The bells

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When it comes to artwork, as well as life in general, now and then I find myself wondering if I should pursue what comes easily or what scares me the most.

I was lucky enough to make the acquaintance of musician Lia Rose a few years ago, when she played a benefit at the Hayes Valley Farm, and we have since stayed in touch and occasionally chatted about creative work, fear of success, yada yada.

Here’s me with my daughter watching Lia (and some very tall guys) set up in Golden Gate Park a while back:

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Anyway, Lia has been doing well with her career for a good while, but she recently made one of those daring leaps, auditioning for Britain’s Got Talent, and it reminded me how rewarding it can be to do the things that get you way outside your comfort zone.

I am a true believer that the reward is not in necessarily getting what you are reaching for, but that in reaching for it, you are changed for good.

I took one of my nieces to see Lia at the Chapel last month, and Lia actually described this dynamic quite well during the show when she said after taking a risk like that “nothing else is ever quite as scary again.”

It’s no surprise that any kind of creative career is pretty anxiety-ridden. Here are some pretty accomplished old guys with thoughts on that subject:

I have offended god and mankind because my work didn’t reach the quality it should have. -Leonard da Vinci

If Heaven had only granted me five more years, I could have become a real painter. -Katsushika Hokusai

My life has been nothing but a failure. -Claude Monet

And then here’s one I use as a balm when I am tangled in worries and lacks:

Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.  -Leonard Cohen

Not just creative work, but all of life can be pretty anxiety-ridden, as we mortal creatures try to determine each day what has meaning enough to give our lives to it.

When I ask myself whether I should do what comes easily or what scares me the most, I struggle sometimes but the answer comes to me the same every time.

Both. You have to always strive to do both.

With that in mind, I did these drawings this week, which are still just beginnings, but which come easily:

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And then I put together these canvases for my first attempt to make paintings that intentionally work together in a group. I know this sounds like such a simple and ordinary thing for a painter to do, but it is actually a pretty big reach for me and scares me simply because I am afraid it will not work. I am referring to the paintings working together, of course, not the act of assembling stretchers and stretching canvas, which I (conveniently) love.

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So wish me luck.

And ring those bells!

Happy weekend, everyone.

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