“You know what your problem is?” a sassy little woman in a red hat asks me as I finish a stroke on my painting.
I’m intrigued. My problem? I’ve got 99 and, well, you know the rest.
“What?” I finally ask her.
“You aren’t afraid.” She says it with admiration. Like painting is something I should be afraid. It’s the way I would say it to a mountain climber or a shark vet or a bungee jumper.
Live paintings can be deceiving. What she doesn’t know is that I’m afraid all the damn time. Of not being a good enough mom. Of not being a good enough painter. Of not spending enough time with my friends and those relationships slowly dying. I’m afraid of the people who look at my work like it’s just an object, one whose value depends upon their approval.
I met the woman who told me about my “problem” at the Sophisticated Woman Magazine “Hat’s Off” luncheon where most of the guests wore elaborate hats. As each attendee walked in, she put one stroke on the painting I eventually created. It was a powerful exercise in giving up control. Most women began their painting stroke with this caveat: “You can fix this, right?”
I didn’t fix anything. I enhanced, embellished, developed, added. It’s just paint after all. The marks we make don’t need to be covered. They need to be showcased.
At the end of the day, I trusted myself enough to let anyone paint anything on my canvas. I trusted them too. I trusted that lines and colors and shapes can always be lead to harmony. That none are damning in and of themselves. That I can direct them. I know how.
I enjoyed this practice so much I did it again the following night at Spring for Art in downtown Covington. There was a much bigger variety of participants this time– kids, adults, men, and women. The painting went in a hundred different directions. There were times I feared it would grow beyond my ability to control it. But it didn’t.
My sassy friend was right– I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid to let my many fears exist– to feel them, breathe them in and breathe them out. And then move on. Keep painting. Parenting. Going to lunch with friends as often as I can. She wasn’t watching someone who wasn’t afraid of painting. I am. She was watching someone who wasn’t afraid of fear.