A Turtle?

Have you ever faced a large blank piece of paper and just started to paint or draw? I’m not talking about looking at an object, a photo or scenery and trying to duplicate it. Doing that is valuable and many of us did this in art school and continue to do it. I’m talking about something quite different.

As kids, we didn’t worry about what our crayon drawings looked like, we just did it. People think that creative decline begins in middle age. However, statistics show it happens after the age of five when kids enter school! Maybe you had a teacher who told you the sky had to be blue, a leaf green or the sun yellow. Maybe you made the sky pink instead and your teacher said it was the wrong color so you just never took those crayons out again. Kids don’t need to think of themselves as ‘artists’ first in order to create freely. In fact, it might be easier if you haven’t done much art in your life.

It’s a scary thought. The sheet of paper will be staring back at you, begging for you to first start and then to keep going. Fearing it won’t look good is totally understandable. I felt the same way.

In my adult life I had never tried this, but that’s what was facing me in 1986 when things changed. Although at the time I consciously didn’t see the power of this. At the time I was in California taking a painting workshop and I was clueless about what to paint, (even after thinking of myself as an artist for years). All that art school training paralyzed me. I was standing near an open door overlooking the Pacific Ocean. “Should I paint the scenery?” I wondered. With no manuscript or written article to follow as I had done as an illustrator, I felt lost, so I just started to scribble with different colors. The first mark was the most important because at least I made a mark! That one mark led to the next and the next. I was trying not to judge, but admittedly it was hard. But I persisted. It was like driving a car and having absolutely no idea where I was going. And a turtle appeared.

The Turtle , tempera on paper

The Turtle, tempera on paper