The Excruciating Art Of “Breaking Open”

I am an artist. As far back as I can remember, I found joy in creating something from nothing. 

At this point in my creative life, I am in the middle of what might be called an “artistic existential crisis”. 

Recently, I completed a brilliant 5 day painting workshop given by the artist,  Carol Marine.  (She’s the artist who wrote the “Daily Painting”. ) It’s the first workshop I’ve ever attended. Carol is skilled, fun, organized, and has a plethora of information about her process of painting to impart.  The other class members were supportive, talented and equally amazing human beings. 

So what’s the problem, you ask? I kept freezing I place at my easel. Brush in hand, I’d start… then without realizing what happened, I’d be unable to place another brushstroke. “Art Anxiety Attack”? Is there such a thing? Well, apparently for me there is. (People tend to throw around the words, “panic and anxiety” a lot these days, which can minimize those of us who actually suffer from it.)

I was so tempted to scream at the top of my lungs, “NO REALLY! I do know how to paint! I promise!” Even the basics where lost to me. Rather that run tearfully back to Los Angeles, I stayed. Day after day after day—pretty much sucking at the actual painting part. I listened intently to the information Carol imparted. That was my goal. “KEEP your @$s there,  and absorb the new information. Don’t BOLT, Barb!” That was huge deal for me.  You see, I was the kid in school who raised her hand and knew all the answers. I was the one who could get good grades without trying in most subjects. I am the woman is pretty good at many things. So for me to not know what-the-bloody-hell I was going to do with every single brushstroke, and freeze in place in abject terror, was new. 

And like Sen. Warren, I persisted. 

I knew I had to to be challenged to learn. I had to battle my anxiety demons to push through to the finish line. And I did. And today, my first day back in my own studio, I found myself really experimenting with my art. That is the beginning.  Breaking open. 

So the next time, you think a little painting of coffee cups or bunnies is an easy task, remember for most of us, it is not. Each painting is a victory. 


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