L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Saturday, October 9, 2010

No leading 1

I do quite a few things rather well. To be honest...yes, I do. Some through natural ability, some through years and years of practice. Mostly, a combination of the two. And I'm not afraid, which is a huge part of any creative endeavor, putting inspiration into action or form. "I can do that - sure, why not!" But perhaps most importantly, I know my limitations. The older I get, the more I understand this, the more crucial I believe it to be.

We all have talents and skills of one sort or another, developed to a lesser or greater degree. And we all have dreams or ambitions or goals that involve those talents and skills. To me, the difference between success and abject mortification and disaster - out in the world or just subjectively personal - is to find the balance between those two things. To be able to assess what we can and can't do. To dream about the creation of something and waiting, if necessary, until the moment when we've developed our skills, our selves, enough to pull it off. I look at older paintings or performance and sometimes think, "Oh, I see what you were going for - bravo! - but you didn't quite get there, did you...?"

To be creatively ambitious is important for any artist, making any sort of art. To challenge ourselves, to grow. But I feel recognizing our limitations - somehow - and working with/working within those limitations is at least as important. Earlier this year I finished a painting that I began almost a decade ago. I'm currently working on another I started at about the same time. I don't know why I put them aside - not something that I do, once a thing has been fully begun - but I feel something in me said, wait. And my understanding of these two paintings and their very long blooming - one finished and publicly successful (see an explanation of this painting here.), one happily progressing - is, "I just wasn't ready until now." I somehow intuited that I wasn't yet capable of doing what I wanted to do.

And I think it's also very important to know what we'll probably never be good at. No matter how we want it, no matter how we struggle to master that quality or technique, I believe there are just some things we're not designed to do or be. I'd love to be a painter who is known for his beautiful brushwork - to be able to describe something accurately and meaningfully with just a flick or a drag or a blob - but my brain doesn't work that way. I'd love to be a tenor - or, better yet, a soprano! - but I have a low voice. There are so many areas of life - not just related to creativity, and much more subtle and logical than those two examples - where, if we could only allow ourselves to let go of our striving after the wrong, unnatural goals, we would have so much more energy to do the things we are meant to do, are uniquely designed to do.

To know what we can and can't do, to know what we are ready for and what we are not yet ready for, and to know what we really have no actual aptitude for, is very freeing.

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