Peonies in a French Vase, © 2011, oil on canvas, 12" x 12"
"Are you willing to show up with your paint and just 'be' with whatever happens?" a coach once asked me years ago when I was feeling in something of a slump with my painting. I had internalized someone else's negative opinions about my paintings, handing over all authority (and responsibility) for my art-making in the process. I very nearly stopped trying to paint at all, but a deeper, braver, art-ward part of me wouldn't let me.
Mostly I had gotten stuck because I was afraid. Afraid of what? you might logically wonder. Some sort of blob of largely unchallenged fear.
Afraid of doing "bad" work (determined by whom?), afraid of not really trusting myself and painting in a straightjacket, afraid of not liking my own work, afraid of succeeding and failing, both--perhaps even at the same time!
But I at least knew I was willing to show up with my paint (and brushes, etc.) and just "be" with whatever happened. And I found that the more I did that, the less I worried, and the more I wanted to keep painting.
Writers and writing coaches often speak of the virtue of "just showing up"--of making a practice of showing up at your desk (or wherever you prefer to write) every day and writing something. Not waiting to be inspired. Not waiting until the stars seemed perfectly aligned and every other issue has been resolved.
And the same seems to hold true for painting as well (and, I imagine, for just about every kind of creative endeavor).
These days I've been showing up with my paint several times a week, and it's amazing how many more paintings I have to show for it! (Of course it helps that many of them are smaller canvases, too.)
The image above is one of them.