To knock on silence . . . with a pencil.

One of the great things 
about having kids away at college  . . .

is that you can go in their rooms whenever you want and borrow their things without permission.  This is more gratifying in some cases than in others -- in Hannah's case, it's nothing short of magnificent PAYBACK.

In fact, she has already warned me that I may be a bit . . . surprised. . . when we pick her up after graduation and I see everything of mine that has somehow made it to Virginia during the three years she's been there . . .

Actually, I won't be surprised at all.
I've known her for 22 years . . .
and I've been looking for my good scissors
for at least that long.

But the point of this 
somewhat lengthy introduction is really this: 

 The Blank Canvas -- Inviting the Muse, by Anna Held Audette

While watering Hannah's plants the other day, 

my eye wandered across her bookcase and I spied this little volume I didn't recognize, and snatched it immediately.  It's been living on my desk in the studio ever since.

I'm a sucker for anything related to exploring the creative process (as you probably know) and this book is a lovely little contribution in that area. 

One of the first things I came across in the introduction, 
"To 'Knock on Silence'", was these three quotes:

I have not worked at all . . . . 
Nothing seems worth putting down -- 
I seem to have nothing to say -- 
It appalls me but that is the way it is.

-- Georgia O'Keefe

Just dash something down if you see a blank canvas staring at you with a certain imbecility.  You do not know how paralyzing it is, that staring of a blank canvas which says to the painter:  You don't know anything. . . .

-- Vincent Van Gogh

. . . and I thought, enough of this, I'm not an abstract painter, what the hell am I going to do?  Should I get a job in a shoe store, sell real estate, or what?  I was really depressed by the whole thing, because I felt like a painter, yet I couldn't make paintings.

-- Ralph Goings

If you can't relate to at least one of those, you've probably never tried to create art.  As the author explains, "Between your inability to make anything and your doubts about whether you've got 'the right stuff,' you're caught in a vicious circle."

So if you currently find yourself in a bit of a creative March Malaise -- a pre-Easter Ennui, so to speak -- I'd highly recommend this dandy little book as an antidote.  It is indeed (as Wayne Thiebaud suggests on the back cover):

"A book of aid and comfort against the enemy of the ominous blank surfaces."

Ahhh -- the ominous blank surfaces.  

How we love them, 
and how we hate them.  

But how to cover them?

One of the blank surfaces  I'm currently facing is a new year -- not the calendar one, of course, but the creative one -- because tomorrow my current creativity challenge is going to end.

3/26 -- Small Works' Happy Thought Turns One!  

And then, sadly, expires . . .

I'm pleased to report that I didn't miss a single day of the year, and I've truly enjoyed the constant companionship of my beloved vintage illustrations and the ongoing word game of trying to caption them effectively and within the framework I established.  And I've got quite a volume (stuffed in a binder) to show for my efforts! 

I hope some of you have enjoyed looking at them throughout the year, and I plan to leave them up for awhile so you (and I) can visit them now and then.


It's an important question, and not to be taken lightly because now I know first-hand that a 365 day creativity challenge is valuable, but nothing to be sneezed at.  It's just that:  A CHALLENGE.

Actually, I think I've decided what I'm going to do.  Several years ago (when I started this blog) I threw out the idea of creating a drawing every day.  Unfortunately, I was too daunted by the specter of blankness of the hypothetical blank pages, armed with only a pencil, and couldn't commit to doing it.

I believe I'm ready now. 

I'm not sure what has changed in the two years,
but I think I'll just give it a shot.

I'm not starting tomorrow, nor even the next day . . . not yet.  But soon.

If I forget, please remind me.  Actually, not much chance of that since, until I begin, I'll be staring at the blank ceiling every night with my palms sweating. I'd feel roughly as confident if I'd decided to tackle some calculus every morning before breakfast.

To those of you who find calculus and/or drawing to be . . . *yawn . . . EASY, I say, good for you!  (So find your own challenge.)

I'm going to buy myself some swell drawing materials, to start with  . . . perhaps a lovely little moleskine, some new pencils and pens . . . because spending money is one of the best ways I know of committing myself.  (Why do you think I own PILES of running shoes?)

Know thyself . . . 
and then do the hard thing anyway.  

That's what I always say. 
And that's what I'm going to try to do.

I'll keep you posted.  

Happy Weekend!

(Yes, it's a self-portrait.  Yes, it looks like a third-grader drew it.  You see what I'm up against . . .)



Amelia Poll said...

Oh those quotes make me feel so much better. I'll tell you, I think being a singer is so much easier than being a painter or artist would be. With singing, your "canvas" is already started, you just add your own flavor, whereas with painting/drawing you literally have to start from scratch. Then again, maybe that is why I am so intimidated by composing music.......

And, if that is what a third grader can draw, then I draw like a pre-schooler.

I can't believe it has already been a year! I have enjoyed every single one of them, too :) I look forward to your next challenge. I'm still working on finding something I can do with my little one. It's a challenge without a dedicated work space.

(sorry for the novel...)

Leenie said...

Great quotes! I totally relate. Nothing seems worth putting down, paralyzing blankness, and what the hell am I going to do? Even with extra time on my hands I just stare at my art stuff.

My other problem is: I already have too many books on how to inspire the inner artist. Another one, no matter how much genius it holds, will not help until I start to care.

But your blog is inspiration and friendship in yellow, green and blue on black. Whatever else you decide to challenge your self with--please keep on blogging!

susan m hinckley said...

Wow, Leenie -- Thanks for the encouragement! Back at you.

And Amelia -- Yes, that's exactly why you're intimidated composing . . . and you're not expected to do anything creative with a baby in the house, so I'm already amazed by what you accomplish. You should be too.

Allie said...

Egads I can relate to all of them...how intimidating. I'll have to look for that book. I LOVE your idea Susan, I think I'll start taking a sketchbook to the Y with me every day and have a go while I wait for the boys to finish swimming. That's about the only time I could do that with some assurance of success.....at home I'm too comfortable to force myself to do anything.

I LOVE Happy Thoughts - I've really enjoyed it every day!

Anonymous said...

hey mom, where do you think I learned how to "borrow" things? eh, eh...? Haha... I am glad you are enjoying the fruits of my education with that book:)

susan m hinckley said...

I can't wait to come see your Sr. show and enjoy the fruits of your education in person! Go Hannah!

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