By Janice Lindsay, Contributing Writer
I told myself, “Don’t be intimidated.”
I was attending an art workshop preparing to paint. I was one of eleven women, ten of whom were for-real artists or had at least taken classes, and me.
While the instructor explained the activity, I said to myself, “Self, you don’t belong here.” But myself answered, “Will the world come to an end if you can’t do this? Why can’t you just relax and enjoy yourself?”
There’s so much freedom in learning to do something when you don’t have to do it well. But it’s not easy to convince yourself of that. We live in an achievement-oriented society. We’re all expected to accomplish stuff, preferably good stuff.
The workshop description had said: “Don’t consider yourself an artist? It doesn’t matter. This isn’t about representational art. The focus is on the process, not the end results.”
That afforded some reassurance. I knew I could not do “representational.” I could not paint anything that looked like something, at least not on purpose.
On the other hand, I knew that, in the end, we would all see everybody else’s results. I hoped for results that, if they were not good, would at least not be embarrassing.
Further description: “The process invites deeper creativity and imagination to flow by using your intuition as your guide. You might be surprised at the talent you have. The workshop will be loose, fun, and freeing — and messy.”
I did not expect to be surprised at my talent. But I knew I could do messy!
We each tacked an 18” by 24” sheet of paper, in my case vertically, on the studio walls lined with newsprint.
Small jars of brightly colored paints waited, with assorted brushes on tables behind us.
My intuition-as-guide said, “Start with a purple spiral.”
I had never touched a brush full of such paint (an artist friend described it as a high-quality gouache or tempera). I found it thick, luscious, and altogether satisfying.
I did not know how to accomplish a spiral. The closest I could come was a thick, curvy line, wide at the top, narrow at the bottom.
Now intuition said “Yellow.” Paint yellow around the purple. Decorate the purple with white dots. Outline curves with red. Stroke green swaths on yellow. Plaster yellow with black circles with red centers.
I was having a fine messy time.
After a while, the curvy line reminded me of a snake. I gave it eye dots, breaking the rule about “representational.” But are there rules in art? Not that this looked like art. Or a snake.
My result: an oddity whose primary, if not only, appeal was bright colors.
When time was up, we strolled the studio, contemplating each other’s work. I saw ten works of art and one something else.
“Self,” I said, “you tried something new and you had fun. What more could you ask?”
At home, I transferred the oddity from my car to the trash bucket. An important part of creativity – just like an important part of life — is learning to let go.
But the next day, my husband glimpsed the oddity. He liked it! He wanted to hang it! I gave him permission to tack it up in the garage.
So, in our grayish garage walls, amidst all the dull-colored paraphernalia people store in garages, next to the faded instructions for the snow blower, hangs a bright purple snake on a brilliant yellow background.
They say that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. So, just in case, if you ever visit our house, please don’t come in through the garage.