Sometimes my paintings intimidate me. Not at first usually, but when I reach a point closer to the end of finishing a piece I’ve begun and it’s in that stage of “the basics have been laid out, the work has begun, and all that’s left to do is focus on the details and then let it be“, I’m scared. Especially with portraits- my primary source of commission work and also my primary source of both anxiety and pride all mixed together into one tiny little 115 lb package. And I think it’s obvious why… those last two steps of work are very intimidating steps if you think about it. You’re needing to finally focus on the details, which are the parts of the painting that people will see and possibly focus on themselves when they look at it, including and especially the lovely person who requested the commission in the first place. See, laying down the basics has an array of benefits. You can be more broad with your strokes, you can take a more casual approach. After all, for the most part those basics will be painted over, and if they are not planned to be, they certainly have the possibility to be if needed. But once you’re laying the final details and bringing the image together, there’s little room for error unless you want to spend an eternity working on the same nearly finished piece, going over and over the same final details… which actually wouldn’t be the craziest thing in the world. Artists do that type of thing all the time. They leave work unfinished, and sometimes they finish it only to destroy it before it ever sees the light of day. Some people never get to that last scary point in completion of “let it be”. I guess we all have our own approach…
But mine is completion.
Mine is sharing.
Because I don’t do this for myself. I do this for others… well, essentially, I do it for God.
I paint to glorify God using one of the many gifts and talents that he has so generously blessed me with, because I believe that when he blesses us with anything, it’s not for us to take for granted and keep hidden from the world. I believe that he gives us each blessings for a reason, and that is to use them in sharing yourself and your heart, and in turn his light within you, with others.
But that’s another topic for another time. Today, I’m tackling my specific battle with paint completion and quite simply put: I paint to share.
I want my work to see the light of day… not only do I want it to see the light of day, but I want it to reach other people, inspire them, and make them smile. And I’m sure that having such high hopes for the end result of my work can only be contributing to the anxiety that comes with working toward completion, but the irony of it is that the exact cause of my anxiety is also the creator of a beautiful outcome that makes it all worth while, which is the absolute, unmistakable, unmeasurable amount of pride in myself and in my work that I have once I push through that intimidation, finish a piece of work, and
realize that it was nothing to fear in the first place. It’s almost like I’m living little mini life lessons through each of my pieces. And I think we all want to share our wisdom and inspiration of life once we’ve overcome an important obstacle, because we’re proud and we hope that our sharing will help others who might have a similar experience, so who knows… maybe a small amount of my desire to share art with others stems from that type of a mentality. I do learn a world of lessons in each piece that I work on and I’m becoming more aware of the ways in which I carry those lessons into my everyday life.
For example, I don’t believe that mistakes exist. You can either step away from a “mistake” and learn to love its unexpected but wonderful contribution to a beautiful masterpiece when you come back to it, or you have more insight as to how you can build upon/paint over the dried paint when you return, and it at that point is no longer a mistake, but has become a building block. I see that concept playing out in life all the time.
I also have come to appreciate the cliche of the “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” concept with much more passion than I used to. I think the fact that it is a cliche and is a lesson taught by so many for so long now that we tend to brush it off with a “yeahhhh, yeah, yeah” kind of attitude. But it’s cliche for a reason… it’s cliche because it’s true, and because it’s significant. We all have our own idea of what is beautiful and that’s okay. The world would be so boring if we all appreciated the same exact type of beauty, and even worse- if we acquired it. Just as each piece of art is different and is found to be beautiful by someone in some way, the world and all that it has to offer (including and especially each person) is so different in so many ways… even every breath-taking sunset is different, each one speaking to each person in a different way- some more than others. It’s all a matter of perspective. And when you realize that, you realize that judgement is one of the biggest wastes of time that we can engage in. When you realize that there’s no right or wrong to something, you realize that the time you spend trying to figure out what’s right or wrong within it is quite literally a waste of energy. What’s worth the effort is taking the time to appreciate your own perspective as well as to respect the perspective of others and appreciate the beauty that that difference offers to the world.
But I truly believe that the lesson that I personally value most from my work, probably because of it’s more general value of relate-ability to day-to-day as well as life-long experiences, is the lesson of completion. That as intimidating as a piece of work can be, the truth is that we are typically more capable of not only completing that piece, but of completing it well and beautifully, than we ever really give ourselves credit for. I’ve done numerous pieces, many of which have been portraits, and I continue to receive positive feedback and additional commissions, yet I also continue to allow doubt to creep into my mind each time I reach this pivotal point in my creation. Why? Why do we do this to ourselves? It is through our own mind and our own self doubt that we limit ourselves from an endless amount of potential that is ours if we simply allow ourselves to have it.
I think the funniest part about all of this is that even despite those of us who know this lesson knowing it well, we still allow it to come back into our minds every now and then. And that’s actually totally okay. Why? Because we’re human. Plain and simple. It happens. It’d be weird if it didn’t. And the important thing is that we practice being aware of and pushing through it each and every time, because each and every time we do, we grow stronger. That’s what makes it not only “okay”, but a true blessing. Struggles are blessings too you know. Not only do we grow stronger from them, but we have another piece (experience) under our belts that we can share in our portfolios (lives) proudly.
SO. Without further ado, I’mma go tackle this piece and get it under my belt before the end of the day… I refuse to be stuck in this painting limbo with you, portrait piece!
Cue the Spotify… )