Blank Canvas

Attempting to keep the winter blahs away, challenge my comfort zone, and continue on my endless journey of creative outlets I signed up for several online art courses over the Christmas break.  My days are now filled with art journaling, abstract painting, and doodling. So much mess. SO much joy!

I find both thrill and intense peace in playing with the colors, the textures, the different mediums.  I’m showing great preference for art that involves collage, layering and lots of intuitive flow.  It becomes an almost meditative state, listening to where my hands tell me to go next.

The classes I’m taking in bite-sized nibbles are from various teachers, talented and inspiring.  I intentionally chose a variety of styles and mediums so I can experiment and find my groove.

And no matter the teacher or the style of art, once we move out of the early “follow my steps” stage and are encouraged to take art out for a spin on our own, each teacher has some version of the pep talk about Blank Canvas Syndrome.

Apparently, Blank Canvas Syndrome is when creators of any type begin a fresh project and look upon the blank canvas, the blank page, the silenced instrument, knowing they must begin.

And many, if not most, freeze, at least for a bit. 

Sometimes the blank canvas is silent, not a single idea calling our name. Other times it screams to us, with ideas and inspirations overwhelming in their limitlessness.

In either situation, it causes paralysis. No idea where to begin, too many ideas to know how to begin, take your pick. It’s all in there.

Oh, how I get this.  As a course developer, a writer, even a neophyte artist, there is always that moment when there is an idea in my head, and I have to take the leap towards making it happen. 

So off I go to do laundry instead. Anything but begin. Anything but push through.

The remedy seems unanimous throughout all of my art courses…pick up the brush, pick a color, and just put it on the canvas.

Dot it.  Splash it.  Make a sweeping stroke.  Make whisper-thin lines.  Write your name. Do anything.

It doesn’t have to be the right color.  It’s fine if the next thing you do is paint right over it. 

What you do doesn’t matter.  What matters is that you did it.  You did something.  You began.

I am, by nature, both a planner and a visual thinker.  This is a deadly combo because I can see the desired finished task before I even begin.  I have the end in mind.  I know what I want, and in my head it’s perfect. I’m good with “big picture”, it’s the details and steps that bog me down. I become impatient with the “in-betweens” because I often want to rush to the finish line. And so I often don’t even begin. Too much pressure. Too much mess. Too much risk.

But the first stages of creating, or even living, are never perfect.  They are messy, error-filled, and definitely deserving of the name “rough” draft.  It’s rough getting it down.  It’s rough getting it where you want.  It’s roughest if you can’t nail it quite like you envisioned.  Both creating and life require pivot and flow.

I’m amazed at how many areas of life can be invaded by Blank Canvas Syndrome.  Taking the first step to lose the weight, to remodel the kitchen, to find the new career, to walk from what is not healthy for you, to risk in love.  Pretty much anything we venture to do with a beautiful ending takes a little cajoling to get us off the starting block.

And so we go do laundry. Anything but figure out how to begin, when to begin, and how to push through the rough drafts of life changes.

But you can’t win the race if you don’t enter it.

You can’t paint the picture if the paint doesn’t hit the canvas.

You have to pick up the brush and splash it down. 

It’s going to be messy. It’s not going to be what you envisioned. It might be way worse. But there’s a chance it might morph into something who’s immense beauty surprises you.

There are SO many things I envision, adventures and creative outlets, passions I want to pursue. But the more out of the norm it is for me, the more it both intrigues me and makes me freeze. Oh, the possibilities. But where to start? Will it turn out as I hope? Is the payoff of risk greater than the payoff of not trying?

So for now I’m having fun with the canvas, accepting the challenge by beginning with a large red dot.  I don’t know why, it’s not my favorite color, but perhaps I’m encouraged by it’s bold nature.  Usually it’s painted over, sometimes it becomes the center of an idea, but always, always, it is a starting place. 

There it is, messing up the canvas.

Daring me to figure it out.

Because the beauty can’t begin until I’m bold enough to start. 

3 thoughts on “Blank Canvas

  1. So, what you’re saying is…forget the laundry! 😂

    As a planner and visual thinker myself, I find myself in “analysis paralysis” all the time. So many directions I could go, so many different endings to imagine, and then…frozen.

    This is such a great reminder to simply begin. Even if it looks messy.

    I think I’ll go find something red and make a big dot somewhere today! 😊


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