Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Creative Path is a Winding One

When I was seventeen, I made a decision to go to university rather than to art school. My reasoning was that if I went to university, it would lead to a profession with which I could support myself, whereas good jobs for artists were few and far between, I thought. (I believed in the starving artist in a garret cliche.) I could always paint on the side, I told myself.

Well, it didn't work out that way. Painting became only a hobby, not a passion, and in that, a hobby that I did not pursue at all for great stretches of time. My career has always been voracious, consuming most of my time.

I do not regret my decision to go to university, and to pursue the careers that I have had. I have had a good life, and very interesting, engaging work. When my first husband passed away at a young age leaving me with three small children, I was grateful that I had the education and skills to be able to hold down a good job and support my family well.

But I sometimes wonder about the path not taken. I was speaking with a new colleague recently, and I found out that in addition to his job as an administrator, he is also a painter. I asked him whether he had any time to pursue his art. "Oh yes," he said. "Evenings and weekends." Then he showed me two of his large and elaborate works, and his preparatory sketches for his work in progress. I left feeling inspired to try harder to make time in my life for creative pursuits.

I mentioned several posts ago that I signed up for an art class and have begun painting again. I was so nervous walking into that studio class full of strangers. The instructor came and looked through my painting supplies and told me that I was using a poor quality stretched canvas and that I had all kinds of unnecessary colours in my kit. I went ahead and planned out my painting, and as soon as I blocked it in, made some serious errors. I persisted, and the paint brush felt more like a whisk broom than a brush in my out-of-practice hands.

Several sessions have gone by and I have now finished that painting -- my first in eight or ten years. This is what it looked like after a couple of sessions (I was nearly in despair). I kept working away at it, and in between painting sessions, I would stand and stare at it, thinking about my next move.

Now the painting is finished. Although it might not be the best painting I have ever done, I am thrilled just to be painting again, and to have finished one. Now when I walk around, I am observing the world differently, thinking like a painter. I think about the shapes and colours of the landscape, and how I could represent it in a painting.