Lest you think I've got a six-pack of core strength or an inner reserve of confidence sloshing around like a a city's emergency water tank, let me correct you. Approaching the easel for me is a little like a Rocky scene:
And in fact, yes, like Rocky II, children are chasing me, cheering me on.
There's no Mickey however, swearing at me,
You're gonna eat lightnin' and you're gonna crap thunder!
Sigh. Too bad.
Cheerleaders, coach or no, painting is very much a physical effort for me. That is my tendency in all things however. When I am most involved in life- learning the most, expressing the most- it is a whole-body experience. So, when I get ready to do what I love and yet fear- there is a great deal of "psyching-up" that I do. This actually does include jumping jacks or a hard run, a few key mantras, and even some aggressive, loud music. Sure, I've painted a few paintings already, but I do actually have to tell myself I can do this.... each... and every... time.
Coming to my artwork is not just about following the muse, having my brushes lifted by the spirit of inspiration. I was reminded through one of my kid's "Magic Tree House Mystery" books about a quote from Thomas Edison:
What it boils down to is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.
And I am really a sweaty person. Or I am Ms. Avis over here yelling, "I try harder"! Moreover, the painting process requires continually showing up, even when the mantras sound hollow in my own ears and the laundry needs doing or someone mentions that power lines aren't actually beautiful. That's when I whip out this self-improvement ditty (another Rocky quote, in case you don't recognize it):
Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't how hard you hit; it's about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done. Now, if you know what you're worth, then go out and get what you're worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not pointing fingers saying you ain't where you are because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain't you. You're better than that.
To that, I can only add a loud Amen! I definitely am standing in the pews, waving my hands up in the air with an Allelujah at the ideas of not being a coward, not pointing fingers, getting up off our knees, moving forward. But with all that up, up, up energy, another notion this year that I've had to face is that of being steady.
Part of my learning process this year has involved how to keep an even level of energy through a painting. I've found that if I can have a theme-song through a piece, that it really helps keep me in a particular mood. If I come to the easel amped up when the painting is actually rather quiet one, then I need to be able to enter that. If my painting is bold, but I'm feeling nervous and shy that morning then to allow that to break into my painting style may lead to some awkward juxtapositions, a lack of visual flow. This means there are several songs burned into memory, but none to make me an excellent addition to your Karaoke party.
Additionally, music helps me breathe. I find that I tend to hold my breath with concentration but music introduces a rhythm for breathing and the breaks between songs provide natural pauses for deep breaths and stretching.
Meanwhile the Rocky theme plays on! Trying hard now.... Getting strong now... Gonna fly now...