I came across this article today and felt it needed to be shared. It is by someone who calls himself Chance Scoggins. OK, he uses the idea of simplicity in art as a basis for self-motivation about life, but taken ‘straight’ about art I think it is relevant. Art imitating life imitating art, perhaps?
“A few weeks ago, I went to an art exhibit featuring students from a local art school. When I say “went to”, it might be more appropriate to say “was dragged to”. My wife mentors a young friend who was featured and Jennifer wanted to show her support. Evidently, she wanted to show mine as well. I love art; don’t get me wrong. But the word “student” conjured up images of bad paper mache and various paintings of fruit bowls.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The gallery was filled from edge to edge with beautiful pieces, from sculpture to multimedia, photography and beyond. Much of it entertained and inspired me, but nothing more so than Alicia’s paintings. She had such a distinct style and point of view. Her colors were vivid and happy. Her vision was focused. Even at her young age, you could tell her art was “hers”, which really impressed me. Most people are still trying to find their voice at twice her age.
We’d only met in passing, so Jen introduced us again. “Congratulations,” I said. “Your work is beautiful.” She thanked me without really accepting my compliment, so I circled back. “I’m serious. It’s really mature and…complex.” She thanked me again and asked if I was a painter. “Umm, no,” I said. “If I painted this, that lady would just be a stick with a circle on top.”
She laughed and said, “Well, you’d be on your way then…That’s how I made her.”
I could tell she was serious, but I didn’t understand. “What do you mean?”
She paused briefly, thinking to herself, then said, “Well, from far away, it might look complicated and ornate. But when you break it down, everything in a painting is made up of simple brush strokes. It may feel intimidating and complicated, but it’s simpler than we make it out to be. When you get in close, it’s all just sticks and circles. That’s the real beauty of it. Everything works together to make something beautiful. You just have to be patient enough to let the layers do their thing.” I made a lame joke about my collection of stick figure paintings selling for millions someday and she smiled graciously. I moved on soon after that.
Later that night, Jen informed me that “we” bought the painting Alicia and I had talked about. I ribbed her about it, but truth be told, I didn’t mind. I like the painting and the lesson that came with it. And for the last few weeks, I’ve been reminded of our conversation almost every time I pass it. The more I think about it, the more I realize she wasn’t just sharing great perspective about art. It’s great perspective about life.
Many of us are so focused on the bigger thing we hope to do or become that we can’t figure out how to get there. It’s overwhelming. It’s too hard. When we look at all that’s out in front of us, we grow intimidated by all the possibilities and choices. So we stand still – doing nothing at all. We delay – talking and dreaming, instead of creating and becoming.
Maybe it’s not about having the perfect shade of green before we try.
Maybe it’s about using the blue and yellow that are already in our hands.
For some of us, it’s about getting some paint up on the canvas and figuring it out as we go.
Others focus only on what we can easily see. So much so that it becomes nearly impossible for us to see our part in a grander picture. Unable to dream, we get stuck in the day to day. We use the same colors we’ve always used. We paint the same shapes, in the same places.
What would we see if we took a step back and looked at things from a different perspective?
What if there’s a masterpiece inside us that we’re refusing to paint?
I’ve spent the better part of my life trying to see the big picture and the small details all at the same time. When I can’t, fear grows and excuses prevail. It shuts me down and keeps me from trying because I don’t want to make an unfixable mistake. But I’m starting to think that’s impossible.
The gray underneath the blue is what makes it beautiful.
Layers stacked on top of layers only make a picture more unique and interesting.
They say life imitates art, but maybe the opposite is even more true. Yes – life can be complicated. And navigating it can certainly be intimidating – but it’s simpler than we make it. When you get in close, it’s all just sticks and circles. That’s the real beauty of it. Everything works together to make something beautiful. You just have to be patient enough to let the layers do their thing.
That’s how a masterpiece is made.