The Blank Canvas


I’ve been tackling a small pile of commissions these last few weeks. Charcoal portraits. Watercolor on paper. Acrylic on canvas. I am not finished with the pile by any means, but have noticed that it takes a HUGE amount of effort to work through the resistance that comes with a blank sheet of paper or canvas.

I do not normally have this issue with my sketchbooks. Perhaps it is because I see those lovely empty pages as possibilities. Or maybe it is due to the fact that I can add to the page completely as I wish, without any thought as to what another may want to be there. Whatever the reason, I face these swaths of unknown with trepidation, all manner of stalling and diversion, big deep breaths, and finally I plunge in, head first with a plea for help from above.

One of my stalling tactics ways of dealing with the blank-canvas-fear is to work with it in my sketchbook. This is actually a great way to get the creative juices flowing and open the ground for any work which may need to happen before the work-work ensues. Danny Gregory had just posted this awesome video on hand-lettering, which then inspired me to make a page with some of my own lettering…which seems so elementary compared to the wonderful examples he offers, but that’s that, and I shall not dwell on comparison any longer! (How’s THAT for a run-on, stream of consciousness sentence? Oi!)

I wrote in my sketchbook what I was feeling and thinking as I faced a morning of tackling one of these commissions. “I face a blank canvas today…” and then it struck me…

I face a blank canvas EVERY DAY!

Every single day of my life I plunk my feet down onto virgin soil. Yes, it’s the same carpet I’ve set my feet to each day for the past, oh thirteen years or so, but it is nevertheless new and untrod for that given day. My footsteps have yet to make any marks on the blank page of the day ahead of me. This was encouraging to me:

If I face blank canvases every day, then I can face this one too.

I can plunk down my marks and begin.

I do need help to begin. Being a beginner is hard stuff. So yes, please, bring on the grace, the strength, the boldness, the light, the motivation and the love I need to move forward.

I’m happy to report that help came! It always does. Wow. I’ll need it again today. And then tomorrow. But maybe blank canvases will now represent places I face each and every day rather than new uncharted territory I’ve never even seen before.


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