The Fearful Beginning

For those of us who have practiced an art form successfully for many years, it seems logical that starting a new story or new painting or musical composition would be easy. But for me and for others I have spoken to about this, logic appears to be a very left brained gift. Doubt for the artistically afflicted, on the other hand, is insidious, and at the beginning of any creative effort I am often somewhat paralyzed by the thought that just because I have succeeded at something in the past doesn’t mean I’ll be able to do so in the future. Though this is not a mindset reserved for our later years, the editor’s voice within me has been getting louder and more insistent over time. Do you think you can or should actually write about that? This time will you be able to render on canvas what you have in your head?   Is your style too pedestrian, your palette too repetitious, your words too bland, your perspective too interior or limited? Will you, this time, be able to fill that white page, that blank canvas, or that empty piece of drawing paper with anything compelling or even interesting?

Add these downers to the fact that though you yourself are aware of becoming not only older but also wiser, editors in the publishing houses and curators in the galleries (who look to be the ages of your children or grandchildren) may feel that you are past your prime. Will they be impressed that someone of your age is still producing amazing work, or, more likely, will they assume that it is not as proficient as earlier work simply because their view of an aging talent is distorted and misinformed and they aren’t paying attention? Johnny Cash did his best work in his eighties. David Bowie had re-invented himself many times before his death at sixty-nine and probably would have continued to do so. Michelangelo worked well into his late eighties. Grandma Moses was going strong at 100. And we can be, too, barring acts of God and those fallow times I spoke of in an earlier post, both of which can overtake any of us at any age. As Picasso once said, “It is enthusiasm of which we have the most need, we (the old) and the young”


Sunspill II  oil on linen

The Art Spirit

As I re-shared a photograph on Facebook of Monet standing between two of his very large water lily paintings, I experienced a sudden stab of envy. No. I do not yearn to paint water lilies. But I have always wanted to paint on very large canvases. What has stood in my way were lack of space, the need to be able to transport my work myself, and the expense of the materials required to satisfy such a desire.

Looking at Monet in this photograph, with his long white beard and black arm band signifying that he was in mourning, I can’t help thinking how he was in no shape to be hefting those paintings himself either. No doubt he had a number of assistants to do this, for by that time in his life he was already famous and his work was in great demand. Often referred to as the father of Impressionism, he painted a number of the water lily paintings in his later years. I don’t know if he was still able to climb ladders at that point, but he somehow managed to complete this amazing series before he died at age 86. Or perhaps he didn’t complete it. Perhaps there were a number of variations on this same theme that he was never able to put to canvas.

I have come to accept the fact that it’s okay if some of my ideas never come to fruition. If the memoir in progress is never finished. If larger canvases will never be in my future. As long as each day holds the promise of a few well written paragraphs or pages, the happy struggle with an idea for a new poem, or the opportunity to work in new ways with color and line, I am engaged in the creative process that has sustained me all of my life. This does not mean that I work less diligently or hopefully or that the end product is not important to me. It does mean that I consciously savor the progression and flow and am grateful for the ability to be so deeply engaged during these later days and years in what Robert Henri called “the art spirit”

PatLoweryCollins_FireintheStones_pastel_22%22x30%22_$1500 copy 2

Fire in the Stones, Pastel on Paper, 22” x 30″