My perspective on life has been that someone else must know a better answer, I just have to discover who. I kept choosing other people as more important, more worthy than I was. I post each part of the process openly on social media and then I wait for “likes” and comments to trickle in. The pain I came up against while creating“Metamorphosis” had to do with the need and want to relate to other artists and to be accepted as an artist by making “perfect” and “beautiful” art.
In school, there was always a way to find the answer, a thing that would not only make a lot of sense, it would match my perceptions and would provide a way to explain a behavior. So when Carrie Brummer, founder of Artist Strong, ran the challenge live, I jumped at the chance to participate. It was a process I could follow, prompts I could answer in a safe place out of sight of eyes who could pass serious judgement on me.
On the third day of the challenge, the prompt asked that I choose the medium I would use. The whole day, the words ‘choose your medium’, kept coming up. Almost like it was daring me to try something new. Pushing. Betting that I wouldn’t. That fear of not doing it right, of not fitting in, of imperfection loomed. I chose to stay with acrylic because I felt it was safer.
It was hard not to listen to Resistance, hard not to blame myself for not being strong enough to try something new in my painting. In bed that night, I thought about my need for acceptance. At that point, I knew I had to give some serious tender care to me or I feared that I would quit the painting entirely.
Caring for myself turned out to be the key to moving past the feelings of inadequacy. I took a hot bath and went to bed early. The next morning, I knew that I had to try technique I had heard about from a co-worker. She had used tissue paper and gesso to create texture on top of the canvas. My mind’s eye saw the image of butterflies. By evening, I had wings popping off the painting.
I waited for them to dry and painted the pattern I had seen on a photo reference onto the tissue paper wings. I started with metallic acrylic ink followed by a few touches of acrylic for definition of the spots. To my horror, the ink sank into the toilet paper leaving the wings looking like light green large caterpillars.
The paper didn’t dry all the way so trying to follow the pattern was impossible. I tried to remove them from the painting in hopes I could paint over the area, but the base of the wings stuck fast to the canvas. Nonetheless, I shared the painting that now had lumpy strange colored bits sticking out of it. To me, lack of comments and “likes” immediately after posting my work sounded like crickets on Facebook.
Within a couple hours, comments began arriving below the post of the painting. The words I read were not what I expected. What I saw as a terrible mistake, was not what friends were seeing. Words of encouragement and support appeared on my screen.
I realized that I wasn’t alone. Looking through other artist’s posts, I realize that many had felt defeat and failure. Many artists face fear of Perfection and paint anyway. Was I really any different from any other?
I finished the painting and posted it on Instagram. As I was deciding on filters, a quote from the movie, “Labyrinth” came to mind. The scene is between a young girl and the man who took her baby brother. It seemed all was lost. Then, she remembered a line she had read from one of her favorite books. She spoke:
“Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child you have stolen, for my will is as strong as yours and my kingdom as great. You have no power over me!”
There are no guards to keep you from your goals. You hold both lock and key. In order to create, you have to give yourself permission. No one else holds that power except you.