Fear is as well... a healthy emotional response... when used to forecast and predict imminent danger or harm before those situations can occur. We use it then as a tool to chart our way through a life mine field, often strewn with potential harm. The trick is to learn to control that fear mechanism... using it to positively guide our actions and thus... outcomes in our daily lives. Generally speaking...we as creative artists encounter fear sometimes on a much broader spectrum... mainly because we are more sensitive and more deeply in touch usually with our own emotions and those of the people who live around us. In short... we are usually by the nature of our own creative activity more engaged with our emotions... for more of the time. That is a double-edged sword however. It is both good and bad for us.
In my experience as a parent ... an elementary school teacher... a consultant and a working artist I have observed and heard so many people who lived in absolute fear of expressing themselves creatively. Those individuals were children... adults and yes, even teachers responsible for delivering a visual arts curriculum as a part of their teaching responsibilities. Teachers... afraid to paint... dance or sing in front of their peers and charges. How sad that always was for me to painfully witness this unnecessary self-hobbling behaviour! It has mostly to do with an issue of self-esteem, deeply seated in early childhood or family experience for certain. However... it is groomed further into the psyche... by the societal preoccupation with absolute beauty and perfection! Therein lies the main cause for fear in our society! The pursuit of perfection!
"Perfect"- is defined in my dictionary as having all of the essential elements, complete; unspoiled; faultless; correct, precise; excellent
"Perfection" - means the state of being perfect
"Perfectionist "- a person who demands the highest standards of excellence
Perfection... therefore would be a form of stasis.... meaning "state of equilibrium and inactivity". That hardly seems logical to my thinking. If perfection does indeed mean that no further increase in, or any expectation of growth is plausible... then why continue living, or trying to improve? To me... "perfection" is a Utopian, purely non-existent and unachievable state... never to be visited or reached by any human in any number of life times.
However... I must add that life offers the opportunity for each of us to rise above those exterior and anterior conditions and perceptions which we fettered and hobbled ourselves. Each and every day and on each occasion that we choose to pick up and put a brush to paper or canvas we can grow as artists... and as people. If we view our activities as opportunities to grow, rather than taking one step closer to becoming "perfect"... then fear dissipates and is replaced by confidence and growth. These lead to deeper personal satisfaction and unexpected joy.
I would share from my own experience and offer that the studio situation tends to favour the road to seeking perfection, simply because all conditions there seem "perfect" for guaranteed success to occur. I say humbly that painting en plein air... and not just in summer, or on "bluebird painting days" has helped me to grow exponentially as an artist, simply because I must constantly accommodate my painting process to a sometimes rapidly changing external weather or lighting conditions over which I have no control. As well... all of my senses are being fed information which simultaneously stimulates my imagination and my creative response to what lies before me. In short... there is no time or place for fear when painting in the outdoors. One simply paints... usually intuitively and with an emotional endorphin high which never comes in a heated studio with a coffee in one's hand.
I would like to share another observational lesson given me here this winter in my own garden. As I have mentioned... my wife and I revel in watching the actions and antics of our winged Friends at our feeders each morning. Deb has even begun naming certain individual birds by their unusual characteristics and behaviours. We simply can't wait until the first morning light summons them to our 'front-row-centre" window seats. We have particularly enjoyed the infrequent... but always heart-warming visits of our bright red male cardinal. Usually, our three feeders are a frenzy of different species coming... feeding and going.
On one particular day, right after the huge snow storm that our area experienced... our largish bird population completely vanished. At first, I attributed that behaviour to the effects of the storm. However, as that absence continued... with not even the pugnacious and gluttonous house sparrows returning... I decided to go out around the feeders to investigate further for other signs or causes. There... below our furthest feeder from the house was the tell-tale clue. I had taken a picture of a bird earlier before the storm... but didn't have a shot quite clear enough to make a positive ID. But after reviewing the "print" left at the base of the feeder and the two jpegs that I had taken along with referring back to my array of bird identification field guides, the answer to our mystery became crystal clear.
Our jaunty male Christmas Cardinal... in peaceful accord....with Grey or Slate Breasted Junco
Note the clear dual primary wing pattern... "mantling" a very large and deep pocket centrally. These distinguish an aerial descent/attack of a bird of prey... wings cushioning the force of the strike in the soft, powdery snow. The Shrike will carry off its prey in its hooked bill... and if a thorn bush is nearby will impale the prey on a thorn to eat at the time of the kill or later.
We had been visited by a juvenile Loggerhead Shrike... aptly nicknamed "the butcher bird." They are quite rare and especially in this region... but the evidence was indisputable. Though I have yet to actually see the Shrike or the cardinal since...few birds have returned, even up until now. They are driven, likely by the fear of further attacks by this predator not to return. Any feeding activity at all takes place at the feeders in safety directly under our eaves at the front window. Maybe the Shrike has moved on... and will never return, but birds can't reason in that fashion. They are all governed totally by the one incident... when their first fears were realized. Survival depends upon not repeating mistakes in their world.
There is a lesson to be learned in this natural event. We needn't be like the birds. Life for us all... at times delivers tragedies... hardships and experiences which often create deep and completely reasonable levels of fear. It is the unexpected in life... or change that we humans fear most. But we must learn from our experiences... and move on, if we wish to live richer, fuller lives. We do not... any of us have the luxury of living in a "perfect" world. It simply did not exist... in the "good 'ol days'... nor does it now... or in the future either. The recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut taught us all that this sadly isn't so. But even in the face of such immense tragedy ... inhumanity and utter insanity... Hope can survive!... It must! And we, as artists can reach out through our Art to break though the Darkness and paralyzing Fear which has gripped us all.
"Life is complicated. Just do your best"!
An empty white canvas, or clean sheet of paper is always daunting. But they are only that and they can be replaced easily. When revisited quietly later, they can offer insight through reconstruction of the cause of the "failure." There is always someone... somewhere on our journey who 'appears'.... more perfect in their art than our own expression. But that will always continue to be true. Rather than trying to emulate and covet their expression... why not seize the courage and the opportunity... to "go where no other man has gone before"... or ever can. Simply, because... "You" are "You"... and "They" are "They." Create... and Celebrate your own individual style centred around your unique interests and differences!
Dare to dream! Dare to take "the road less travelled by"... and I KNOW... that it "will make all the difference" for you on your journey!
Here are two quick "as is" sketches done yesterday... my first plein air pieces for 2013! They are ... what they are. My impression of something I saw and enjoyed om my journey. Painting them pleased
Me." Hope that you can enjoy them too! How my heart sings... the be... "back in the saddle again"! Stay tuned!....
Happy Trails to "You" and Good Painting to ALL!
"Winter Can Be Warm Too! - oil on panel 10x12 inches
The "studio... under the hood"... on location at Escott!
"The Andress Homestead... Bathed in Afternoon Winter Sun" - oil on cradle board 10x12 inches