I was listening to/ watching (again) Brene Brown on UTube talking about gratitude, love and vulnerability. Brown talks about the courage of being able to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.
I think that art is, once again, a great metaphor for life – especially when it comes to vulnerability. Once an artist attains a certain level of technical proficiency, there is a routine to the technique. The medium (acrylics, oil, water colour, pen and ink on paper, canvas, board or clay) becomes comfortable and predictable. The style, use of line and use of colour are well-established. And most seductive of all, the audience for the artist’s work has a certain expectation. The audience are the people who appreciate and provide feedback to the artist and that could be patrons and customers who buy art or perhaps family, friends, peers, instructors or coaches who offer feedback and encouragement. There are risks to trying something new: it costs money; it feels awkward; the experiments are often so disappointing.
I believe that the creativity arises out of the rawness of experimentation, risk and the courage to push the edges. There is freshness and liveliness in the raw experimentation that disappears once the technique becomes a formula. The difference between an excellent artisan and a true artist is at the edge of the comfort zone. The artist feels this edge as the painting , drawing, sculpture evolves. A moment comes and may never be recognized; this is the moment of choice. The artist can make a leap of courage. The spirit of that courageous leap is an echo that lives and breathes and gives zest and magic to the finised piece of art.
A person who experiments with technique at the very beginning of learning something new is unleashing the artist within – the finished piece may not have been built with the skill of an artisan and maybe what is created does not shine with the polish of what we conventionally call art. Yet, it is in that struggle at the edge where art is born.
We all have those moments, whether we call ourselves artists or not. And we all make that choice – to stay at the edge or to return to the comfort of the familiar.
In art, the downside risk is about wasting time or money and having a finished piece that was more about learning than becoming something beautiful. In life, there are greater and deeper risks. In life, part of the art is to maintain a reasonable level of safety while flirting and dancing as near to the edge as courage and common sense allow. This is vulnerability.
This sketch is a pen and ink and water colour drawing of my neighbour’s garden – an experiment with coloured ink on a new kind of paper, called repap. Repap, by Ogami, is made of stone – recycled calcium carbonate and non-toxic resins. The paper is smooth yet soft and water proof. The ink slides but does not permeate. I bought the notepad at Phidon in Galt and it was so that I could sketch in the rain. The lovely responsiveness of the ink on the new paper was a delightful surprise and the result of a successful experiment. And so, I am sharing with you a moment of gratitude and joy.