Chuck Close

At times, there is nothing as exciting as the potential of a blank canvas.  When I am having a particularly self-assured day or two, the weather is nice, and perhaps there is artistic energy all around me, that gleaming bright white is swirling with promise.   Whatever the circumstance, there seems to be inspiration flowing through me.  These are the moments young artists envision for their budding careers.  “Each day in the studio will be one of beauty – of revelation, “ (s)he might think.  Otherwise, how would an artist wake up every morning affirming: “I am an artist!  Today, I will paint!” (Or sculpt, or draw, etc.)? 

 I once asked a seasoned and brilliant artist how she had the nerve to call herself an artist.  I waited for her explanation about reaching deep within her to tap into a reservoir of inspiration so that her skilled hand could craft each work of art into a masterpiece.  What I thought would be a whimsical response actually boiled down to a practical piece of wisdom she heard from yet another renowned member of the art world.  (I won’t mention his name but the image above is a clue.)  He told her, “Inspiration is for amateurs.  Ninety-nine percent of art is just doing it.”  Sitting and hoping to get inspired can result in a very long wait.  Often, becoming immersed in a process results in all of the inspiration one needs.

That answer left a profound impact on me.  I previously expected to learn the secret of wielding the power of never-ending creative energy and artistic expression.  You could say I was a little disappointed to learn that simply isn’t the case.  The real solution is suiting up and showing up for the work there is in a day.  There is not a truer metaphor for my life.  In all things, as in art, there is the simple truth that I have very little power or control.  Inspiration is a gift.  Sometimes I am fortunate to receive it up front.  I plunge in deeply and attack whatever task with fervor and passion.  Other times feel like putting one foot in front of the other, being mindful of the simple contentment or even the drudgery with which I accomplish a task.

If I show up and simply take responsibility for what is right in front of my face, then I just might be gifted with the type of inspiration that comes from engaging in life.  Will passion be the outcome of my actions?  I can no more predict that than I can conjure the spirit of zest in the first place.  I honestly lack this specific power.  Realistically, I might want that to be the outcome with every fiber of my being and manifest nothing of the sort.  In fact, the whole process could lead to one big mess, or worse – even more questions.  That leads me to the next piece of the puzzle.  What do I do with that information?  What is the point of taking action if I do not get to control the result?  (To be continued…)