For those of you who know me – you know I’m wound pretty tight. My wife has said I will probably need to be screwed into the ground when I die. Cut a corner? Good heavens no. Let my hair down? Ha, I’m bald, like that will work. I think my Dutch/Romanian/Germanic ancestors would be proud of my inner windings.
So why in blue blazes did I take a contemporary art class? The class description said it was to teach you how to, “Combine representational and experimental techniques to create emotionally appealing and expressive paintings. Learn how to bend the rules using oil and acrylic to make abstract and contemporary paintings.” I thought, sure, I think I can do that without exploding into a million pieces. This will stretch my inner artist.
The instructor: Mary Miller Veazie is quite impressive. Go to her site – she can paint the “eyelashes on the gnat” but she also has the range to go as loose with her brush as she wants. I was immediately hooked and nervous, but hooked as I awaited my first class.
Mary started class by doing something I’ve wanted to learn for a long time – she showed how to let the brush “loose” and yet still tell a story. I stood there thinking, “How am I going to let my brush fly with reckless abandon? Good heavens. What have I gotten myself into? Yikes!”
When it was our turn, with brush in hand I stood frozen before the canvas. Everyone else in class was laughing and jumping in and yet there I stood – like a statue. Transfixed by the thought of “letting it all go” and letting my brush “run loose” on the canvas.
I’ve read that artist; Quang Ho tells his students, “One has to start out with the assumption that the first decision is correct.”
With that in mind, I started my first contemporary art painting. I really wanted to be “loose” with my brush yet remember all of the composition rules. I was not trying to paint each petal of the flower but rather the suggestion of the petal. I had just jumped into the deep end of the pool.
Once I started, a funny thing happened. I didn’t hear anyone else in the class as I began listening to the painting instead. I’m excited to share the outcome. So much so that I’m including it in my May Franklin Art Crawl show. Come see it in person 01-May-2015!
As I stood there basking in the glow of my own handiwork – a voice behind me said, “That looks nice, why don’t you start another one?” What? No parade? Or as I joke with my millennial friends, “no trophy?” But Mary was right – it was time to move on because there is only one way to Carnegie Hall and that’s practice, practice, practice. I jumped into the next painting with less hesitation and lots more courage.
My former program manager used to ask, “Well, what’d you learn Holobach?” So I thought I should share:
• Something new can be scary. It’s ok to have a healthy respect of the fear. However, you need to call it out for what it is. Mine was the fear of venturing outside my comfort zone. What fear is keeping you from loosening your brush on your “canvas”? Name it.
• The way forward involves facing the fear for the imposter it is. It would have been far easier to not try and always wonder. But half the battle is just showing up. I showed up. Yes, I could have failed but I didn’t. What is it you need to at least “show up” for? Face it.
• The journey is not about obtaining perfection the first try but rather it’s about the process. This sounds like a motivational poster gone wrong but it is the truth. My goal is to now do enough of this style for a complete showing in the future. Own it.
I shared my foray into contemporary art with a friend. His response was that I should, “stay in my lane and stick to what I know” which made me chuckle because it was contrarian to my experience. If I did that – I would still be:
• Painting with blue tape trying to make every edge straight
• Using a boring and dull color palette. No Sergei Bongart colors here!
• Using only acrylics and never trying oils
• Painting in the studio only – never venturing into plein air painting
• Painting from photos rather than actual still life settings
In short, I would have missed out on a lot of personal artistic growth. Choosing to, “stay in my lane and stick to what I know” would have been a tragedy of epic proportion.
Which leads me to ask you, “What are you missing out on?”
I say it’s time to venture outside and see what’s around the block. Even if you don’t go around the corner, at least you’ll know what the weather is like. Come on outside and play.
Who’s with me? Can I have an “amen”?
Onwards and sideways,