Baby Steps

I don’t know about you, but in my childhood, the game “Mother May I?” was all about power and favoritism. There were giant steps and scissor steps… saying “Mother May I” and still getting the no. I remember saying no when it was my turn to be the Mother. And I also remember saying yes to Sally even when she was about to dethrone me because I wanted Sally to be my friend.

But mostly, I remember how baby steps were the big disappointment. How could you get anywhere taking baby steps?

Well…my previous post about efficiency got me thinking…

I began my artistic journey by making paintings in watercolor with my non dominant hand. It was a brilliant antidote to my inner critic who maintained that I was not an artist. That persona expected nothing from my left hand and so she left me alone. That gave me permission to make messes… page after page of messes… in whatever color I could mix. After watercolor, I moved on to poster paints:  the paint itself was cheap and smooth and buttery on the big sheets of 80 lb paper, and I painted fast…sometimes creating as many as three in a session. I painted what I felt, not what I saw and created abstract surprises.

The paintings were baby steps and they transformed me.

I continued with my non dominant hand for years until I finally believed in myself. I was making art… art that was alive, art that mapped a trail of healing… art that ushered me into a powerful discipline of creating.

From the stack of paintings I moved on to making collages… from collages to binding books… from binding books to breathing art into cooking, into gardening, into arranging my home. Every day I wake early to make time for writing. I take naps to have energy for those extra moments between working at my job for baby steps of tearing pages, designing covers, sewing pages and covers together.

It’s all about baby steps.

They’ve been a delicious revenge against the disappointments of childhood… against the mean and powerful voices inside of me… against the artistic favorites of realism over abstract.

Now, I’ve turned things around: I use my dominant hand and when the various inner voices start to distract me, I give myself permission to continue, answering creative challenges with “Yes! you may”… in fact, “Yes, you must!”

This entry was posted in Creative Process, Painting and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Baby Steps

  1. elysiangazetteer says:

    Such a good lesson that we all need to learn.
    That inner critic definitely makes it hard for everyone!

  2. Your gentle wordsmithing is very soothing to read. Words chosen carefully in just the right order. Your understatement “… a delicious revenge against the disappointments of childhood…” immediately puts my head into the non-judgmental mode that I strive for. Thanks, Jeanne

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