Being content.  It seems the artist’s lot is one of constant anxiety. Haunting questions such as, “do I have anything worth saying?” or “am I good enough” or “will I ever sell anything?”can be a familiar mantra in one’s head.  And then there is the isolation one experiences when one chooses to make art. More anxious thoughts  arise such as “my friends will disown me for hiding,” or “why am I so selfish?”, all contributing to a general feeling of unrest.  It takes time-lots of time-alone to develop ideas, to muck around in the paint or drawing or sculpture without guarantee that anything decent will emerge. Who knows, maybe nothing will happen and all that time will be wasted.

Being content. In the face of the myriad struggles which we face as artists, can we really be content?  I was challenged to reconsider the “artist as angst-ridden soul” in a workshop I took with Ewan Clayton in the mountains of North Carolina. He was presenting a Japanese concept (I don’t know what to call it, really) or aesthetic called Wabi Sabi.  In the context of that presentation, he talked about art arising from contentment, not anxiety.   I immediately distrusted this notion, thinking that only through blood, sweat and tears could something worthy of being called art emerge from my being.

I am reconsidering this distrust.  I look at a flower and I draw it. I am peaceful in my observation and joyous in putting down the lines.  Ah, my breath is even and steady.  I really love to draw that flower, I am content.

I feel this way in life-drawing class.  Indeed, I have experienced such peaceful, content moments as I observe and draw the models before me.  Because I have been at this practice for awhile, I know better than to worry about perfection. I simply try to really see and then draw what I see. All the while, content to just BE in the moment.  The same feeling arises when I write calligraphy. I dance my calligraphic line across the page and look in wonder at the connections I have made over the years: I have finally grasped all the basics and can put them together freely in my own way. Not perfect, but the writing is my own.

Anxiety of any kind is highly overrated.  I challenge myself to more times of being content, of allowing what IS  to be..what is.  To let things rise and fall, ebb and flow, to move with the current, to surrender to something larger than me. Life.  Love. Connection.

1 Comment

  1. This is good stuff, Sharon, thanks for sharing it. I find contentment much easier to attain when I am in “play” mode, but when I am trying to “birth” a finished piece, the anxiety level just skyrockets. Wish I could hang on to the play mind in this case, but after all these years I know there is just about always going to be a place where the birthpangs can be gnarly. Something to do with perfectionism no doubt.


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