Whether our routines are hoist upon us—a necessary and intelligent response to the demands of our daily responsibilities—or they are safe choices whose predictability we depend on to feel protected from the inherent randomness of life, once established, routines can quickly become a rut.
Artists need new experiences in order to create. It is impossible to grow a crop without planting a seed. First, something new must be introduced to the soil and nourished in the dark before the first green sprout breaks through to the surface.
It was that need to break out of a rut that led me, on a whim, to sign up for a watercolour class. It had been years since I'd done any visual art, but working with my son, showing him how to look at the world as an artist does, ended up opening my eyes, probably more than his. The teacher (me) realized, not for the first time, I was the student.
The course is over now, but what a continuing richness it gives my life. I am in love with the medium of watercolour. I am changed for exposing myself to it as an adult learner. And I will never see the sky in the same way -- never see nature the same way. Colours are new and nuanced. Light is a mystery that I must study carefully.
I am rather incompetent—my vision far outreaches my abilities. But isn't that the way it is every time you try something new? Best not to judge too harshly. Best to play. Otherwise you risk stifling the unique vision that only you, as a beginner, can ever bring to this art form.
That idea is explored at one of my regular haunts, writer/artist Terri Windling's blog, in a post called When You Fear You're Just No Good.
And before I go further, I must share another quote lifted from her pages. It captures exactly what the creative process means to me.
“The work of the eyes is done. Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you.” - Rilke
As my eyes begin to see, many images are bubbling to the surface and I struggle to express them in this new-to-me, highly mutable medium of watercolour, to do them justice.
I can't, of course, because I'm a beginner (go read that post I mentioned)! But you know what, I don't care, because, bloody hell, this is really fun. It's exciting. So what if a piece turns into a big mess? Those occasional moments when it works, when I like what I see, are worth every effort. Now, I just need to allow myself that same freedom in writing, a medium in which I am much less forgiving of myself.
If you feel like a beginner in your art and you are frustrated by that, maybe even considering giving up, read the above post by Terri. Then nourish yourself, feed your creative soul with something new, and let your heart-work begin. Let's be easy on ourselves — let's play!