I love art supplies! I am lured by the endless creative possibilities that lie within the soft, unstained paintbrush and the crisp, clean, blank canvas. Oh what potential these items have to be the tools of a great work of art! When I am in an art supply store, I become overtaken by the call of the “art supply sirens”. They tell me stories of the great masterpieces I will produce. So eventually, I end up purchasing the items and bringing them home inspired to make art.
You would think that this spiritual experience would cause me to dive right in and start painting with reckless abandon. However, strangely, the opposite is true. Once I get home, a type of creative paralysis sets in. Excuses arise. “ I should really wait and set aside a nice block of time to paint.” or “Right now I have other things to do.” Or “This is such a great expensive brush, I don’t want to risk using it just yet until I’m working on a serious painting.” Or, “this canvas cost so much and I want to make sure I paint something worthwhile on it.”
Ten years ago I bought a piece of paper for ten dollars. My plan was to make a handmade book. It is still lying unused in my studio because I don’t want to ruin it. I am going to guess that I am not alone in this practice. We all have great creative aspirations, but because we are afraid of failure, we do nothing.
In contrast, there is another interesting behavior I’ve noticed. When I have a couple minutes, I’ll grab an envelope, or a sticky note or some half discarded piece of paper and start to draw. These little drawings are spontaneous and void of laborious concept development. They’re just meaningless drawings. I know of others who practice this same behavior. Check your desk, you’ll probably find some of your own creations lying around.
So why can we create so easily and effortlessly on a discarded napkin and freak out in front of a ten dollar piece of paper? I believe it’s because we don’t value or trust our own creative instincts. We think that if the work can’t be perfect, it shouldn’t be done at all. I believe it’s important to give yourself credit as being an artist. That means embracing the process. All work has value because, it was made by you. Whether or not it’s good, or validated by others is not the point. Perfectionism is a deadly poison that will paralyze you.
We’ve done workshops at Art Village called Life Paint and Passion where we invite people to come in and paint spontaneously. We have large pieces of paper, nice brushes, and paint in all kinds of colors. I love these workshops because for two hours, you just stand in front of an easel and paint whatever feels good in the moment. It’s all about the process. Nobody cares what the end result is. The workshop is basically doing what you do unconsciously when you doodle, but on a larger scale and in color.
The thing that is intriguing to me is that many of these free expression pieces are really quite nice. They have a freshness to them that can be lacking in the over thought projects. But more importantly than how they look, is the fact that, work was actually made.
I’m going to encourage you to get out those sleeping art supplies, yes the good ones and make some art. Approach it like you would the doodle. There is no penalty for a wrong move. There is no judge. This is for you. You may find a cathartic release as you allow yourself to journey down the path of spontaneous expression. Art Saves Lives!