“I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.” – Vincent van Gogh.
At the heart of van Gogh’s words lies the courage to begin. The journey of a thousand miles, as the old saying goes, begins with a single step. For artists, this means picking up the brush, the pen, or the clay, even when the path ahead is unclear and the outcome uncertain. It’s about acknowledging that the act of creation is often riddled with discomfort and unknowns.
Like many oil painters, I began with acrylics. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I vividly remember standing in the painting aisle at Michaels. There was another girl there, my age, looking for a specific color. Wow – I thought to myself. She was so cool. She knew exactly what she needed. She was clearly in her comfort zone meanwhile I was standing there like a cat without whiskers stuck behind a fridge. I stood there, daunted, staring at my options: Cadmium Red, Ultramarine Blue, cotton, linen, filberts, rounds, flats. I realized that the only way out of this discomfort was a thousand miles away.
Being on the front lines of discovery is terrifying. It’s like the multi-verse is at your feet, and your options are endless. I filled up my cart with paints, brushes, cheap canvases, and a palette knife.
Things started out rough.
I didn’t know what to paint or how to paint. Just do it – I told myself. Just put the paint on. I smeared, smudged, and spread the paint all over my canvas. I can only describe it like jumping into a cold lake – at first there’s a bit of shock that comes with an adrenaline rush. Then comes the acclimation, ok this isn’t so scary. Then a sense of aliveness, clarity and accomplishment. That wasn’t so hard. I did it.
Starting abstract was the only way I knew how to start. It looked exactly how it was supposed to look because it wasn't supposed to look like anything at all. If you’re just starting to paint, if you feel like a bird in the ocean, just wing it. Make a mess, keep the joy, and create nonsense. Here’s to doing what we can’t do. Happy Painting!