The Artist and the Canvas

There is an image I want you to picture in your head: it’s of an artist staring at a blank canvas about to paint. The canvas is large and white and stares back at the artist daring him/her to express thoughts, feelings, instincts and emotions with vivid colours and strokes. Picture the artist mentally and emotionally preparing to work by going into that personal creative space. What else surrounds the artist’s studio? Other paintings, sculptures or maybe a large window allowing the sunshine in? Picture it: from what the artist is wearing to how they are standing in front of the blank canvas. Now imagine this artist is about to produce the greatest work ever created, with every cell in his/her body yearning to fashion something so unique and all inspiring for the world to see…

There are three life perspectives to be noted in the above image you have visualised. These perspectives can be used to summarise how we view and manage our personal development and Self-evolution. Let’s take a deeper look at what these 3 perspectives are…

The Painting

In this perspective, we focus on the end-result of a process, in the case of the above example, it’s the actual finished product or the painting itself. The finished painting is the physical, tangible ‘thing’ that is the result of the painting process. It is the manifestation of an idea, thought or emotional response. In the context of personal leadership, this is a focus on the OUTCOME of peoples’ self improvement. Most people get inspiration from this perspective: they see the end result of peoples’ journey and aspire for that. They see the record deal, grammy, gold medal, expensive car or house and base their development on these tangible things. This is a limiting and a narrow focused view on how to achieve your goals.

The Creative Process

In this perspective, the focus is on the HOW. The specific things people do to get the first perspective (outcome). In the analogy mentioned, this is the actual process of painting. It is the mixing of colours, sketching, figuring out proportions and dressing the canvas with paint! It is The broad brush strokes, the mistakes and the continuous adapting to get the right expressions. You can learn a lot from this perspective and numerous insights can be unveiled from studying the HOW people do things. It is definitely more comprehensive than the first perspective and delves deeper into the psyche of the doer.

The Invisible Field

Now this third and final perspective puts the focus on the artist’s state of being. Specifically, right before the creative process begins. So let’s go back to the first paragraph where you visualised the artist in front of the blank canvas. Remember, the artist is about to produce his/her best work ever! So what is the artist thinking and feeling? What is their internal condition or state? This can also be called the invisible field and it has a direct correlation on the visible fields, which are represented by the first two perspectives. My mentor, Otto Sharmer, a senior lecturer at M.I.T describes these two fields using the analogy of soil. Think of top soil as the visible field. What determines the quality of good top soil? It’s what is below the surface! Good top soil is only good because of the numerous nutrients and millions of microorganisms residing under the surface: the invisible field.

It is in this invisible field where we find the source of our inspiration. It is the essence of what drives us and where we identify the intentions of the artist and of ourselves. It is the WHY perspective. It is the core the artist is operating from and it is in this space where the real focus must be. Not enough of this perspective is talked about or studied. But I believe it is in this field where real lasting change takes place.

Oh and by the way, that artist described in the beginning, that is YOU! And that blank canvas… well thats your life waiting for you to splash it with your version of how you view the world. Express your experiences, share vivid images of yourself and be unapologetic about it ! In other words, tell your story and do it with the zestfulness and favour of a painter creating a masterpiece. So paint your canvas, colour your life, enjoy the process and more importantly do it from the source of authenticity, passion and purpose. The world will be better for it.