The Blank Page

One day at the Art Students League, my teacher was late. The art teachers there always wander in late and bleary, as if awakened from some brilliant art-making reverie only to remember that they have to teach a bunch of art-starved students.

Since the teacher was late, the proctor, a middle-aged woman with uncombed red hair and bright eyes, sidled over to me.

She told me, “Tape your paper to the board and just get started. You’re not afraid of the blank page, are you?”

“No,” I laughed. Not me. I’m not afraid of the blank the page. The blank slate. The tabula rasa. Every time I go to blog, every time I start to write or paint anything, there it is – the blank page. And I’m not afraid.

I am so not afraid of the blank page that I have to excise it immediately. I must do away with it. I must X out the blank page using any old black font on the white screen. I must not pause. I must not stop. I must let my fingers fly.

gesso-ing my art journal

In art class with Robert Burridge at the Holbein Art event several years ago, Burridge instructed me, my sis, and my dad to prime the heavy paper with acrylic gesso. Gesso is that heavy white, chalky paint that makes the next layer of paint stick. Then, my dad, or maybe Burridge, said all that gesso-ing is just a way of smearing your DNA on the page, making it your own.

My problem with gesso-ing the page is that I have to wait for the page to dry. Once I gesso, I want to get right in there and go. Slide the brush around the page.

Yup, that’s me. Not afraid of the blank page, but impatient for the creative process.

For creative inspiration, check out Bob Burridge’s website.

Death by Perfection

It is not inadequacy that is my enemy, it is my belief that I should be above inadequacy.

Perfectionism is the enemy of art.

On a few summer afternoons, my father and I painted on the porch of the Big House. We’d just come back from painting classes in Burlington, Vermont and we could experiment with new techniques.

The feeling of a paintbrush in my fingers thrills me, but my paintings? Not so much.

I fail to make art or share it, because I know it’s not perfect. Not yet. I do not want to expose myself to other’s criticism or hear their good and helpful ideas.

I think I must throw it all out there, acknowledge my work is a work in progress. As is my life.

I remember this slogan from a 12-step meeting, “high perfectionism, low productivity; low perfectionism, high productivity.” If my work is good enough and done, that is far better than perfect and never done.

Make Something New

I have seen way too much of my kids since they went to camp a week and a half ago. I have been with them in the emergency room, the health clinic and the outdoor chapel.

Charlotte had some kind of panic attack/low blood sugar/migraine/mild seizure that landed her in the ER. Catherine had an ear infection. And Hayden popped out of a sea of navy blazers after the outdoor chapel service to beg me to get him his iTouch.

I was supposed to get away from kids and responsibilities when they went to camp. Instead, I am in need of a vacation from this vacation. I honestly can’t wait to get back to work.

Wait. Not quite yet.

I’m making art. I’m making something new. My first class was with Linda Kemp. It was about negative space painting, about painting the space behind what you see, and not what you see.

Maybe through making art, through finding something in the negative, I will find what I am missing. And it’s not the kids.

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