Are You Willing to Take Creative Risk?Apr 29, 2020
Author: Charla Maarschalk
TWO STORIES OF TAKING RISKS
I recently heard a story, the source completely escapes me right now, of a prisoner-turned-artist who spoke of what changed in him when he was faced with making art. He was scared. He lived a life of risk that landed him in jail, yet he was full of fear when it came to taking the risk to make art. His ‘aha moment’ was when he realized that creating art, even if he failed, didn't contain the physical risk his previous life held; it would not mean prison, or worse, death. So he took the risk, and he created -- and it changed his entire life.
// RISKS DON'T HAPPEN INSIDE OF COMFORT ZONES
This story speaks to all of us. Even artists find themselves in warm and cozy comfort zones. You might be creating something completely unique from other artists, but you can still be bowing to fear by staying in your comfort zone. I’m not exempt from this. I paint faces. I’m not particularly interested in switching to landscapes, flowers or trees but here’s my secret. I’m slightly terrified of incorporating the whole figure. It’s not because I can’t draw the figure. It’s an irrational fear, like the world will turn against me if I don’t paint a face. Strange? Yeah I know.
Be honest with yourself now. Do you have a resistance in some creative area you’ve considered moving into? What’s the irrational fear stopping you from doing it?
// A BEAUTIFUL IDEA TURNED INTO A DEADLY RISK
A few years ago a wonderfully exciting idea came to me out of the sky (not exactly, but I’ll save that story for another day). Embroidery became a secret obsession of mine. I thought it served no purpose in my formal art practice until one day when I had an aha moment: Embroidery work is done on a type of canvas! So, why couldn't I just embroider straight onto my portraits? I searched the internet for comrades who may have already forged this path.
I found none!
There were many embroidery artists doing really cool things but none doing what I had proposed. I retreated. How could I do what has never been done? I mean, if I punctured my canvas and it didn’t work I could trigger a Zombie Apocalypse! After a time I realized that this notion was a little silly. The worst that could happen is I’d have a hole in what had been a finished piece of art.
// WINNING A BATTLE OF RISK
Between you and me, I took out an old portrait that I had never taken to a show and used it as a tester. Not hard!!! I didn’t love the outcome, but I could now see it had a ton of potential. It changed my work. It changed everything.
// A WEAPON TO FIGHT RISK AVERSION
I overcame the initial fear, but the risk of ruining a painting exists with every new embroidery project.
I get asked a lot about how I am willing to take this risk on a finished painting. Here’s my answer: The process of puncturing the canvas with the first scar takes a lot of bravery. But so does just about everything else in life. I trust the process. No move of life -- no matter how ‘ugly’ it seems in the moment -- cannot be made beautiful. There’s a word for that. It’s called GRACE.
“Grace makes beauty, out of ugly things” - lyrics by U2
That’s my bravery secret.
Things left alone go to ruin, but with human potential everything can be made beautiful.
Do you believe? (Just comment ‘yes’ or ‘definitely’)
Whether risky or not, keep creating,
If you’d like to explore this irrational place of resistance read this book. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
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