a computer screen), a canvas, a lump of clay, a piece of yarn, whatever — and “make it into something.” There is no greater feeling than that transformation of energy.
Even Michelangelo said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” To me, that is a perfect example of waking it up to remember what it was before.
In the beginning of The Blank Canvas, Audette talks about individuality and originality and finding the work that is authentic to you, digging out the work that when you step back to look at it, you say, “Yep, that’s me!” She says the only way to do this is by doing the work. And doing it daily.
Okay, where have I said that before, that I needed to do things daily so that I didn’t slack off? Hmmm. Like doing this blog every day. Like writing every day. I really have learned that if I don’t do something every day, then I won’t do it. Or certainly not consistently.
So, it looks like I have two things that will help me break free from this depressive grip surrounding my painting: I must wake myself up to remember who I was before. While some might take this with a metaphysical view, I actually think for me this is a recovery of my child artist. (The more I dig into this whole issue, the more I see that I am also still hampering my child writer in some ways too, but I don’t think recovery there is nearly as brutal there as it is for my child artist.) My inner child artist was ridiculed and teased by people who should’ve known and acted better, as well as comparing herself to other people she saw as artistic. (My child writer had the opposite and was praised frequently, which in retrospect was also damaging and I’ve probably lost years because of this, but still less harmful than what my child artist went through.) The second thing I must do is make art a daily practice. I keep trying to make art be a 5 days a week kind of thing, which it never gets to be. I need to just make the time, like I do for my writing, my blogging, and cleaning the kitty litter. Sleeping too — I do make time to do that every day too!
That second item is going to be hard. But, I must do it. I just have to do it. I must forcibly wiggle it into my day. I’ve made a lot of adjustments, so I have to do this one too. I can do it.
It always seems so easy until I actually plan on starting. And I know that’s just a terror barrier which needs crossed.
Doesn’t make it any easier.
Until next time, may your journey go smoothly.