Philosophy of the blank canvas

All creative types recognise the fear of a blank sheet of paper or canvas. Faced with a blank sheet of paper, the only rules are those of language, so what do you write or paint?

For me, a painting is a commitment to making something, to create, to build. However, it’s troubling that as creative types, we’re never quite sure precisely what to create or how it will turn out. Worse still, we often feel we’re facing this riddle alone. 

It’s this uncertainty where the fear resides. There was no one over my shoulder telling me what to paint. All the responsibility is mine; that’s not easy.

Self-expression on canvas, paper, dance, music is complex and mysterious; it forces us to turn inwards and discover what we want to say and how to say it.

These answers are not easy to find, so creativity is a struggle.

To face the canvas is to speak up and say something others might respond to, we hope. To get noticed, make some noise, voice a position others might find nonsensical, stupid, or expressed before.

Art is so very personal, and its making exposes us as vulnerable, imperfect. The blank canvas seems to be symbolic of the journey artists go through.

The blank canvas is also the here and now; what we did before or will do, no longer matters when we are at the canvas.

The canvas is then a liminal place of desire and potential, between where we are and where we want to be. The past is unchangeable, the future is to be seized, and here we are in the moment in between. 

The fear of self-expression, the reception to our art, and what direction we want to go. What matters most, what we care about, our values, who we are as a person. All the questions about life and living in the space between us and the canvas.

Our hopes, dreams and fears live in the potential of as yet non-existent painting. 

To face this and keep going is the test that never stops for creative types. Our life is the canvas we paint on, the people we connect to, the work we do, the ideas we entertain.

To face the unknown of the blank canvas is to find yourself, to make yourself. Each stroke, each word, each blog post or book adds flesh to your life and hopefully the lives of others. Until art becomes life, life becomes an art.

All the uncertainty, the longing, the hopes fulfilled and hopes dashed, each step, each blank canvas is a life being lived.

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