Lessons Art Has Taught Me


Art continues to amaze me. I’m saddened by the realization that life’s hustle and bustle has pared back my free time to create it, especially with all the work recently on editing and publishing A Fallen Hero. But when I do take a few hours and breathe and complete a piece of art, the meditation throughout the process and the life lessons I glean afterward fill me with a profound sense of satisfaction.

For those of you who have been following On The Cobblestone Road from the beginning, you may remember one of my early posts from April of 2016: This Is Important. In that post, I likened the process of sketching to writing and discussed the struggle at the beginning of every piece of art I’ve created. The blank canvas with a few faint undefined lines is an intimidating obstacle, and partway through the piece there’s usually a sense of frustration and hopelessness with the nagging urge to give up.

“With the outline of the horse completed, I felt disheartened. In that state, developing it into a creature seemed like an unattainable goal. The initial creative flare I felt when first starting had burned low, and if I let myself give up, those cinders would have been extinguished. I put my head down and told myself, just keep going, just see what might happen. Don’t listen to that little voice in the back of your head telling you to give up.

The beginning is always rough. But by the end, I’ve all but forgotten that initial struggle, which is why photographing the journey helped me relive it. A fitting metaphor for a life lesson, I thought. Success is a grueling road, the daydream in its infancy just a series of shaky lines defining proportions but committing to nothing before transforming into something incredible with nothing but perseverance and determination and a vision.

My latest piece was outside of my comfort zone to begin with—paint on wood, no pencil or eraser in sight. My grandmother was a watercolor painter before Alzheimer’s eroded the connection between her mind and her hand. The paintbrush has never been as comfortable in my hand as a pencil. But I dove in, a scene blossoming in my mind and slowly transferring onto the wood . . . until I realized halfway through that my painting was upside down. The two holes for hanging wire were on the bottom, not the top.

I paused. Mistakes happen—something my perfectionist ego hates to admit—but how to handle them, now that’s the real test of character. Was all that hard work wasted to be thrown away in frustration? Or was there an opportunity hidden in the flaw?

Taking an error and turning it into an asset . . . that’s something I’ve learned as an artist. I stared at the holes in the flat snow and wondered how to fix something that couldn’t be covered by paint. And how to hang it?

A drill, a pair of needlenose pliers, and a coil of wire later, I’d added a unique element—a swirling silver decor that lifted off the background. A beautiful accent I never would have thought to add if I hadn’t accidentally painted my canvas upside down.

I think my experiences as an artist translate into visual metaphors for my journey as a writer and life in general. New experiences are daunting when faced with the blank canvas of the unknown. The first steps are weak and uncertain, but confidence grows the farther we go. And the mistakes we make can sometimes present new opportunities that were hidden before when our eyes were looking up and not down at our feet when we tripped.

We continue to grow.

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