On Painting

I have always loved art. I think physically expressing your emotions is an amazingly cathartic experience and my whole life I have appreciated anyone who could pull it off with some amount of talent. I never was very good at drawing, shading, painting, or coloring, even. I had these great ideas and visions for my artwork, but it always came out looking way worse than I expected. It came out missing something.

My final semester of college, I realized what I had been doing wrong my whole life. All it took was one all-nighter with two of my best friends to show me what the art I created had always been missing. It was one of many nights when the three of us were up late studying in my room when out of the blue I asked them if they’d like to paint together since happened to have a blank poster board. We all needed a break from homework so we placed ourselves in my tiny room, surrounding a large foam-board. We tried to talk about what we wanted to paint. We thought of ideas for landscapes or scenes to paint, but couldn’t really agree on one. Then, A said “let’s just start and see where it goes.” So, I put on a playlist, we each chose 2 colors we wanted to paint with, and we just started. Our final painting was nothing award-winning. It had almost no depth, the colors clashed, and none of our lines were perfectly straight or perfectly curved. But we loved it. And we continued to love it. Five, ten, probably closer to twenty paintings (not to mention paddles for our respective Greek societies) were completed in that one semester. It was usually just the three of us painting, but any painting session could turn in to a party of five or more. One painting we did had over seven people contribute in one way or another!

One of our paintings after we started to stop sucking so much.

One of our paintings after we started to stop sucking so much.

We got better and better as we went along, but we just gave our paintings away. We shared our expression with our friends. Almost every single night we would sit in that tiny triangle, huddled over a dollar foam-board, painting our feelings. Sometimes we talked about what we wanted to paint, and we actually followed a theme. Sometimes we didn’t. But again, I was telling this story to tell you what I realized I had always been doing wrong. I used to start with a goal of what I wanted my painting or drawing to be instead of just wanting to paint or draw. When you go into creative expression, it’s hard to try to conceptualize where your art is going to go, what it will end up being.

We made so many mistakes during the “Painting Semester,” but we also got really good at turning our mistakes into inspiration for further art. We started so many paintings with an idea that turned into something entirely different. We found the joy in art, the secret to it. All we did was take our feelings, our laughter, our sadness, our everything, and put it on a canvas. Seldom did we create a painting of something specific- they were usually abstract swirly art things or weird flowers or tye-dye with Ohms and peace signs- but we were always 100% satisfied with our work. Because we realized that we accomplished our goal of creating something instead of something in particular.

After I graduated I went to Nicaragua (as you all probably know from half of beMUSEd’s content) and didn’t have many opportunities to paint, though I did doodle and draw quite often. And when I got back from Nica I had to get a job and start saving money and worrying about “real life,” so I didn’t paint. But tonight I was feeling a little down, and I was feeling a little stifled. I didn’t know how to express my emotions in words or thoughts, so I asked my sister if I could use her painting supplies (I gave all of mine to my pledge daughter, A) and sat down on my bedroom floor and painted. It probably took twenty seconds before I already began to feel better because all I wanted to do was paint. I just wanted to make something, anything. And I did! So I felt incredibly relieved.

I am a firm believer in creativity as a way of life. How do you live your life creatively?

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