Beginner’s Mind

DSC04041_2“These Women.”  This is a line from West Wing which has stuck with me in recent days.  I hear it in my head, prompting me.  If I write into it I can see why it keeps coming up, raw writing.

I just finished watching the newest video from a series of online art classes.  I’m taking a class with a lot of beginning artists and crafters.  I could teach many of the classes.  I say this only to give perspective, so the import of what else I have to say is felt.

I am in awe of These Women!  Many have never had any formal training, or worse, they had some damned art teacher tell them they were doing it all wrong.  They are on their own, often in the middle of No Where, sometimes finding the time while the kids are at school or asleep, chores done, or early in the morning or late at night.  Some are not well.  They have only a snippet of time, and such courage.

It takes courage to create art.  You, by yourself, sitting with color, in love with Phthalo Green or Quinachridone Burnt Orange or heavy Micaceous Iron Oxide or a thick line of deep charcoal or the way the sound moves on the paper.  Maybe you love the paper itself.  (I fall in love with paper and have NO idea what to do with it.  I have a box.)

It takes love, or falling in love, to create art.  There is a passion there.  Knowing you have something that wants to erupt, you have this urge to put this most amazing color or that line on a page, but you don’t know why.  Art teachers or a friend have talked you into thinking you had to know why before you put brush to paper.   Sometimes it is because of the teacher’s ego; sometimes it is because your husband or friend doesn’t want you to get hurt or be left behind.  “Move cautiously” is the message; “Know what you re doing.”


Bust those myths!  Tell the truth!

  • “You can’t be good without playing around.”  Lots and lots of playing around, and making some bad art!  They say you’re not good enough when you are in the beginning classes!
  • “There are no rules.”  Forget perspective or your lack of abilities as a draughts-person, move into the texture and look at what inspires you.
  • “Great art was created for the pure process of making art with no end game in mind.”  You don’t have to know where you are going.  Hell, maybe there is no getting there art all.  The process is 75% of the game (more on that in another post.)

These Women don’t think they are very good, but many of them tentatively post their first or tenth try at making art.  And I am awed.

I’ve been seriously painting twenty-three years.  I “know” a lot.  Lately I think that translates as I “no” a lot.  I’ve had every gallery owner tell me no, every online dealer tell me no, and had few sales.   I’ve rented space in GREAT venues for weeks and not sold one single thing.  I’ve had some formal training, but little encouragement.  I have been to a lot of art galleries, where I’ve met few artists I really liked.  On the outside looking in, I like a lot of my own art, and love a few pieces of it.

And I was giving up.  I felt I needed to spend my time on other more productive things.

I took the class because of one artist.  I figured I wanted to see what she would teach.  Some very small voice that has been repressed and discouraged for too many years said, “take it,” tentatively.  I really did not think I would learn much, and mot days leading up to it thought, honestly, I probably was throwing MORE money at this insane hobby of mine.

I’ve had my urge to create renewed.  A little bit of the courage of These Women has rubbed off and enlivened me.   I am playing again, as I hadn’t since before I entered twenty completely reasonable contests and wasn’t even a finalist in a small pool of artists.  I am playing because I have to do the dang lesson to talk to These Women, the community!  And I love the community!  I love their shapes, their color, and most of all, their energy and courage.   I am humbled when I hear their stories, and they all have stories.

W DTX 1995 11 CLR DKP

One more story.  I was sober about 15 years when my former husband died.  A few weeks after his death I really wanted to drink.  I had no one in AA to get ahold of, so I called the local halfway house for alcoholics.  The young woman who picked up the phone said no one else was there.  I said I needed to talk to someone.  She said I’ve only been sober a month, I have nothing to offer!  I said “Tag, you are it!”  I told her what I was going through and why I wanted to drink.  She was blown away that after all the years of my sobriety, a person with little experience (her) could save me from going there.  I told her we are all in this together.   Every single person has a story to help another out on their path.

Today, this post is for Heather.  Thank you for sharing your portrait and your fears and your story with me. _/\_


My older work all says “©D.Katie Powell” and it is just too much work to change a hundred images.  However, I am now agreeing to the  Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 International License, which you can learn more about by visiting the site, or, visit my web page for a more user-freindly summary on my terms.  My images/blog posts can be reposted; please link back to zenkatwrites.

About dkatiepowellart

hollywood baby turned beach gurl turned steel&glass city gurl turned cowgurl turned herb gurl turned green city gurl. . . artist writer photographer. . . cat lover but misses our big dogs, gone to heaven. . . buddhist and interested in the study of spiritual traditions. . . foodie, organic, lover of all things mik, partner in conservation business mpfconservation, consummate blogger, making a dream happen, insomniac who is either reading buddhist teachings or not-so-bloody mysteries or autobio journal thangs early in the morning when i can't sleep
This entry was posted in art, autobiography, courage, creativity, journal, process and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Beginner’s Mind

  1. Awww, Kate! I can’t tell you how much of an encouragement you have been! SERIOUSLY, I have no words to express what I feel! Thank you from the very bottom of my heart! You are every bit as much a writer as you are a visual artist!!! Thank you so much!

  2. Gina Morley says:

    That is one beautiful article ❤ XXX

  3. Oh my word. I can’t tell you how much these words of yours resonate. Thank you for being you and for letting us see you. *hand on heart* today.

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