Zen and the art of the bright pink squiggle

People lie to me all the time. They tell me they can’t draw—they can’t write. They wish they could be creative. These same people have the most wonderful doodles on their note pads. They write great e-mails. Poor souls! These folks are not intentionally misrepresenting themselves, but are under the spell of a powerful delusion.

Being a Zen girl, I have a theory about this. I used to think I could not draw because I could not create a DiVinci masterpiece on the paper. I was attached to the notion that art had to look a certain way. That attachment caused me suffering. I was confusing skill, which can be learned, with ability. Once I stopped worrying about how the end result looked, I wasn’t miserable anymore. I decided to play with the art supplies and make something that pleased me.

I’ve always been a compulsive scribbler—I doodle in my notebooks as I listen, I make little spirals on my wrists with ballpoint pen. It drove my teachers crazy! It’s one of the ways I focus, but I worried because things weren’t always recognizable. My people looked like broken dolls. My cars would definitely need a major overhaul. I’ve gotten better at depicting things realistically, but that has come with time and observation. I like my own style—my art looks like something I drew. How did I get there? 

Might I suggest starting with finger paint? Finger paint may be your own personal métier, but most people cannot reproduce fine art with this colorful kindergarten paste. That’s a plus here—if you cannot reproduce fine art, you will not feel compelled to do so. You get a bonus, too, because finger paint is a tactile delight. It’s squishy, silky and oh so brightly-colored. What’s not to love?

As I’ve said before, you cannot be Picasso. You cannot write like Nabokov. Creation is about play, and you need to find your own style. Maybe you’ll make masterpieces that look like a kid drew them—Grandma Moses became famous for such primitive art. Maybe you’ll be the new abstract genius—elephants are doing imaginative things with acrylics. You can work on your technique later—if you want to—but you can produce art that reflects your inner sensibilities right now. Why wait?

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

19. Go buy some finger paint, and make some art. Don’t invite your learned delusions to join you.

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