One of the most paralysing aspects of being an artist, I find, is performance anxiety. Throughout the course of my life so far, I have danced in front of audiences, I have delivered indepth marketing proposals to important clients and even more important bosses, I have trained thirty consultants at a time in the art of product knowledge and selling skills… and I have never experienced performance anxiety to the extent that I do with painting.
When I see an image I want to paint, I’m initially filled with excitement and enthusiasm…but often the next thought is what if I can’t capture the beauty of the subject? I am continually moved by what I see – God in every dog’s smile, every cat’s pose, every bird’s graceful arc, every horse’s silhouetted soul and every human being’s story, etched into the lines of their perfect faces. And then I am overcome by hopelessness and inadequacy…how do I capture God with chemicals and pigments and movement of my very humble hand and eye? Because that’s all I want to do – capture God. To show Her on canvas, a moment, a smile, a soul. How do you not have performance anxiety in the face of such a feat?
All of us have a yearning, a calling, an undeniable need to be close to God and we all choose different ways of doing so. God means different things to different people and I’ll always remember a 12 step programe snippet of advice – if you want to think of God as your lunch box, then do so, just acknowlege a higher presence in your life, a guiding force. So often we denegrade our idea of God to what we can see, control, fix and manage. We mold the energy that creates Universes into our image, what we know and are familiar with. How often in my life have I, and do I still, indulge in idol worship…handing over my innate power to whatever it is that most distracts me from my highest good, my highest calling? The more established or successful artist, the next sale, success, kudos, acknowlegement, the approval of “them”, whoever “they” may be. And all the while, I ignore and overlook the guru within. It is my innate wisdom that continually calls me back to achieving the risky, the “impossible”, the original, all cleverly disguised in the simple, yet incredibly difficult, task of being me; expressing me in whatever form that takes and realising that comparison, judgement and perfectionism are the death knells of creativity, never it’s banner men.
Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way and Vein of Gold) is spot on when she says that everything we do is original, as it is coming through us for the first time, and we are unique. Everything we create cannot help but be original, and in that form, it is the perfect expression of God. Just as Galadriel says to Frodo in Lord of The Rings, “If you don’t do this thing Frodo Baggins, no one will”, no one except us can do what each of us have come through to do or express in this lifetime. In that, we are God and cannot help but to create an expression of God, no matter what the outcome, no matter the opinions of our minds and egos, no matter the opinions of others.
At the end of it all, performance anxiety is just another distraction, another addiction I find to take me out of the real question I should be asking. The question is are we brave enough to express our divine selves? My fervent hope and desire is that, just for this moment, here and now, you are and I am. Because, really, the rest is all just crap!