For many years, I have found art to be magical – partly because of its beauty and partly because of my inability to draw anything more than a stick figure. Like many people, I am aware of what I can do and what I cannot. So, I can 100% state with full certainty that I do not have what it takes to produce a quality work of art.
Despite this inability, I am drawn to it. I have studied art in all its forms at university and I continue to expand my knowledge on the subject every day. I have written long essays about artworks and artists; I have conducted interviews with talented people; and I continue to write about the arts. However, writing is all that I would do.
Am I a fraud?
One day, I came across a quote that shifted my perspective: “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” These are the words of Henry David Thoreau, an American naturalist, essayist, poet, and philosopher who lived in the 19th century. For quite some time, these words stayed with me. I began to think, “Am I a fraud – writing about things I have never tried to do?”
Time passed. I forgot. I moved on.
T r y
A few months later, I found myself picking up a canvas, paint, and brushes. It was not Thoreau’s quote that drove me to the store on a random Saturday afternoon. It was the desire to do something new. More specifically, it was the desire to fail unapologetically. For several weeks prior to this moment, I had been preoccupied and overwhelmed with the unrealistic and completely unattainable goal of achieving perfection in all aspects of my life. (This, if you had not already guessed, can drive you mad.)
At the time, sitting down to do something I knew I could not do seemed like the only way to silence the brutal critic in my head. I opened my paint, separated my brushes, and set my canvas in front of me. I did not think what work of art I could produce simply because I knew there was none that I could.
Author Ray Bradbury was quoted saying, “Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”
And, like a 5-year-old aimlessly smearing paint, I did things. I painted and then I painted over what I had already painted. I disliked that too so, I repainted. And in this way, I kept going and I kept failing until I no longer felt like a failure.
When I sat down to paint, I had no set intention but to find a way of hitting pause; to lose myself in colours; to try something new. When I stood up two days later, I found the intention that I did not even know was there.
“A work is finished when an artist realizes his intensions” ― Rembrandt
To me, this meant finding a way to let go of the need to control that which is out of my control; to learn how to trust the process; to look failure in the eyes and shrug, knowing it is not the end of the world.