Generally speaking I am not intimidated by too many things, however I must admit that I have always been very cautious while swimming in the sea. I guess this is simply the result of growing up in South Africa and from time to time seeing the huge sharks which fishermen have landed from the shore and the rocky coastline. Somehow the thought of not being able to see ” what lies beneath” is a little unnerving. The added idea that there are predators such as the great white shark possibly swimming somewhere in the murky depths looking for its lunch never helped the matter.
Yesterday as I stood in my studio ready to start the next canvas, a 24″ x 34″ x 1.5″, I suddenly felt intimidated by this huge expense of white canvas which was ready to swallow up my creative ideas. It was not that I didn’t know what the commission would entail but it was simply the thought that I may get it wrong and that my client would be disappointed. Suddenly the canvas in front of me became a metaphor for “what lies beneath”.
I have talked to many artists about this fear of “great whites” and why it is that after executing many successful canvases, some artists still struggle with the first strokes of a new commission. Perhaps this feeling is the equivalent of the adrenaline rush which athletes experience before the sound of the starting pistol. It may well be that these feelings are essential and it is what pushes artists onto the creative edges of their style and into the evolution of their journey as artists..
After some procrastination and another cup of tea, I finally I reached for the Vandyke brown, quickly mixed it into a nice watery consistency and then, cloth in hand, I applied the base coat which serve to render this “great white” harmless. Suddenly there it was, that rush of satisfaction as the white disappeared and from the surface of the canvas there began to appear the rudimentary shapes, ideas and serendipitous coincidences of line and movement.
As I turned off the lights and close the blinds on my studio last night, I felt the satisfaction of what the anglers of my childhood memories must have felt when landing a big shark on the sun-drenched beaches of the Eastern Cape.
This morning when I lifted the blinds and turned on the lights, there it was, a great white on my easel, now a brown expense of shapes and lines ready to do my bidding. As I stood looking at the tame canvas before me, the words of Jonathan Truss, the artist who painted the amazing picture of the great White at the beginning of this blog, came flooding back to me. I had mentioned to him how I sometimes felt intimidated when starting at new canvas. He looked at me and with a lot of understanding but very little sympathy simply said this;
“just get painting Ed, just get painting”
With that sound advice, that is exactly what I am going to do. I am off to prepare and eat my shark and get this next commission done…..”creativity demands expression”.