I never used to think of myself as an artist, which is funny and sad on a number of levels. I had this image of myself as a fuckup, someone who does stuff half-assed, has trouble with completing projects, and I wouldn't let myself justify costuming or calligraphy or writing as "artistic". I'm almost entirely self-taught in those realms, which was part of the problem.
Finally I decided I could call myself an artist once I'd become a part of the Waldorf teaching tradition. My program follows one of Steiner's precepts, that the Teacher as Artist is a goal to strive toward. And it's made clear that the artistic technique is not just meant for the Art of Teaching, though it's a part. I struggled hard to make my work "artistic" as my teachers requested, characterizing rather than defining, showing the gesture or direction of an idea rather than delineating it.
I also struggled with comparing myself to my classmates. I have always been an enthusiastic maker of images, but I had never had much instruction with regard to technique, while half my classmates produced what seemed like masterworks in comparison to my own clumsy efforts.
The first teacher training art class I felt at home at, wasn't even an *art* class.
The second half of the High School Mathematics curriculum taught to the Waldorf Teachers-in-training is Geometry, including the artistic component of Geometric Drawings.
There is a real peace in learning how to be precise. We were explicitly taught the steps and stages for any geometric construction. Bless Patrick for a meticulous teacher, breaking down the techniques with ease and clarity, having us practice until we understood.
(image of a 24-point geometric web)
Once I began the process of drawing a geometric figure, I found myself in this incredibly clear-headed space. Like a life-long weight of self-judgment had lifted. Liberating!
I can't even really explain how it felt, what it did to my head, to my sense of self, to be able to grok clearly and completely how to construct this precise and beautiful thing.
(image titled "Flowery fun with geometry" using many interlocking circles and colors and shading to create a flower shape.)
Being able to create these complex and meticulous drawings sent me into a very Zen space. My head quieted, my focus narrowed, and all there was in the world was me, my hands, the paper, tools, and pencil. Completely "in the Zone", completely in flow-state, I very rarely wanted to stop or even pause in the process. It seemed *easy*, and was definitely FUN.
I had a paradigm shift. No longer could I tell myself "it's too hard, I can't do that, too complicated, too detailed, I'm not ____..." where ___ could be anything from "that kind of artist" or "precise" or "clever like that" or "skilled like that" or even the base canard, "good enough". Those evil little brainweasel voices couldn't be heard over the all-consuming focus on the process of construction, the flow that somehow seemed so easy in such an unexpected place after so long striving after it.
(image titled "simple geometric flower with notes", seven interlocking circles filled in with blue, pink and green.)
Why am I not doing geometric drawing all the time? It's lovely, it's satisfying, and there are thousands of possible projects to practice.
Why NOT do a thing I enjoy, and that brings me peace? Why NOT enjoy exploring my skills, expanding my image of myself to include calm precision and creation of beauty?
Every day we grow and change. We all transform ourselves into new people, a little at a time. Sometimes the transformation is consciously done, sometimes simple passage of time creates the transformation without us thinking much about what we're growing into, what we're becoming.
If the time will pass regardless, why NOT be intentional about what you choose to do with your transformation?
I wanna get GOOD at the art. And I know it doesn't just happen, I know I have to work at it. I have to LET myself get good at it. I have to be willing to fail and to suck and to throw stuff away sometimes. I have to go GET what I need to get better, I have to take lessons, write scripts for comics, watch YouTube instructional videos, practice little chibi drawings, start doodling on my tablet computer, and with the watercolor paints, and just allow myself to practice and experiment.
And I have to remember that nothing worth having is birthed all of a sudden.
(image titled "Complex Geometrical Flower stage 1", initial shading and coloring)
Art in particular is part of a slow and steady process, a conversation between me and the paper, or the clay, or the paint or fabric or the computer screen.
(image titled "Complex Geometrical Flower stage 2", intermediate stage of shading and coloring)
Art for art's sake is fine, I think it's a worthy goal just to bring more beauty into the world, to provoke conversation or thought or change. Art has the ability to wake people up to something they may be unaware of in the world.
(image titled "Complex Geometrical Flower stage 3", completed shading and coloring)
Art can serve an even higher purpose though. Art can bring a chance for transformation and healing, rest and respite, community and peace.
All of these are things that the artistic process has taught me, has brought to me.
This, this making things, making art, changing one thing into another thing by channeling ideas and images THROUGH ME, this is one way I can contribute to the world.
And to make this contribution, means that I can give myself permission to learn these skills properly, to practice the crafts that I love: writing, art, communication, teaching, healing. I can give myself permission to practice them until I am properly good at those skills and can then use them out in the world to the end result of community and healing.
There's so much pain in the world and not nearly enough beauty. Too much loneliness and not nearly enough love, compassion, and beauty.
I can do this. I can remember, and use as fuel for the work, the fact that the things I HAVEN'T done are the things I have most regretted.
Face the Fear and Do It Anyway.