What I have learned about Life through Paint
I recently had a LOVELY day of painting, sipping coffee, listening to great music and enjoying the time of reflection and creation. I couldn’t ask for a more perfect day. It got me thinking, because I get that way when full creativity is allowed to flow, how life and painting share a lot of themes.
I’ve learned a lot through painting, patience, determination and the fact that shadows are never just shades of black. But the most significant lesson I’ve learned is an obvious one, but once illustrated, sort of makes it something you can wrap your head around…or hang on the wall 🙂
“Life is a blank canvas”
We have all heard that one, but lets take it a little deeper. I’m not a psychologist but I think there is much to be learned from paint.
Your life can be anything you want it to be – anything. The possibilities are endless; the colors you pick aren’t always up to you but the way they get applied is. When you are young you have no idea what it is that you are painting (or who you are, or who you will become).
You’re just flinging paint. You don’t know what your doing and you don’t have to. You’re just having fun.
Each experience throughout your life leaves a mark on your canvas; the colors of your relationships, your friends, your family, the tragedies, the defining moments, all of it. One day you will stop and reflect on yourself. This is the time in life when we begin asking ‘who am I?’ You will look and begin to see a picture, it’s the picture of you. Not you as in a self-portrait, but you as in who you are inside.
As we go through life we look for the brightest colors, the purest, the happiest and hope to fill ourself with these hues. As you work on yourself, and as you lay down these colors, you will come to a point when (and this applies to EVERYTHING in life and happens about half way there) it looks like CRAP. You may feel awkward, insecure and embarrassed by yourself. Been there, you’re not alone. You step back from your canvas and say “woo-wee, that is not so great”. This happens with hobbies, with relationships, with any endeavor you will take on in life. Life isn’t easy, things get HARD. I stepped back from my painting this weekend and looked at this.
If I had seen this and not known what the final would look like, I’d be thinking I should hang up my hat and give up. This feeling is not new to me. Now I’m not saying that we know what our lives will look like, just that we are headed towards a great life/painting. This zombie look-a-like was just the foundation. Foundations are scary because of the unknown, things aren’t built up yet. But there is something amazing in the scary unknown. It’s called freedom. Freedom to still define the outcome any way you want. This scary zombie phase happens to me with EVERY painting I do. I step back half way through and it looks HORRIBLE.
To be honest I have no idea what paintings will really look like in the end. Perhaps a close resemblance to the image in my head, but maybe not. But I keep going because I know I can do better than the zombie face. Because of this belief, the image doesn’t bother me. I just keep going despite how bad it looks at the time. (That being said, know the tools you have. You can’t paint with mud unless you want your life to look like the sideboards of a 4X4 after a mud run. Be true to yourself and the tools and talents you have.)
Lay your foundation and then you enhance the details, not the other way around. When we look at the type of life we want it can be overwhelming. “Wow, I can never (be, do, achieve, have, etc.) It will be too hard, too complex.” Now relate it back to a painting. Even the most brilliant work of art is ultimately made up of 1 inch by 1 inch really simple paintings. Can anyone guess what this is from?
We as humans are very complex, yet our basic needs are very simple. If you mess up, just paint over the part that isn’t working. It won’t disappear; it will always be there as a part of you but it doesn’t have to be on the surface.
Ultimately we strive to paint the best picture of ourselves that we can. It’s a glorious and amazing mess. Be true to yourself no matter how long it takes to get there. And remember, as long as there in an ounce of light, there is always a sparkle in an eye.