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Screw art. Say yes to expression.

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“What if it’s not perfect (like, genius, on the first try, immediately)?” and “I’m no artist.”

The two fears that’ve blocked me (and maybe you and about 80% of all humans, everywhere) from picking up a paintbrush or a musical instrument after they stopped being a compulsory part of the school curriculum. In fact, those two fears are the reasons I (and maybe you and about 80% of all humans, everywhere) abandoned many of the creative ideas that inspiration’s left on my doorstep over the years. This, despite the deep longing to make art that’s been with me for as long as I can remember.

But what is art, really? My (very intuitive and non-scientific) conclusion is that art is a fancy, idolatry (and incredibly alienating) way of saying “expression.” And by extension, to be an artist is to express — to say what you need to say, to do what you feel called to do, to engage with Life in a way that feels real and rich and nourishing and fulfilling — which isn’t about stereotypical haughty, highbrow, high culture ‘art’ at all, is it? It’s about you, connecting to YOU, choosing YOU, listening to YOU, being more YOU, evoking more of YOU, sharing more of YOU. You, allow yourself to be lit up and shining with the same unapologetic certainty and constancy and quiet strength as every other star in the sky. You, spilling open so we can see your light.

Mmm, we can all do that — or rather, let that happen.

See, art can feel intimidating and aloof and kind of snobbish in it’s flawless, perfectly put together form, looking all regal and untouchable and dripping with talent as it stares down at you from on high. And it feels like a title reserved for, well… artists. Like painters, poets and musicians whose work is recognised and celebrated and profitable. You know, the chosen few who were gifted with creative genius in a very narrow definition of creativity and ‘the arts.’ But expression? Ah, expression has no interest in perfection or idolization or genius or artistry, even. It simply wants to be expressed… through me (and you and the 80% of all humans, everywhere, whose longing to create is tangled up in their terror of it).


We’re all expressing, all the time. It’s in our DNA.


“You and I and everyone you know are descended from tens of thousands of years of makers. Decorators, tinkerers, storytellers, dancers, explorers, fiddlers, drummers, builders, growers, problem-solvers, and embellishers — these are our common ancestors.” Word, mm-hmm, from Big Magic. I bet you’re expressing right now. Cooking, serving, smiling, dancing in the kitchen, responding to email, singing happy birthday, speaking your mind, writing a love note, saying I love you, making love, laughing, doodling, asking, hugging, choosing, thanking, apologising, high-fiving, complaining, tweeting, Facebook status-updating, making patterns in the sand or the emptied contents of a sugar packet, arranging flowers, wrapping presents, telling someone where to get off — told you, you’re expressing.

It took me a while (as in, well over a decade, plus countless discussions and conversations of encouragement) to get comfortable with this idea — comfortable enough to venture into an art shop and pick up some supplies. But it happened. Watercolours. Brushes. Two pads of gorgeous weighted paper. And a whole afternoon with them. At first, I was excited and proud — I was finally taking my cue and just creating something. Then tense — I wanted to create a work of art. Then disappointed — I wasn’t creating a work of art, not in the slightest, not by a long shot, not at all. Then disheartened — after 30 minutes, I was ready to give up.

“What? You mean in half an hour, you didn’t arrive at the place that’s taken most artists most of their lives and a day-in-day-out dedication to get to? You should definitely quit now.” declared my man in mock horror. “But seriously, it’s like wanting to paint like Picasso before you’ve even learned how to mix paint. You’re already fixated on the outcome. Let it go. Just play. Let it be fun.”

I got mildly annoyed before I laughed, loosened up, took art off the pedestal and gave myself permission to “just play.” No should-ing. No forcing. No technique-ing. Just a lot of what-if-ing and allowing and making it up as I went along. And what d’ya know, I was a kid exploring a fun house full of magic — brimming with oohs and aahs and wide-eyed awe as I what-if-ed and watched the colours run and bleed and mix and move the way they wanted to, not knowing the next move until it happened, and having to go with it. I was letting expression happen. It was emancipating, unnerving and unexpectedly rewarding. Afterwards, that kid was like, “Again! Again!”

THE BOTTOM LINES.

Art is a fancy, idolatry (and incredibly alienating) way of saying “expression.” And by extension, to be an artist is to express.

So…

Screw art. Say yes to expression. Twitter Bird Icon: Neshika's Tweetable

Expression is aching to make some deeply fulfilling shit with you. Let her. But know this: creating with her can be as joyful or stressful, as beautiful or hideous as you like, depending on who’s in your creative team. Curiosity, Love, Kindness and Patience are delightful team mates. So are Encouragement, Awe and Gratitude. Contrary to popular belief, Expectation and Perfection are not. Nor are Comparison and Judgement. In fact, those four are to expression what mosquitos are to humans — distracting, frustrating, irritating, persistent, sucking out creative life force one tiny, itchy bite at a time.

So…

Give expectation, perfection, comparison + judgement a hard swat. And give yourself permission to play. Twitter Bird Icon: Neshika's Tweetable

It would also be helpful to leave room for Magic and Mystery. When you’re letting expression happen, you’re not in control. Your Soul is. Which means you’ve got to get comfortable with not knowing how things will turn out. Because she ain’t gonna give you the whole full foolproof plan for the future — she ain’t got it. She’s more interested in NOW, and NOW, and NOW. Artists talk about “honouring the muse” and “letting the piece speak.” Really, what they’re saying is “No agenda. No future-tripping. Just listen to what your Soul longs to say NOW.” She’ll give you the right tools, whisper the right words, coax you, guide you, bend time, bring the Light and show you who you are in the process — none of which you need to understand in order to allow.

So… allow.

Let your Soul take control. Leave room for Magic + Mystery. Allow the great unknown to guide you. Twitter Bird Icon: Neshika's Tweetable


And for the love of expression, broaden your definition of what it means to be an artist. Because really, if you’re alive, you’re an artist.

So… Live. Express. And do what Liz Gilbert says: “Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.” Twitter Bird Icon: Neshika's Tweetable


THE VERY BOTTOM LINE.

You shine when you’re in full, open, unapologetic, soulful self-expression.

So…

Spill open. We want to see your light. Twitter Bird Icon: Neshika's Tweetable

END NOTE.

I was cleaning my paint brushes when I noticed that my palette is shaped like a pair of baby’s feet, one slightly bigger than the other. So much symbolism in that single image. Trying. Testing. Playing. Stumbling. Falling. Standing. Re-trying. Re-testing. Always playing. Ever curious. Growing into ourselves. Learning who we are. Leaving our own footprints of encouragement for others. Baby steps, for me (and you and about 80% of all humans, everywhere).

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