My house is full of unfinished paintings. This is not a bad thing at all, mostly it’s a sign of a current flurry of energy around color and moving my brush to and fro. I rotate each piece I’m working on until some resolution comes into focus. That old quote “A painting is never finished, it’s just stops in interesting places” couldn’t be more true. How do you know when a painting is done? For me, it’s a combination of feeling satisfied (in the sense that I like what happened on the canvas) and that the painting resolved itself (it became itself) which has less to do with me and more to do with the spirit of the painting.
It’s also easy for me to stare at unfinished work and get down on myself- you start things and don’t finish, why are you painting anyway? you’re a photographer/coach/blogger/whatever. I can see this for the nonsense that it is – and these thoughts compel me less and less as I get older. They are also a normal part of the creative process. They are worth noticing, but only enough to acknowledge that you must be doing something creative/interesting/comfort-zone-pushing/worthwhile if those voices woke up.
Mostly, I want to say that these paintings are actually my own aliveness made visible. They are evidence of my spirit as a creative entity. Which is to say, dynamic, in process, imperfect.
I’ve been doing my yearly manifesting ritual with groups lately (both in person and online) and seeing what emerges each round. One of the themes that showed up for me this year is learning to get comfortable with the grey. The not-so-black-and-white, the beautiful mess, the messy middle. I am learning that even though I want things to be neat- clean lines, defined, clear– life tends to show up differently. There is a kind of safety in the black and white. A semblance of control in the narrow paradigm of right and wrong, good and bad. Staying inside the lines. We are less comfortable with the gray, the nuanced, the both/and… and yet, this is the reality of the world.
When I am painting, I know this intuitively. I can’t just use my favorite colors. Hot pink and turquoise. I mean, I could. But it wouldn’t have the richness that the tapestry of other colors create. Even the colors I don’t particularly like add texture, tension, and depth to the canvas. I use a whole range of colors because the painting would be boring without them.
And this, my friends is my good news for you today.
Your beautiful messes.
Your messy middles.
Your doubt and your not knowing.
They are all part of a life is full and rich and something of a mystery. A life that has tension and richness. Depth and beauty.
I had a breakthrough yesterday. I went to the art store and purchased a gigantic tube of Golden acrylic paint, titanium white. It was a game-changer. I had been using a cheap white paint (far too runny and transparent) and suddenly got the hit that I needed a heavy-bodied more expensive one. It was like bicycling around on flat tires and then realizing that if I filled them with air, I could sail! And that allowed me to bring some of these paintings to completion.
There is a metaphor here. Something about not knowing what we can’t know until we know it. And then waking up to what’s needed and reaching new levels of joy and ease and beauty.
May we all wake up to what’s needed so that we can create more ease and joy and beauty in 2020.
May it be so!
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