Thursday, May 07, 2009

Fear and Drawing

"Robot" by Gabriel
finger paints on paper.

My boy loves art. He does. He loves to look at my paintings every day. He loves to sit on my lap and browse etsy shops. He used to read art books like story books. When we lived in Williamsburg, we would stop by galleries on our way home from the pharmacy and he would tell me which he liked and didn't.

But he doesn't draw.

He doesn't paint.

He says it's too hard.

He does this with lots of things. Telling me he is afraid when those steep stairs looked like they were too much for him to handle. Or the potty training wasn't going well. He also says he hates things that make him put an effort out.

As for the drawing and painting, I think he sees things in his head and then is unable to get those things down on paper, and feels disappointed.

I find it remarkable that he has had this personality trait forever, before he could talk or walk.

But then again. Maybe it's a natural reaction to challenges that you have to work to conquer.

Maybe all of us get scared sometimes.

We see tasks ahead of us that we are not sure we are up for, that we think are too big for us, or for "other" people. We see dreams that we really want and we do not want to find out that we can't do it after all... so we don't try. I have seen this in art, in writing, in life itself.

That blank page can be terrifying, when I see it. Whether I am trying to paint or write. But I've learned tactics for getting over the fear. I've learned to trust myself and believe that I can create something, if not perfect, then at least worthwhile. Learning to trust myself in art has helped me learn to trust myself in life.

These are some things I have learned from art.

I have learned that when I try... when I keep my mind open to what is, rather than accepting only that vision in my head, I can create beautiful works that are unexpected and thrilling.

I have learned that I don't need to know what the whole thing will look like in the end, I only have to know what I am going for in the next few minutes.

I have learned that sometimes I need to lower the stakes in order to take my baby steps forward.

I have learned that just because what I do doesn't look like what other people do does not mean my work is not beautiful in its own right.

I have learned that if it DOESN'T come out right, if I have to, I can scrap it, paint over it, turn it into something else, or just get rid of it. It's not the end of the world if I don't follow every brilliant idea to the end.

I have learned that sometimes, a picture or a story has to get ugly first, before it finds its heart.

I have learned that there are times when I need to be silent. I need to just be, to just breathe, and not try to be an artist or a striver or original. Sometimes we need to go fallow.

I have learned that inspiration and possibility is every where and many different paths can lead to beauty. We do not need to be tied to only one way.

As I look at these art lessons, I have to remember that these hold true for life, too. For, perhaps, helping my son overcome his own fears. But for me, too. In all the big things I want to create, I need to let myself get ugly, get fallow, ruin a few things, trust my intuition, trust my strength, re-envision the path, take baby steps.


septembermom said...

Acceptance of what we accomplish here and now is worth striving for. I like this post very much.

Shona Cole said...

I like how you have drawn a life lesson from your child! Very interesting thoughts here.


Karen Mowrey said...

Rowena, for your son I highly recommend the book "The Dot" by Peter H. Reynolds if you are not familiar with it already. It is very encouraging to children of all ages, especially artists.

Here is the link


I forget in these boxes if it needs the "http://" or just the "www" (so high tech here)

aquamaureen said...

you did it again, Rowena . . . moved me to tears .. . good tears, tears of affirmation. You know, when I scrolled onto your post and saw the art, I whooped, "Yay, Rowena, you've tried something entirely new!!" Then I saw it was your son's . . . I truly love his picture. Something that "true" from someone who says he doesn't draw or paint . .. wow.

But then, dear one, the words you wrote. That is what brought my tears. I'm printing them out (your words, not my tears--lol) and sticking them in my journal, where I can re-read them and be encouraged. Thank you, more than I can say, for your transparent honesty.

Christy said...

I'm loving this post.Hooray for you!

Genie Sea said...

These are amazing lessons indeed in life and art. Because. Art is life. Life is art. :) Yeah!

D'Arcy said...

Wow! I love that your child already has an appreciation for art (and an opinion! Ha!)

I hope to pass that on to my kids, when I have them.

Life is hard and scary, and it must be surreal to see it already in G. But I see it alot in my niece too, that type of--I don't know what, that type of figureing out how to live.

We'll just keep figuring it out, I suppose!

ophelia rising said...


And - did he do that painting? It's amazing. I love it.

Joan Tucker said...

I am new to your blog. This post so moved me; I am a retired social worker/grandmother who does art and I am sometimes stuck, afraid, in a funk.. and your comments were so helpful and true. I have always done art of one form or another and I am always better when doing t, Sometimes my efforts are effective and some times do not work.. it does not matter. To express one self is the issue . Best of luck with your art,your children and your SELF. Joan Tucker

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