Knowing When to Quit
I’ve started back to school this week and, already, we are knee deep in paints during my Foundation II Drawing class. I am thrilled beyond belief to have this class because it provides me a set time, three times a week for 2.5 hours each time, that I will be PAINTING! Painting is one of my favorites, but I’ve always painted abstract art without a lot of form and containing splatters and globs and “stuff” because I had talked myself into believing I was incapable of doing “real” recognizable art.
This is not a new thing, may I point out. My program of “I’m not enough” permeates through, pretty much, every aspect of my life and perverts the truth of who I really am and of what I am truly capable.
How this program shows up in my art is I tell myself one of two things: I’m incapable of creating “real-looking” images -or- I’m doing it wrong. (In essence, they are both different versions of the same underlying message: I don’t trust myself.)
Today, my professor, who seems to be so delightfully in love with his life, had us set up and choose one of three scenes to paint with only black, white and gray. The object of the exercise was to paint only the pure, core shadows with the basic shape of the outline. As the figures were being set up, I felt myself go into a cold sweat and my heart started racing. I tuned in and heard the running thoughts: I can’t do this! There’s no way I’m going to be able to pull this off! I’m going to do it wrong! I can’t draw “real” things!
I took a deep breath and started pulling out my tools, focusing on the things that I know and love… the feel of the brushes in my hands… the look of the paint on the palette… the way the glossy acrylics flow from the tubes… how the tape sounds when it tears off the roll… how the paper feels in my hands. I continued to breathe and started mentally talking to myself, “Just focus on the termination of the light, Angie. You can see it. You can draw simple shapes.You love to paint. Focus on the interaction of the paint, the paper and the brush. You can do it.”
I continued to talk to myself as I sat up and I began to realize the “can’t” chanting had silenced and all that I could hear was the “can” mantras. I lost myself in the painting and about 75 minutes later, I stood back and marveled at what I had done.
Then I looked around.
And began doubting myself.
One thing I’d like to point out that, much like life, everyone’s perspective of the same scene was different. There was no one else in the room standing in my shoes, so they didn’t see what I saw. Therefore, their shadow/light shapes were very different than mine. And, therefore, I began questioning my instincts and began adding to the shadows on one side of the body, making one shaded area on the shoulder line bigger and then added an entirely new shaded area on the waistline.
When I asked for feedback from my professor, he suggested that I white out the areas that were not true core shadows. Guess what those areas were! You’re right. Those two areas that I “fixed” when I doubted my abilities and added to what was already complete.
This is feedback that I received last semester from my Foundation I Drawing professor. He continually said to me, “Angie, you can do this. You have the abilities. You’re an amazing artist. You have the concepts down. Now, all you have to do is… trust yourself.”
Trusting myself has been one of the most difficult concepts for me to understand throughout my life. I’ve struggled to grasp what it means and to do it in my life. It has shown up in not knowing when to stay or when to leave. It has shown up in not seeing that my art is complete at an earlier stage and overdoing it in an attempt to complete it.
So, as I continue to learn what it means to trust myself and to love myself through this process, I am going to continue to breathe and to be sure to stand back, occasionally, to get out of the thick of things so that I can admire what I’m doing.