To dare to hope… On finding yourself through art

The long pose, Barcelona Academy of Art

You stand in front of your easel, a blank page washed white before you.

Charcoals sharpened and poised, a plumb line in your hand while thoughts skim like stones, mapping out the enormity of the task.

As you drop, sinking slowly into the depths, suspended only by trepidation, the process of those who have come before carry you like a current. Knees scrape, vision blurs and lungs contract as the land beneath you emerges into being.

The shape of things, some familiar, some less so, propel you forward as you make your mark. The simplicity of line betrays the heft of all the decisions that birthed it.

The decision to show up, to commit, to look, to be met in the mirror as you struggle with your craft. The decision to leave your other life behind in pursuit of this old love, to reclaim a lost part of yourself amidst the noise and chaos of a tumultuous mind, and to declare that in this endeavour, there is truth and meaning after all.

To mark, again and again, the highest and lowest points, the size and shape of the thing, in all its abstraction and fragmentation and relationship and beauty. To erase those erroneous lines that wandered out too far, to relinquish forms that no longer make sense, and to simplify that which cannot be made simple, so as to capture foundations that will bear the weight of the complexities to come.

Rely too heavily on measurement, and your eyes will fail. Rely too readily on sight and illusions will warp your path. Neither one nor the other, nor one without the other, can guide your way. Everything must stand in relationship to everything else, a cacophony of ever moving parts which you must try to render into harmony, knowing that you will never be quite accurate enough.

Too loose, and the line will be lost; too tight, and no breath of life will enter. The challenge, the goal, to hold lightly the essence of that which you so desperately want to possess. To capture its meaning, without grasping so tightly that you constrict all expression from its form.

To infuse, through all the distortions and idealisations, the imperfections and omissions, a sense of the artist that brought this into being. To give voice to the person that wielded the pen, life to the subject of their attention, and meaning to the beholder, that the meeting of these things may render greater the parts through the sum of the whole.

To show up, when all poetry is lost, when the lay of the land sinks from view, when the currents fail to hold you. To keep swimming, even when the tide won’t release you; to keep looking, when all you see is enveloped in darkness; to keep hoping, against those bitter voices, that you will find your way.

To face yourself, in all your chaos and contrast, all your lost and found edges, all the imperfections that render you into being.

To dare to hope that, in meeting this white washed paper, charcoals sharpened, a plumb line in your hand, you will find not only the shape of the thing, but that of yourself, in all your abstraction and fragmentation and relationship and beauty.