The Divine Artist
I recently had the privilege of reconnecting to my high school art teacher. To this day, my heart beats a little faster at the thought of her, the mention of her name, or the sight of soulful mastery spilled onto a canvas. She moves my heart and represents the fire that resurrected something deep inside of me- drawing it out like an exorcism of the soul.
Later that day, reflecting upon our conversation, I remembered the artistic process. At the time, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into and the thought of learning to draw, paint, and sculpt was overwhelming. I wouldn’t admit it then - but I was scared. Others were so talented. Learning new techniques sounded boring and impossible. I had a choice: fail, and forfeit graduation, or… try. One by one, I began learning new techniques, and, to my surprise, I fell in love. I became obsessed with the details – trying to make things perfectly realistic. I loved to watch the lines on the page dance with life. As the energy on the page swirled, so did my emotions. Those of you that practice yoga can likely relate to this energetic movement: we get into a pose and organize our bodies with technique and alignment. This awakens our inner world of breath and consciousness, and with a rush of power our pose expands in all directions and creates a physical expression of our inner world!
Music, Art, Yoga, Dance, Poetry… they’re all very similar. Each serves as a platform for self expression. A means of sharing this unique, individual experience that we call life. While each avenue requires specific techniques and skills, the process is the same: draw upon inner-inspiration and let it flow through your paint brush, vocal chords, instrument, and body.
Do we need to master the technical side of our craft to express ourselves? Absolutely not. We can dance around like monkeys at a Phish concert, or draw inside (or outside) the lines with crayons and magic markers, or play four chords on the guitar or piano and still create a hit song like “let it be”. Masterpieces come from the depths of our souls – from our willingness to be vulnerable as we tap deeply into the inspiration of our hearts. Sometimes the only tool we need is courage.
Let’s make this a little more tangible. Take language for example. Most of our communication and our ability to express our wants and needs comes through our ability to speak. Ever listen to a non-English speaking tourist try to ask for what they need? You witness the struggle and the occasional lapse into their first language in hopes that they will get the point across. You stand there hoping they can communicate through body language. Language is a learned skill. The more languages you know the more people you can communicate with. Many musicians study/play various styles to draw upon the appropriate “flavor” when improvising or writing music.
Prior to studying art, I lacked many tools of self expression. This resulted in a fairly constant state of frustration. I was never very good at verbal expression – words came slowly to my mind while emotions rushed through me. In a fast paced world, where silence is deemed awkward, i was fearful of not being heard if I couldn’t speak up and speak fast. Writing? Forget about it. My thought process was too filled with self-judgement and frustration to get passed my poor spelling and grammar. I was told those are “necessary” in the writing process, and I therefore determined I could not (and would not) write. I needed something to crack the shell. I needed to find freedom. I needed to let out all the energetic pressure that was building inside me. Visual art came to my rescue!
Art somehow drew out a side of me I had never seen before. My teacher had an amazing teaching style – assigning a technical assignment followed by a creative one. She gave us the skills to communicate freely from the heart. It was never boring. I learned to draw the bones of a hand one day and creatively incorporate the hand into a work of art the next day. Other times she’d ask us to draw anything we wanted in the medium of our choice (mine was pencil). Then we’d learn how to recreate it with charcoal, inc, acrylic, watercolor, and clay. If I drew a tree for fun, she would show me some ways to draw it more accurately and efficiently. She never required anything more than our effort and attention. She was famous for eliminating the words “I can’t” from our vocabulary. That lesson still permeates my life. If the only way to fail was by not trying, what would your life canvas look like? Is that fun to think about or does it scare you to admit to what you really want? If it scares you, is it because you are not doing anything to support what you really want? Or is it because you aren’t there yet?
You will never be “there”. You will always be HERE – moving towards “there”. That is the nature of growth.
When you witness fear, you have an opportunity to connect to what you really want. You can gain the skills and tools to take you “there”! It all comes down to finding the desire inside our hearts to create the masterpiece, song, or life that we want and having the tools to create it. The vision, coupled with the learning of appropriate skills, provides the inspiration and means to fly!
Part 2: Breaking Down the Walls
What stops us from sharing and expressing ourselves? Sometimes it is a lack of capability, or the belief that we have nothing to share, or the fear of being vulnerable that paralyzes us. If it’s lack of skill, start experimenting! Take a dance lesson, yoga class, or art class. There are endless art forms, and they all have their benefits. Personally, I can speak to yoga. The focus on breath brings the mind into a state of presence and ease. The attention to the physical body leaves a long lasting effect of feeling good. That being said, I started with art, and music first. There is no wrong starting point other than not starting. As Dan Millman says, “there is no starting or stopping, only doing.”
If you are not fully expressing yourself out of fear of not being accepted or fear that you have nothing to offer, here is a bit of perspective: Every single person on this planet has a unique set of life experiences, and a perspective that no one else shares. This means every one of us has something to learn from each other. We often take our diversity for granted. Instead of sharing our differences and learning from each other, we allow our differences to drive us apart. Sharing your individuality (without forcing it upon someone) is a service to the world. It’s scary to share ourselves. The very things that make us unique are usually the things that make us feel different and separate. The people that intrigue us the most often hold the most amount of power. They wield a sword of courageous vulnerability. They stand up and make speeches like “I have a dream…” or light their guitar on fire and drop to their knees in the name of passion. They step outside the norm and paint drooping clocks over trees, stop warring countries by starving themselves to stand up for ahimsa (non violence)…the list goes on.
Do we have to take ourselves to the extreme to make a positive difference in this world? Of course not. A simple, loving hug – an outward expression of the heart – can turn someone’s day around, and in turn, might turn their week or life around. Dig deep into the inspiration that lies within your own heart.
The world deserves you.
We are united in that we are all unique. When we share ourselves, we take down the walls of perceived separation, and allow for the opportunity to connect on the deepest level. So please, let these be more than words on a page. Let them mean something to this world by taking a moment to step outside the heavy armor and let your heart breathe. From that breath, share your story…the world deserves you.
Thank you to my teacher Eileen Walk, and to my high school art buddy Mary Benyo for both pushing me to my potential, and empowering me to go deeper. The first art piece above was inspired by my spiritual sister Julia Garcia- “draw me something vulnerable” thanks J. Big Big Thank you to Yogi, Graphic Designer, and Photographer Taylor Dunham for editing this blog out of the goodness of her heart. I stand tall from the support of amazing people.