Sunday, January 6, 2008

Courage versus the Blank Canvas

I find that starting to paint is equally the most exhilarating and also the most daunting aspect of the creative process. While ideas percolate in my mind long before I pick the brush or palette knife, and I long to express myself, the very sight of the blank canvas often intimidates me. In talking with other painters, I’ve discovered I’m not alone, as most of them share this emotion. The trick is to prevent one’s feelings of intimidation from allowing too much time to pass before the inspiration is devoured by loss.

W. H. Murray, the writer and explorer offered words advice for those of us who hesitate in his book, The Scottish Himalaya Expedition:

'But when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money--booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!'

Getting started often is nothing more than seizing the moment and either sketching one’s idea on the canvas or paper. Sometimes even covering the pristine white canvas or paper with a wash of color is sufficient to drive intimidation from the room and allow courage to sully forth.

The burning passion to express one’s self will emerge and ultimately may be met by genius. Truly, Goethe was writing from experience!

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