So the challenge... write a story, a hero type story where you face an obstacle, get over your fear and make it out a conqueror.
But, to be honest, I never feel like a hero. I wonder if real heroes ever do... I have a lot of real heroes in my life. I'll have to ask them...
BUT HERE'S MY STORY. It's about
Learning to fly on canvas
Rich, my husband, rolled over in bed. (I was still reading and he usually tumbled off to sleep before me.) With no preface whatsoever, he said, "It's time to a paint."
It was huge. I had given up on painting even though people wanted to hire me to paint "Kodak moments" or portraits or their dog or the cute thing they saw on pinterest...
I was talented, but not good. (I'll explain that in a minute.)
Back to Rich. I said, "OK. But I really need to take a class. I need someone to take me beyond this stuck place. I need to be with other real live people. And I HAVE to be able to ask questions!"
He said, "Good. Sign up. It's time."
Previously, this was a tiny sore spot because my husband - like so many men - is great at figuring things out by himself. He thinks I'm intelligent so he would always suggest just going for it on my own.
So like I said, this was HUGE.
And naturally, I did nothing. Sheer fear.
What if I can't do this? What if I can never really paint from my heart? Why do I always end up with muddy paintings? Yeah, no one else looks at them that way, but that's how I feel about them! I'm an imposter. All I can do is copy what I see (accurate), but I want to create (good)!
What will Dad think? I'm a grown woman, but my dad lived close by and was always hoping I would paint portraits like our friend Mary who would ask him to critique her work when she was struggling with any certain aspect of perspective, etc. My dad has a great eye for accuracy. He's an architect. But I wanted something that didn't have to be accurate. I hated the perfectionist/performer pressure. It had already sent me for counseling to break free of it.
I had tried to let Dad be to me what he was for Mary, but it always ended up in feelings of complete failure and rejection because he couldn't see me, only what was wrong. What was lacking. Poor guy, he had no idea. You see, my dear dad is an architect. Accuracy and details are pure joy for him. But not for me. So I shut him out of that area of my life. It hurt us both. And I felt guilty. And I quit painting.
So when Rich said, "It's time to paint," I wanted to go for it, but the risk of opening that door again was so scary to me, I went immediately to find some chocolate and hide.
Within maybe a day or two, I got a phone call from a high school friend. We talk once or twice a week now, but at this juncture we were the typical once every-couple-of-years-touch-base-happy-late-birthday kind of friends who lived across the country from each other and had gradually lost touch. So this call was totally out of the blue. She said, "So, I called to tell you it's time to paint."
Then I got an email that Jed Dorsey (Camano Island born, now married and full-time artist in Indianapolis) would be in town to teach a 3 day intensive acrylic painting class. His sister, an amazing artist as well, had told me that I would love his classes. So I signed up.
I let myself get excited!
On the morning of the first day of class, I was ecstatic and feeling a little guilty to do something so wonderful just for me. I was literally packed and walking out the door when Mom called. Dad had fallen in the kitchen.
The timing was bizarre. I was literally feeling like I was going to this class to finally break free of the dad/critique syndrome. I needed this day to be all about just me. I wanted to disappear into art and learn to fly.
So I left the house, art supplies in the car and went to rescue Dad thinking that my dream may get canceled...again. But once I got him up off the floor, called the doctor, hydrated him and was sure he was OK, I went to class... late. Aargh! The perfectionist/performer ALWAYS shows up early. The only spot left was right under Jed's easel in the front. I confess, I was miffed at Dad. That's how insecure I had gotten.
But then, we started painting. Jed was incredibly encouraging!
Something broke and over the next year, I began to play. I could't wait for the next time Jed would be in town for another intensive.
I signed up immediately!
And then, like groundhog day, the very same thing happened AGAIN! Car packed, walking out the door, phone call, dad fell....Like a bad deja vu, I walked in late with anger and apologies. "Didn't this same thing happen last year?" Jed asked from the front with compassion and patience. "Yes." "Well, that's weird..."
But it didn't matter. I limped in. I was safe. And ready to fly! You see, Jed paints with an abandonment that perfectionism can't touch. His colors aren't "accurate" in the literal sense. But he paints how you feel when you look at a scene. So his colors are actually more than accurate! I want that!
As I write this, 3 years after that first class, I'm in Jed's studio upstairs at Camano Island Marketplace where I've been invited to paint live 2 days a week. It is my happy place!!!
Here are a few of the life-changing lessons I learned from Jed:
Flying lesson number one: You are the boss of your own painting
I was struggling with a fence wire. It felt wrong even though it was accurate to my reference photo. Jed said, "I know this is accurate, but it might be more pleasing to let this wire lead your eye the way a receding pathway does. You're the boss. This is your canvas. You can do what you want." WHAT?! I felt like a rock was lifted off of my shoulders.
There were other voices in the room who would walk over and say, "I can tell you what's wrong with that fence post." And I would bristle. (I KNOW what's wrong with the fencepost! I only blocked it in. I'm not working on that right now! - unspoken ugly words) But Jed's paintings... there's something about them. The color flies off of them and wraps you up into them with such emotion! They make you feel free just by looking at them. I wanted that!
Flying lesson number two: I get to like my painting
I was painting a boat. It made me feel like I could capture the emotion of another life experience I had (a story for another day). But I was frustrated. Jed walked over to encourage me. Jed: How are you doing? Me: Struggling. Then I waited for what I expected to hear which was, "OK let's fix it."
But what he said was, "OK, what do you love about your painting?"
I was so stunned that tears started flowing. Jed knew me so well by now. We had become good friends. He just waited. He knew my journey and how fragile it is for me to paint.
I said, "Wow. I didn't know I got to ask that question!"
He said, "Well you do. And now you need to answer it. What do you love about your painting?" I shyly said out loud what I loved. It was a profound moment for me.
Then he said, "I agree. So what would you like to change?"
There was no shame. "Well, this is wrong. You messed up here. Your perspective is all off."
Just what would did I want, not what should it be....
Again, I couldn't answer. He laughed. "Hey, Lydia. (gentle little brother elbow nudge) You're the boss of your own painting."
I think I said something like, "I want it to feel like...."
And off I went, happy with my color journey knowing the perspective still needed work, but I loved where it was going.
Flying lesson number three: If you want to fly, go low
After class, the second year, Jed and I ended up talking about "wonder" and how it was such a key to flying. I was a very serious child, since I got approval for doing things well. I worked super hard and never really felt I could play because I always felt like I should be doing something productive. (Employers loved me!)
But in Jed's class, I was starting to play. To dream with my Papa God and try to throw that down on canvas.
We talked about how, when you duck down to where your nose is just above table height, the world becomes such an amazing place. You notice how light comes through a glass, not just down on it. You see things framed between the pencil holder and the photo frame. Flowers are big and smell sweeter because you got closer to them. And you begin to laugh just because it's beautiful. You stop to look at things. Puppies lick your nose. You throw your head back and just "be." And then the most amazing things start to happen. You begin to morph into something beautiful. You take wing and just explore.
So I painted this second "self portrait" in class. I had fun. I will never sell it because the reference images are not my own. It's just for me. What? Not to sell, produce, market? Yes, that's right. It is just for me. And that is ok!
For today, it's enough to say that I paint more and more from my heart. I'm learning to fly. Some days I get airborne and somedays I have to rest and try again. But, someday, I will soar. And it will be because I let go of being a well grounded artist and learn to just jump!