Writer’s Block is real: anxiety, frustration not to mention the feeling of “not being good enough.” Where words stumbled, line and color flowed like a meditation. Reading “The Mask” by Maya Angelou felt like color spread across a canvas. Angelou’s words inspired me to show through color what could not be easily written.

 It was a free lesson that helped me create the first marks on a fresh pad of mixed media paper. The exercise challenged me to create beauty from a blind contour drawing. It took a lot of calming breath to draw the first lines onto the gessoed surface. I worked on it for a few minutes a day. Soon lines became blocked sections and then pieces of face, hair or background.

I struggled with Perfection and worry that I had chosen the wrong colors off and on through the project. Those worries were nothing compared to a deep darkness that sat beside me, waiting to strike. On those days, fear choked my throat and the safest place was in sleep. I fought to leave my bed, to get dressed, to create. It seemed that Depression would always win.

On the days I wasn’t fighting the darkness, I spent hours gathering strength by reading the words from thought leaders. I listened to poems from comrades. I wrote fiercely about who I was apart from old wounds. Each layer of paint I applied seemed to strip away the pain of the past. Painting was a lifeline pulling me into the present moment.

Then, there was advice about painting. Professionals who promised to teach me how to create perfect eyes, articles on “proper palettes.” I saved each article and video until fear came back with its cousin, Overwhelm. Reading how-tos replaced the time I had spent creating. Tension built up in my chest and down my spine. Creative energy wasn’t allowed to flow.

Crisis, like the tension that arises the longer you put off making love until it is maddening. At the edge between numb escape and releasing creative tension, I begin creating.


A quiet space

A feeling of privacy

A soothing environment

Candle and incense lit

Quiet music

Moment to meditate to clear out my mind


A known place to start

A known place to end

Knowing that I am safe


One Thursday night in January, I sat listening to a circle of poets. When it came my turn, I shared a painting that inspired by “The Mask” written by Paul Laurence Dunbar. I watched the each poet pause to explore the texture, a poem within the image. I felt excited to offer tangible beauty and connection through the painting.

By finishing the painting, I discovered that it is important to journey through the highs and lows of creating than to strive for perfection. In the quest for perfection resides frustration, anger and darkness. Beauty lies in the mystery, the unknown. Although it is painful to live in the unknown, Intuition and Authenticity show greater understanding of Self.

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Rose Ketring

Rose Ketring is an artist and writer who uses a variety of methods--from collage to acrylic to prose--to convey stories and experiences. My process follows into those dark corners to find threads of light. In the absence of meaning, creation continues where words can’t travel.

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