It happens all the time. I'm sitting with my pencil to the page and a subject in front of me that's begging to be captured. There I am, frozen, horrified at myself for what I've gotten down on the page while also horrified that I can't continue. All the while my inner critic is screaming very compelling arguments at me. Hours go by.
Nothing looks right, nothing feels right, nothing matches the dream that I set out to capture. I sit there, my mind filled with the work of the artists I most admire, a carefully curated list, unattainable in their projected perfection. At last I give up, dump out the muddy water, shut my notebook with a snap and a sigh, and walk away defeated.
Funny thing is, more often than not, I get up the courage to look at the mess the following day and discover something beautiful -- a perfectly expressed shadow, an accidental texture, a provocative tone. Sometimes I still find a disappointing mess. Either way, my personal battle feels childish and ultimately meaningless. I continue to sit, crushed by the few exacting standards I demand of myself.
And then I walk into a museum.
It's a riot of color and texture with as many styles as there are artists. Suddenly the world is brim-filled with thousands of ways to express beauty rather than constricted by a few ways to do something correctly.
My world flips upside down as I realize that my work as an artist is not to re-create new versions of another artist's work, even when that work tugs and calls at my soul. My work is more difficult to define, more difficult to listen for. Instead of listening to that siren call, I have to sit quietly and learn what my fingers are trying to say. And then I have to let them practice saying it. And that means messes. It means accidents. It means I no longer have control.
That is frightening but it sounds like an awfully grand adventure.
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