Rebloggable by request! More like this at The Blog At Happy Rock!
If you’ll indulge me, I need to process something I’ve been grappling with: Art-fear.
I feel like I’ve been going through (a second) art-puberty for the last several months. I’ve been experimenting with style and trying to find ways to get excited about making pictures again. I’ve been doing the same thing for a while now, and in order to get away from it all I started taking long bike rides and watercoloring- which I found was just about the only thing I’ve wanted to do.
It’s therapeutic. I do a lot of art for other people- to see their reaction, to get a paycheck, to feed my insatiable approval-hunger. But watercolor I generally do for me.
The thing about watercolor is: It doesn’t do what you want it to.
Watercolor does what it wants. It arrives when it arrives and it’s more or less up to you to get on board. The less control you exert, the better it will be. It’s permanent, unforgiving, and you have to take a leap of faith with your precious drawing.
If you let it surprise you, it will give you better gifts than if you assert your control.
It requires trust.
Photoshop, on the other hand, is all about control- what color would you like? Have you adjusted the contrast lately? Are you sure about that pixel, sir? UNDO UNDO!
So I started to play. And I did a sketch (up top) that I really liked. The thing was- between pen and watercolor, there’s no way to erase, precious little control, and no time for second thoughts.
I didn’t know who that kid was going to be when I started- he just happened. Does he have anatomy? pffff. Is he a “Great Design”? naw. Will people be impressed? probably not.
But something surprising occurred and I was holding the brush when it happened and I liked it. So naturally I wanted to do it again.
Man plans. God laughs. Watercolor does what it wants.
The blank page can be totally paralyzing when you bring expectations to it.
“I don’t know what I’m going to draw, but it’s got to be amazing!” is a pretty sure guarantee you’re going to make stiff, awkward, insincere garbage. Fear makes me a terrible artist.
So I sat down and I froze up and awkwardly tried to put pen to paper and wound up with this mess:
Maybe you like it fine. Maybe the shirt turned out alright and the watercolor was gracious with me, but that face is a turd (at least it wasn’t what I was hoping for/what I felt I was capable of) I was afraid, and by the end of sketching I was SO FRUSTRATED.
I left the coffee shop I was sitting in and went to see a friend in a cloud of art-angst.
During our conversation we got to talking about fear and expectations, and I vented about my unsuccessful sketch. And he reminded me of something I’ve told people, students, myself…time and time again…
“You have to give yourself permission to suck.”
To make god-awful, un-viewable hot-garbage. You have to go there. You have to make your worst art. TRY to make bad sketches. Stop being afraid of it- leap into the blank page and make a mess. Break the seal. Look that giant boss-monster straight in its terrifying red eye and then throw your sword away, put on your most ridiculous hat and do your most alarming dance. You might not kill the monster, but you might make it so uncomfortable that it just leaves. It doesn’t want to eat your kind of crazy.
I forgot that. And fear makes me seize up and I make no art at all.
If I want to improve I have to remember- bad art is better than no art. Always.
At least you’re moving.
In high-school theatre the director could shape the performance of that one girl with the loud voice who would sing anything at the top of her lungs, out of key. You could work with that.
But good freaking luck pulling anything out of the wallflower who’s too shy to make a peep. It’s like pulling teeth.
God can help direct you once you start moving.
So I sat down and I made some hot garbage.
Maybe you like it, maybe you don’t. That is a terrible cup. And what even is that underneath it?
I can promise you all of these looked heinous before watercolor. But I would submit to you that each sketch here is better than the stiff, awkward attempt at a mustachioed fellow above. They all turned out better, stranger, more alive.
I did this so fast and so frantically. And once the dust cleared, I didn’t feel paralyzed anymore.
Nobody yelled at me. Nobody was “disappointed, son”. The world didn’t fall apart, and now I have two pages full of raw material. New experiments!
So if you’re afraid, I prescribe making a mess. Go a little crazy. Draw only what you want, as fast as you can, let it be awful…like, really awful and unrecognizable. And let Control-Z take a flying leap.
It’s weird, and I hope you’ll allow me to wax poetical- but I feel like watercolor is teaching me things about God, about love, about decisions and life. “Let go- trust. Move. Make work, don’t fear.” God is (once again) speaking “art” to me because he knows I’ll hear it when he does.
Praise the Lord for grace like that.