When inspired, an artist will follow through with a few simple, yet predictable actions. If he or she is like me, they will take down a new wrapped canvas (I personally have many of these pre-cut and framed commercial types in the basement for just such occasions), tear away the wrappings, discard them and place the fresh canvas on the easel. With the canvas in place, they will examine it to make sure it’s blank. And here is the point: blank is a reference point, it’s not “nothing” as so many would claim. Blank is the start of so many possibilities.
Then out comes the equipment: paints, brushes, etc. and with a single stroke the painter will embark on a journey of the soul.
As a person existing in a world post trauma, my canvas is proverbial and at this point in my journey towards healing, my foundation is a raw canvas. In my quest now, my task is to achieve a blank; to overwrite the raw material, mount it on a frame, cover it in gesso and eliminate any trace of its previous existence. Only then, when the blank is achieved can I, like the artist, envision a form and take the first stroke in that journey towards a wholly new experience of life.
This soul is on a journey but unlike most contemporary artists, this soul is a traditionalist—it’s working from the very basest materials, taking raw canvas and preparing it to become a work of art. It’s working to establish a frame, a solid anchor point from which shape and form can flow outward. It’s working to eliminate a past that keeps it stuck, holds it raw, rough and disfigured.
The full process from raw material to work of art is not instantaneous. Although in many ways, we artists have grown quite bourgeoisie in our thirst for recognition-worthy works; society feeding us by exigent means to produce in half the time of our more puritanical brethren. When it comes to a journey of the soul, exigency has no place.
Learning to temper one’s expectations of this journey is most trying; after all, having been born a contemporary artist with prefabricated materials at the ready, I’m now attempting to navigate in a world of traditionalism, working with raw materials that are foreign to me. There are many setbacks, discouraging bumps and sidetracks in this journey; a canvas that appeared strong was not “of quality” and is easily torn when stretched. At these points I must step back and regroup, painstakingly learning how to navigate in a new form.
My canvas has yet to be primed and I fear that I may be working on the whole product in a disordered fashion—a canvas only partially stretched is already having its corners tacked into place. I’m not sure of the sequence in which I’m supposed to be working to capture this artwork; I have no guide to talk me through. But the finished product will be what it is, after all, that is all it can be. I fear snapping of stretcher bars, tearing of canvas, the spilling of paint and, any artist’s worst foe, loss of vision.
Yet, despite these fears, I persist in my quest for a work of art worthy, once again, of holding up my chin for and speaking of with pride. My life, as with my art, is in transition.
To everyone facing the challenges of daily life in a world post trauma, remember your goal, seek your vision and reach out to grasp it. The art is yours to produce; it’s not for others to dictate. Rediscover your soul and let it take you where it will.