Creativity is Dangerous. Creativity is dangerous to the ego, like revealing your stomach in a bikini, like falling in love with a bad boy.
I took my first painting class and it was with our local art gallery owner, Bill Teeple. A group of us went for a friend’s birthday at her request. I was out of my comfort zone, but like Shonda Rhimes in her book, My Year of Yes, I wanted to say yes to the uncomfortable, and honor my friend’s fun request. Well she thought it would be fun, but she had taken 5 years of lessons. I found my thoughts in the days after she asked me to do this somewhat irritable and resentful. Irritable because she kept saying, “Be like a child, in kindergarten, don’t tighten up, play!”
I thought, “Easy for you to say because you have skill and technique. I will look like a 5 year old! I’ll wait until the morning and call in sick.” I’d never done that before—pretended to be sick. Stomach churning, mind going numb. Especially when she asked if I wanted to use oils or acrylics and what did I want to paint. Are you f—— kidding me?! Can I use crayons and bring a coloring book? I don’t even know what the difference is. Watercolors were not an option I guess. I remember having a set of watercolors with maybe 7 colors and a skinny brush for grade school art 55 years ago. I’m sure the nuns told me I wasn’t a good artist.
I found something dear to my heart to paint–a photo I took of Manarola, one of the Cinque Terre villages I visit during my Italy Retreats For Women. It was not the easiest image to paint, but I love that little fishing village, so at least that was a positive amidst all of the negative feelings that were running through my head and fingers. Bill was like a butterfly flitting to each of us seven women with paintbrushes, and blobs of multi-colored oils. I asked for help often and oh how he mixed all the colors dabbing into the yellow, then the gold, and brown, just the right color for those gorgeous houses falling into the sea. I remained calm on the outside, holding in the tears. Produce. Create. It was painful like childbirth, and wow many years ago after that 30 hours of labor I produced two little human beings. Now that is a creative act. I love to create stories with words, and flowers and vegetables from seeds, and beauty around my house, but the damn paint brush was like a sword turned on myself.
“First use the pencil and outline the outer shapes of the horizon, the cliff sides and the rooftops,” Bill advises. Whoa, I had never noticed the bigger shapes. Okay got it. “Now mix some blues, turquoise and whites for the sky.” Oh this creativity is so dangerous. Dangerous to the ego. “Paint colorful rectangles and squares for the houses. Top of canvas first.” My canvas was only 5×7 inches – tiny. Panic, then breathe deeply. I fell into the photo, and noticed so much more than I ever did before, even during my eight visits to the Cinque Terre, the actual location of my painting.
I saw more, felt more. I saw the restaurant where we have sunset dinners. A tree here and there jutting out from the high cliff sides where the houses tumble over each other vying for most colorful.
Bill helps mix the blues. How do you match the turquoise of the Mediterranean sea. I make a mess on the white sheets of paper provided for mixing my oil paints. Bill draws a few lines on the houses to get me going. Then we mix grays for all the slate cliffs and boulders, then the line delineated for the horizon. The crowning jewel were the spots of ‘just the right shade of gray black’ for windows. Then the town came alive, like windows into the soul of the village. And I saw where I could draw a line or two for rooftops.
Embarrassment was replaced with hope. Maybe my friend was right, after all. I took a photo of where I started with the blobs of paint that looked like a 5 year old. And then when complete my final painting alongside the photo. Bill said he’s been teaching in at an assisted living facility, so he knew how our group would be. Oh dear!
My first creation – No longer dangerous instead a 3-hour moment of saying YES!
What can you say yes to? Where can you create?
The finished product. It’s a beginning.
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