I went to a painting class where the instructor came in and gave us each a blank canvas, and told us to paint whatever we wanted. If this was at any time in the past, I would have been terrified, unsure of what to paint. Most likely I would have ended up making a joke of it, or painting something I had seen elsewhere, or something safe. Oddly, I felt comfortable – and also uncomfortable at the same time. I felt comfortable in my discomfort, is the more accurate way to describe the feeling.
I was ready. I had no idea what I wanted to paint or really how it might turn out but I knew that I just needed to start. So, I did. As soon as brush touched canvas, I felt myself get immediately self conscious. Wondering if others around me saw what I was painting since I was one of the first few to start in on the task. I could feel myself shrinking back slightly, and I could feel myself starting to go back to the old ways – of doing something I had seen elsewhere, trying to copy cat someone or something in my head, from memory.
So, as you may have guessed – it started out looking half decent. It wasn’t bad, everything looked nice. I reached a point where I felt comfortable. It felt like sort of a finished piece. Not quite, but close enough. And it would be safer to stop than to continue. I remember now where I pulled my inspiration from – of course, a painting my sister had done. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I do now as I write this. I pulled from there and a bit from a common zen symbol of circles. The NY Open Center, more specifically. A circle that is not quite closed. Those zen brush strokes are a thing of beautiful serenity. I wish I could be that.
Well, I could have stopped. And then I just continued forward in typical fashion. I started filling it in, and stopped letting it flow out of me and started pushing it out. Of course, that is the surefire way to ruin something. Movement without action, as we know, should never be done. But I did.
I painted and with each brushstroke, I felt and knew inside I was ruining it one harsh line at a time but I couldn’t bail now. So I continued, with faint hopes that I could salvage it. But then, as I continued forward, and at the moment that I stopped to take a look at what I had and was doing – I laughed inside, realizing I was really just creating a representation of life. Or, my life anyway. Of course, all of art is interpretation and so no matter what I had done, I would have crafted a great narrative to go along with it.
In this case, I saw that I was creating something beautiful, and that evening I felt that the symbolism was that – as I do in my life – I continued on to ruin it as well. Now, as I write this, after having shared the painting with my therapist earlier this evening and feeling a bit more introspective, I wonder whether it was truly “ruining” the painting or making it more my own? It was ruining the version I created first that was not me at all, but rather, pieces of others cobbled together and tied up in a nice package.
I am not a nice little package and I’m not sure if I would ever be or ever want to be. My beauty lies in the mess. And the more I look at this, I begin to see the beauty in the scribble scrabble, if only because I know exactly what each harsh line represented to me.
And I’ll share it with you, only because I feel like being vulnerable right now. To me, each line represented my defense mechanisms. My way of protecting myself against the world. I am, externally, just a box of sharp objects. Sharp objects that are there to protect the softest of insides.
And truly, this piece would not be an authentic painting by me if it didn’t have a black hole of complete confusion somewhere on there. Where I tried to create something, and then panicked, and kept at it until I finally let it go as a grey green blob of nothingness.