I recently got a splinter.
As a kid I remember running through our house and snagging my big toe on the hardwood floors. It resulted in a big splinter. So of course, my parents had to get out the tweezers and a pin and do the parent thing and try to get it out. For some reason that was the most terrifying event in the world to me. Something sharp being stuck in my foot- even if for my own good. My kids were the same way. I have vivid memories of my girls throwing a fit while I was the one trying to track them down with tweezers in my hand. Ah… life is ironic.
Last week when I got the splinter in my hand, I just calmly got out a needle and dug it out. Yep, it hurt. Probably more than when I was a kid. But no big deal this time. Perspective again.
I wrote a long time ago about when I was about 30 years old and went to the Portrait Society of America conferences when they were first starting up. How I got up enough courage to ask Burton Silverman for his opinion on my work. I handed him a tiny portfolio book that I had of my work and his only real comment before running off to the airport was that I needed to take art lessons.
And if you don’t think that particularly wicked splinter is still in the back of my head, think again. For years it rang as a niggling ache in the back of my brain… “Am I good enough?”
Last week I ran three zoom workshops on Drawing the Portrait, Light and the Power of Pastel. The three most significant things I learned in my development as an artist. And as I told stories of how I came to learn these things and figure these things out for myself, I realized that for the most part and for most of my life I have been on my own. I talked last week about how I figured out how to use pastel by sitting in my basement painting while my babies slept, and knowing I wasn’t going to be able to travel to take workshops or take a class to get “art lessons” from anyone else. I was a mom and moms have to improvise.
So I painted and created sucky paintings. I painted some more. And because I am so stubborn, I painted more and developed elements in my art that were important to me and on my own terms. Following my gut. And that splinter in the back of my mind hurt pretty bad some days.
Fear. I talked about it before. How it can affect your work and cripple a painting because a work is basically us. Made of us and from us- our experiences and moods and desires and fears. Our education, sure, but also, our determination and intentions. Set intentions and the painting will respond. Art lessons be dammed.
It has taken me a long time to recover from that splinter. The scar is still there, but I know now that I know what I know. I have learned a lot in the last 20 years since that day I walked away with my little portfolio book in my hands and tears in my eyes. I know enough now to teach my beliefs and teach it well. I have gotten MY art lessons in the trench before my easel, and it was messy and muddy and full of experiments and trials and failures. But ya know what? When I was younger, I know I was not serious enough. Not dedicated enough to even begin to want anything bad enough at that age. Even if an art education had been handed to me on a silver platter by Burton Silverman himself I would have squandered it. But now the thirst grows deeper every year. I now have a firm belief in my process and in my creations. To let them be seen by others without worrying if I am enough. And to always keep learning.
What are your splinters? Over time pain becomes relevant. What I was terrified of so many years ago while removing the splinter from my toe has become a mundane fact of life. Now I don’t scream and yell. I just get out the tweezers. Move on.
That’s my parting thought this week- take out the tweezers of determination, pluck out your fears and move on. No screaming or yelling. OR complaining… Just paint.