08 Jan Art begins with resistance but is only finished by pushing through
Art begins with resistance – at the point where resistance is overcome. No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor. ~Andre Gide
If you have ever tried to get back into any kind of art – writing, music lessons, painting, origami – you may have found yourself experiencing some resistance. You made the decision to start doing this thing, or to resume doing it after some time away, but when you sit down, every fiber in your body starts to bring up reasons why this is not a good idea.
You may even power past this chatter and start doing the practice, the folding, the first strokes, but as soon as you make a misstep, your inner critic leaps up and prances around saying, “I told you so!” I know this can be intensely frustrating, and for too long I listened to that inner critic and stopped doing those things I suspect would have enriched my life and given me pleasure.
Now I’m older, and better aware of that chattering voice and its power to stop me from trying things. I will probably never be a fluent French speaker or brilliant pianist thanks to giving in to the resistance, but I have finally learned to push through and ignore the chatter. My work may often look as though a five year old helped me, but it is only by pushing through and trying different things that I stand any hope of improving my skills.
My training as a teacher has been helpful. I can go to the simplest levels of a skill and play in the shallow waters, get to feel how paint moves, which brushes are best for which strokes – as I did as a child. I know that I don’t have to stay here for ever, but know that while playing where it is easy to create things, it will help me get past my resistance. When the chatter starts up again, I can point to the things I am proud to have created.
I can also see the progress I have made over time. I know that if I mess up, paper can be thrown away – there are no penalties for experimenting and making something that is ugly. On the other side of that coin, I can play with the watercolors and see how beautifully they can flow into one another, how I can add layers of color and make areas darken and recede. In allowing myself to play, I am building my skills to the point where I can perhaps create something others would consider to be art.
It is these discoveries that make it possible to bring lessons to others who have been swayed away from picking up a paintbrush – or even scissors and a glue stick. While the skills I teach are easy and don’t require a huge leap to accomplish, as the peacefulness of being busy takes over, the work develops, confidence grows and something appealing begins to emerge. The first few works may not feel like art, but as the skills build on one another, new options emerge for adding to a work, new techniques can be developed by merging multiple ideas.
My goal for these journal pages is to provide re-entry tasks that can be accomplished without getting the inner critic all heated up and shouting. If he thinks you are just drawing rings around a tape reel, he’ll stay asleep. Sneak under the radar and add paint and crayon to the page and let yourself go. By the time your inner critic wakens you will have spent a wonderful hour or more becoming increasingly engrossed in choosing the next color, the next squiggles to add to that yellow area, and you’ll have run out of space.
So go ahead. Borrow or buy kid’s art supplies to help confuse your inner critic. Just open up the packages and let yourself play – push past that resistance and get to the art!