Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The artist's enigma

Looking at another artist's work,
I realize how constrained I've been
by my desperate need to please.
In the time-worn way of difficulties,
painting is teaching me all I need to know
about what holds me back;
about the emptiness inside
where confidence should reside;
about the desperate need to look outside
myself for guidance and approval,
when all this time I thought I was
(as Mama always said)
stubborn, and independent.

So what is it that happens
as the canvas slowly fills
and I grow less and less assured
of what to add or change?
It's fear, I know, that had me
crying when I took a class,
but fear of what? My mother's disapproval
seems too distant.
I'm told there's no wrong marks, and yet
I'm terrified that my wrong mark
will ruin a good painting --
just as fear of falling ruined
my collegiate attempt to learn to ski.
What stops me? What abyss is this
that keeps me so on edge?
How can I transform myself
from timid into bold?

Perhaps it's tied to the time I claimed with confidence,
"I'm a National Merit Scholar,"
and then promptly screwed something up?
Could something that occurred when in my teens
carry echoes that would last this long?

I could ask myself so many questions
when standing before a canvas
and wondering what comes next.
Is the problem that I need to study more,
so I know how to achieve what I'm visualizing?
I'm worried that I haven't grown,
despite all the avenues that I've explored.
But mostly it's the marks
that have me stumped.
I can build a structure underneath,
but then I find myself wanting more,
and that's when I get terrified,
and balk, assuming anything I do
will be ridiculed, and mocked as amateurish,
and so instead I always push for balance
though I long for something random.
Perhaps I need to spend some time
addressing a larger canvas, and powering through?

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