inspiration: in black and white.

charcoaledited.jpg picture by wakeworkrinserepeat

I had stood, staring at what seemed like a massive expanse of paper, toyingly tossing my pencil back and forth between my hands for twenty minutes as he'd woven his way through the human obstacle course of 26 students, 26 easels, 26 drawing benches and 26 backpacks, jackets and portfolio bags. Every minute or so, I'd lean in close to my easel and make a series of light fidgety, squinty marks across my paper. Then, regretting it nearly immediately, I'd fiddle with my eraser...wondering if he'd notice if I used it, although we'd been distinctly told otherwise. I wasn't a rule breaker: just a girl who couldn't stand a misplaced mark. Sensing that he was about to orbit into my portion of the studio, I somewhat conflictingly made a few hasty marks across my paper. My eyes returned to the still life in the center of the studio just as he landed next to my easel. For a moment, his eyes traveled over my paper and then he just stood, watching me work. After an agonizing few seconds he spoke,

"You have good intuition and make good decisions...but you're overly insecure. Timid. You've got to just make a decision...and commit to it."

And that was the first real, true critique from the handsome British drawing instructor.

I chewed on those words for nearly a month, not wanting to believe I was creatively, artistically insecure. I'd convince myself otherwise...but late at night, I would stay up working on a drawing, only to realize that my pencil had not touched the paper for minutes. That I'd just been standing there...staring. Analyzing. Not committing. Drawing pictures that looked recognizable (yes, that is a tea cup...that is a table), but fussy, unnatural and lacking an energy which creative expenditures should offer. No matter how I tried to deny it, his critique had been spot on.

I continued to wrestle with this...until I met vine charcoal. Sweet, sexy, dark, messy charcoal. Vine charcoal is, quite literally, a stick of burnt wood. No pristine wood encasing like a graphite pencil...just burnt wood. The mess is unavoidable. There's no dainty, clean way to draw with it...it's a wonderfully smudgy medium. But something about that mess, the tactile feeling of being so sensorily involved in the creation in front of me, seemed to jolt me out of my artistic insecurities and perfectionistic pencil drawings. The ability to smudge away mistakes with a finger, or a quick breath across the paper began to allow me to commit to lines, shapes and shades without nervous worries about changing them later.

And now it all seems so very clear: the tie between my nervous attempts at putting a simple pencil on a simple paper in the studio with my approach to, well, life in general. Every single move for me (in life or on paper) is nervously thought out and disceted fourteen thousand times...and finally, after an embarrassing and agonizing length of time, I timidly, slowly begin to flesh things out--second guessing, eying my proverbial eraser the entire way. But...in so doing, I unknowingly remove movement, energy, natural flow and vulnerability from so many experiences.

So, this is my resolution for 2010: to live my life as a charcoal drawing. No fear of getting smudged and messy. Committing to ideas without fears of making changes later. To engage in life around me. No inhibitions...to simply create. To experience.

Oh my. I sound like an art freak in a coffee shop. Hmm. One semester in and I'm both inspired and have become a complete geek...

Two thousand and ten...what a ride it shall be. :)


  1. I love this!! I'm much the same, always finding myself doing the safe thing and not really engaging in life until I've thought every move out completely. Some times I get so paralyzed from all the analyzing that I make no move at all. How sad is that? Here's to 2010 being messy, in a good way of course!

    Thanks for the words. They really hit home with me.

  2. OMG! I write a rough draft before I send a note to a friend! I can SO totally relate to what you've written, but I am so proud of you for recognizing this in yourself NOW as a young woman! Let your creativity flow! I still stuggle with decision making at all levels! I thought it was because I like too many things. But I really think it's because I can't commit! Don't be afraid to find your own style and develop it! You are a talented writer and have artist written all over you! Here's to 2010, and charcoal pencils, and creativity to the max!

  3. What a fantastic resolution, Bethany. It's one that will transform your life, I'm sure! Looking forward to hearing all about it. Get messy and have a marvellous time!

  4. Thank you for your sweet comments on my new blog, Bethany, and for sharing your heart. You should be very proud of yourself for all the hard work you've invested in your weight loss journey and for reaching that #8! Your comments came when I was feeling a bit weak in the willpower. Thanks for encouraging me. It always helps to have a friend who understands.

  5. Just recognizing this trait (and sharing it!) is a huge step in overcoming. Living a charcoal life sounds wonderful. Being ok with the mistakes is a hard thing to do, but possibly one of the best goals to have in life.... one I'm trying to chase too.

    Happy New Year Bethany!!

  6. This is beautifully written. I am happy to have found your blog! I think that resolution is spot on for a lot of people.

  7. beautiful!
    I love what you said...I love your resolution!

  8. I was gonna type out a whole semi-intelligent response but really, all I wanna say is that you are GORGEOUS! Um, your skin is to.die.for. This picture is phenomenal.

  9. beautiful post and photo of you. I want to see some of your work on here! no pressure or anything ;)

  10. this is beautiful. sorry it took so long to read it! but so glad I did. I'm happy that you have found an artistic medium that sets you free, allows you to be messy and perfectly imperfect. I, too, am a perfectionist sometimes in work and in life, but it feels so much better when you can just let things go, and do, and live. I love how art can reveal these things to you-- whether you are the artist or not.


Every time you comment, a unicorn gets his wings. Also, my phone beeps and your words bring me joy. :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...