Last year I had the opportunity to spend 5 days in a Santa Fe artist's studio with a wonderful group of creative women. As a novice, I was grateful to witness the stunning work emerge from each woman as her creative process unfolded. I was also made brutally aware of my lack of formal art training and experience. One of the artists (also a teacher), sensing my confusion at how to proceed, kindly spent time with me reviewing design fundamentals like line, shape, color, balance, texture, contrast, and pattern. In her very supportive, encouraging tone she made the design challenge I faced seem so simple. I responded to her encouragement, not through the lens of an artist, but that of a life coach. "You make it sound so easy. I get it now, it's like living a healthy, happy, well balanced life!" She reared back and vehemently disagreed. To her, life was a much more difficult prospect than creating a magnificent painting. She shared some of her challenges and I could see clearly how her struggles made life a daunting daily task. Art was her refuge. It was something she mastered, could get lost in, and it almost always turned out right for her, unlike her life and relationships.
Thinking of life as a blank canvas is not a new concept, but in this case it really impacted me. I wished I could paint like her. I imagined what it must feel like to be able to create such beautiful art with such (seemingly) little effort. She could make a simple mark in just the right place and transform a piece from ordinary to exceptional. Even though I yearned for her artistic talent, I wouldn't trade places. Her life canvas had some imperfections, evidence of myriad attempts at "do overs", and appeared to have been overworked. Sort of like when too many colors are mixed together and the vibrancy and true essence is lost in the mud. I have a tendency to severely overwork my art, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result... kind of crazy!
If only she could see how closely life reflects art she would be happier. And if only I could translate what I know about life onto the canvas I could reveal what is in my head through my art. But for each of us, translating what we know and applying it somewhere else is a circuitous path that takes time, practice, and reflection. I have learned that during my creative process I need to stop, stand back, take a long look at my work and decide what is the next best step. Getting so absorbed and wrapped up in it, without thoughtful reflection, doesn't always work.
In life too, we need to step back, take a careful look, get some honest feedback, decide what we need to do next and accept that often times we don't end up where we set out to go. Sometimes it's a far better place.
Where in your life would it be beneficial to stop, stand back and take some time to reflect on the next best step?
What parts of your life seem easy and effortless? How can you apply some of those successful strategies or practices to other, more challenging parts?