Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Yesterday was one of those days that just kicks your ass. Most of every part of yesterday was hard. I have no idea why. I woke up in a bad mood at 5 a.m, forced myself to my studio, only to totally freak out at a huge painting I am working on. After a few hours of wrestling with it, I went home for lunch and decided the only thing to be done was to take a nap.
After more sleeping than I would like to admit to, I drug myself back to my studio and began a somewhat trippy painting session that involved bizarre lighting and too much Peter Gabriel. By the end of a few hours, I thought I had pulled myself out of the rut. With a better attitude, I left for dinner, only to come back and wipe out my painting once again before midnight.
Like I said, yesterday was rough.

So why do I write this? No, I don't believe the blogisphere is a place for self pity. I'm writing about it because yesterday was a very unifying day. Not only was I miserable and unable to get to my "zen" place, but I was even kind of mad at the thought of trying to be zen-like. I just wanted to curl up in a ball and close the lights. Enough of this nonsense about finding the moment and breathing in kindness to myself and the world. I wanted mac and cheese, a bad romantic comedy, and to forget the word PAINTING entirely.

So there.

I got home last night, in tears, thinking the world would end because I couldn't paint, couldn't express, didn't even know WHAT I was trying to paint. "Who the hell am I to teach people to paint", I said to myself. I am a liar and a fake, and it will all come tumbling down on me.

So I was in a pretty fear-based space, if you can't tell already.
I woke up again this morning, pissed at yesterday, not taking note of the sunrise, the dew on the grass, the smell of the coffee. All I could sit with for the first hour of today was how much I suck at all of this.

I don't know if this sounds familiar to any of you. I imagine it does, but about different things.

See, when I take a student on, I ask them to have a few things. I ask them to work on a vision book. This is a binder or desktop folder with images of everything that inspires them. I also ask them to write down what they want their work to be about, and what their fears are. I got this idea from one of my students, Meg, who is a life coach. It's sort of a joke that I teach her, since she is usually the one leading me. Either way, she taught me something very very useful.

We all go through something like a butterfly cycle. The first part of the circle is a catalytic event. Something happens in you ( or outside of you) to make you move. You want to create, you want to write, you want to act, you want to leave. The next part is the big dreaming, when you plan and scheme. This is the exciting part, and it is the part that is the "this is what I am about" . You want to be about creativity, about truth, about love, about uprighted-ness. Then comes the next part..FEAR.... "What if I can't do this?" "Who am I kidding, I can't do this at my age.." "I will be found out" "People will turn their back on me" and so on. Then, after a chunk of time, you can't stay here. By the law of survival, you begin to try. You make the big movement involved. Maybe you go back to school. Maybe you take a yoga class. Maybe you get a studio. Whatever it is, this phase is the spot where you take big actions. Then, you move on to baby steps. You plug away at what you want. You work every single day towards it. You are the busy worker.

And then BOOM! Some event happens, and you go through the entire cycle again, but for some different reason.

So I guess I was in the fear "I can't do this" stage yesterday. And luckily, by sheer nature and grace, today I am in the next phase. Sometimes you go through this cycle ten times in one day. Sometimes it can take years.
You can see why a vision book would help. When you are in fear mode, you have something to go to that is your rock. Who are you? What are you about? What qualities do you want more of in your life? What good things do you give? What would you like people to say about you (and your work) when you die? What do you pride yourself in? Maybe you have something about your beliefs here.
It's funny. I think teaching has been given to me in this time in my life so that I can be taught. I watch students of all ages go through this cycle about everything from using paint instead of charcoal to entering artwork in a show. I walk with them, never saying I know where they are or even how to get out of it. I just watch and walk next to them. And somehow, they always survive.
So why, in times like yesterday, is it so hard to remember that I go through the same thing? I think, and I definitely don't know, but because suffering and fear are the things that unify us as humans. We all feel pain. All of us have had a moment when we didn't know if we could make it through. That is the moment that binds us. That is what connects me with a homeless person, with a millionaire, with a foreigner. It's the "Oh shit" moment. To think we are the only ones having a moment like that is to completely deny our fellow humans. Separate, in my opinion, is tragic. It is also trying to move through a natural cycle that we are all involved in. We hate pain. We hate discomfort. And yet, we have all got it. It is what makes us very un-different from our neighbors.
So I thought about that this morning. Who am I kidding to be the only person who thinks they can't paint? I get paid 4 times a week by people who think the same thing. I'm no different, and for this I am very thankful. Baby steps are the course of action for me today. No big paintings, no big, dramatic, life-as-we-know-it will end sort of tactics. Today is baby steps. Clean my studio to get ready to move. Finish some small commissions. Write my blog. Call my parents. You know, small stuff. I'm sure next week I will have some big episode again.


1 comment:

  1. The very day you posted this (and I read it), I received the book "Art & Fear" by Bayles and Orland in the mail, because I'm all too familiar with the things you're describing in your post, and thought it might not hurt to give the book a shot. I think it's great and important that artists share their thoughts about this journey, and what they encounter on it, be it in a book like that or a blog post. At least to me it's always helpful, so thanks for the post...and it didn't sound at all like self-pity ;) Hope the rest of your week was/is better...