My house reeks.
This afternoon, after church, I went into the studio. Instead of putting out water and my watercolors, I pulled out a set of oil paints my mother had given me a while back, opened them up, poured some paint thinner into a small bowl, then gathered up some small canvas boards I had bought some time ago, and began to paint.
Oil is new to me. Everything about it, I learned today, is different. Colors that have names I am familiar with in watercolor, have a different vibrancy and tone. Getting the colors I want is, for now at least, hard. Oil paint has texture and you have to figure that texture into what you are painting in a way you don’t with watercolors, which seeps into the paper. Oil paint catches light in a way watercolor does not The list of differences go one and on.
I have avoided oil, the same way I avoided painting in the first place, and the same way I have avoided many things in my life. Not out of abject fear as much as out of a comfort I did not want to disrupt. I like to be good at what I do. And starting something new, starting a new relationship, starting a new job….. is scary because guess what? I’m not going to be very good at it for a while.
And in that time of learning, I am vulnerable. More vulnerable than usual.
And yet…. and yet….. I have a long history of diving into things I had no business doing, no background, very little preparation. My career in broadcast engineering, now thirty years in the making, makes no sense for a man with an english degree a MA in Creative Writing and a Doctorate of Divinity. For years I directed a music group, when I couldn’t read a note of music. (Something I finally remedied years later). I have been a manger, a professional creative, marketed to national and international markets, preached….. and painted.
Here’s my secret – each one of these ventures scared me to death when I started. EVERY one of them. I was sure I was an idiot for thinking I could, a fool for thinking my vision and hard work (because I am a hard worker) could overcome my sheer lack of background. I was sure I’d fail.
But I did it anyway. And here’s what I learned – vision and hard work DOES trump experience. Not right away of course. You might do pretty poory at first. Heaven knows I’ve done a lot of stuff really, really, really badly.
That’s OK. The world will forgive mistakes. More than we realize. We really don’t need to fear thinking big as much as we think we do. What the world doesn’t forgive, is doing nothing. Doing nothing is rewarded with…. nothing.
Give it a go. Go ahead. You might be surprised.
I took up television technology because the guy who did it at the college I was attending left with no notice, and I thought it would be fun to play with the equipment. Thirty some odd years later I am still in the industry and I have had the fun and privilege of being part of some of the ground breaking projects in the TV industry. I took up poetry because my girlfriend was taking a poetry writing course and I thought it would be fun to take a course with her. It was, but forty years later, poetry is one of the grounding activities is my life and I hear from people who I have touched all the time, making it doubly rewarding. And now, less than three years into painting, I have an audience, sell the occasional piece, done gallery showings… and discovered the joy of creating visual poems.
And each one scared me to death to start.
Don’t get me wrong. Let me remind you – I have NOT succeeded in everything I have tried. I have failed miserably more than once. And despite my fears…. I am still here. I don’t like failing. No one does, But I am here.
And the journey! The thrill of leaping into the unknown. The excitement of learning. The chance to live like a child again, where life is one big experiment where the result is less important than just seeing what will happen. The joy of discovery of what I really can do, instead of imagining or worse, fearing, what I can’t do. The growth.
Each time I try, even when I fail at first, it becomes a little easier to jump off the cliff the next time. and the learning curve gets less and less with each new adventure. And each time I take a deep breath and jump, my fear is less, and my sense of adventure grows, I get t think of what MIGHT come of it, of the joy I might find in it, succeeding or failing.
That’s the lesson I have learned. Life is full of possibilities. Far more than we give it credit for. Far more than we think we are capable of.
My house still reeks, particularly the studio. I am sure I did some things wrong. Hell, I probably did most of it wrong. But, I had so much fun today. I was like a kid, experimenting. I learned so much about oil paint – way more in four hours of doing than I would have ever learned in four hours of reading or even a class. I like the three paintings I did. I like them a lot, even if they are not exactly what I set out to do. Maybe next time I’ll get closer to my vision. We’ll see.
What about you? What’s your vision? Don’t run from it any more. It’s time to stop running, and leap like a child. You might be surprised. You really can fly.
Take care, travel wisely,
PS – the picture above is one of the paintings I did today. I call it “Seeing Through Tears.”.I did get around finally to posting these and other things on my art blog.