Tiny Canvas: An Experiment in Being Brave
It is time to really pull back the curtain here.
None of my pieces were finished for a very long time. Like, until a week ago.
Don’t get me wrong, they were complete. There were no more flowers or wings to add, no more portals to secure or little paper bottles to place. Each tiny scrap of paper had found its home. However, the larger forms have simply been floating inside of my giant watercolor paper pad. Each element was adhered to another...this butterfly to that window, this flower against that boat hull, but I was absolutely terrified to paste them down on the substrate (which is just fancy artist-speak for whatever surface they will be on--paper, canvas, wood, you get me?). I have spent many hours trying a variety of techniques and found some that I really liked (that didn’t make the paper too bumpy) and decided that I would use on these precious pieces of my soul. But I could not force myself to actually do it.
Fear was the big banner waving over all of this. Fear of screwing it up. Fear of the work not being perfect. Fear of losing something that was very special. Absolute paralyzing fear.
I asked a number of artist friends what to do about this--it should be noted I was too embarrassed to seek advice of folks I know in real life. (Yup, Lisa, Cody—I KNOW either and both of you could have talked me through it, in hindsight. Fear makes us do crazy things, no?) Going to the online artist community led me to some obvious answers, “Just do it!” “Experiment on random pieces of paper!” “Do a lot of research.” “Keep practicing.” My fellow collage artists would kindly share the exact techniques that worked for them. But nothing brought peace about finalizing these pieces. Desperate, I wanted to just do it, pull off the bandaid, suck up my pride. But I love these surreal collages so much. And some of them already have homes when they are finished. I didn’t want the pieces to be ruined and I didn’t want their stories to be over, and most of all, I want them to go on and live with other people to bring joy to new spaces.
And just at the right time, a wise stranger knew the words that my heart needed to hear. Among an entire paragraph of encouragement, there they were:
As if she could read my mind, she spoke to my very next thought which was a painful reminder of what I had dwelt on too long…”CRAP??? My work could become crap?!?!?!” This is what she said:
There is such power gained from your deep seated (and deep seeded?) fears spoken out loud by a stranger. She didn’t diminish my question by further scrutinizing my artistic competency, she didn’t call me a scaredy cat. She just spoke truth into the fear of failure.
I had to write it out big, “Nothing is that precious…TRUST yourself and move forward.” It echoed in my mind as if I had heard her speak it out loud, and now every time I recall it, I hear these words in another powerful woman’s voice, my sweet music teachers, my incredible art therapist, the voices of dear and wise friends, my sister, my grandmothers, my mother, and sometimes, dare I say it, my own.
So I took her advice and my favorite media and techniques and set out to work on a teeny tiny canvas.
It was beautiful. I loved the textures that came of all the hard work and research, and you know something else? It was absolute freedom to set out and trust and hold on to what I had created so loosely.
In fact, it was addicting. So it’s safe to say that all of my original works up until this point will be safe and secure on their respective papers in time for something really big coming up at the end of this month.
Anyway, I don’t know what you’re holding onto this tightly in your own life--whatever you are afraid of making final and permanent but I promise if you just trust that there is something wonderful always coming down the road you can experience this freedom too. If you need a friend or a stranger to speak truth to you, that’s okay! Find the support you need. I promise, something beautiful is going to come of it.