The Creative Spirit

June 17, 2014

At age 12, I painted a portrait of a cat. The result was a creature made up of clumsy brushstrokes, furious eyebrows, and wildly disproportionate limbs. I was mortified with embarrassment. But when my mum saw it she took it and framed it, and it still hangs in her front hall to this day, stubby legs notwithstanding. I think that about sums up my life as a creative person - others seeing my potential despite my shortcomings, and me resenting myself for every flaw.

Being married to a man who has pursued art since childhood (and he now has a BFA in Drawing and Painting), I have realized that he has the same insecurities, the same inhibitions about his talent, the same despair over his shortcomings that I have. The difference is, he has always continued creating despite those fears.

Several months ago, while Patricio and I were slowly driving home one night in the dead of winter, we discussed my recently growing creative aspirations (sparked after purchasing my first DSLR months before), and that I felt haunted by the feeling I would never truly excel at anything because I was too afraid to take risks, and equally afraid of being judged negatively by others.

Patricio then shared with me one of his university experiences that took place during a creative exercise, where the teacher gave them a range of topics, which they had only a few minutes to draw. First memory. A fear from childhood. What it feels like to be sad. What it feels like to be happy. Last person that saw them naked. At the end of the exercise the teacher had the students hang their art on a wall in the classroom, and asked them to choose a piece that made them happy, sad, and so on. Finally it came down to: Point to the piece that they hated. A few fingers pointed straight to one of Patricio's drawings, no hesitation. At the time, even though it was just a quick drawing exercise, he was gutted (I would have cried for days, personally). But when he looks back on it now, he loves the fact that someone had that reaction, so strongly, so immediately to a piece of his art - that it could evoke an emotion as strongly as hate. Those strong reactions are what has made him grow as an artist, because they've helped him realize what he could improve on, and what he still believed in despite what others thought (Needless to say, that man is my biggest inspiration). That experience has stuck with me since, especially when I feel anxious over what someone else might think of my work. There is growth after failure. Even hatred can be survived.

I've come to terms with the fact that I want to create more than I am afraid of failing - which I know I will, many times over. I am finally beginning to trust myself as an artist (enough to even call myself an artist), and that's something.

“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.”
― Ansel Adams

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