Not Riding the Brakes
You know that feeling right before a plane takes off? The plane is cleared for departure and is idling on the runway. You kind of ready yourself, anticipating what is to come. A few more seconds go by, and then you feel it. The captain begins the acceleration for takeoff. At that moment you feel the force of the plane lunge forward. You are thrust into the back of your seat and the plane starts racing down the runway.
I used to be petrified of that feeling. Now, I love it. It’s at that moment I realize there is this great force happening and I am no longer in control. The plane is about to leave the ground, and my fate is now in someone else’s hands. I have come to embrace that moment, completely letting go and allowing something else take over. Doing that feels so incredibly free to me.
While visiting my grandfather when I was young, he liked to get us all in the car and take us on a Sunday drive. He had a big sedan with bench seats front and back, and if it had seatbelts, I don’t remember ever wearing one. One time while we were taking this quiet little ride through town, he all of a sudden floored the accelerator and down the street we flew. Hitting bumps along the way only made it better for him. All six of us were bouncing about with our hands up to the roof of the car, screaming for him to stop. When all we really wanted was for him to keep going, and maybe even a little faster.
The whole experience was so out of character for my family. We just didn’t do things like that. We played by the book with pretty much everything. Having my grandfather—one of the patriarchs of the family—break so many ‘rules’ on that Sunday drive was exhilarating. It taught me it was okay to let go sometimes and how good it feels when you do. The world isn’t going to end if we let ourselves off the hook for a moment or two. Surprise yourself once in a while.
Beginning a painting can offer me that kind of freedom. It’s all new. There are no rules and no expectations. There is nothing there to think about, react to or make a decision on. It’s just colors and marks and lines and paint and play. I turn up the music and see where it all takes me. It feels so good to be moving, allowing, and in sync with what is unfolding in front of me.
There are inevitably those points in every painting when I have to slow down, step back and do some thinking about the design and the direction. But, I have to watch that I don’t let myself stay there for too long. Because if I do, the questioning, over thinking and fear can start to kick in and I’ll start holding back and playing it a bit too safe. It can feel like I’m riding the brakes. I’m wanting to move forward and at the same time I’m holding myself back. It feels so much better to be moving forward. When I can get out of my head and just lean in and trust. Saying no to less and yes to more. Sort of like giving it the gas and let the rest go.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this—how it either shows up in your life or your art.
“So oftentimes it happens that we live our lives in chains and we never even know we have the key.” ~ The Eagles