Creativity without attachement

I had always wanted to paint but my self-judgement was so loud it was not a fun process. But the desire never went away. When I saw a friend’s exhibition: I jokingly said to her, I would love to take painting lessons from you. She thought I was serious. And I was serious but I didn’t want to admit it to myself.

Several months passed and one day she sent an email that said she had time from this date to this date - did I want to come for my painting lessons? You know all the thoughts that goes through your head: I will be foolish. I can’t paint. She will waste her time. How can I impose? What if I can’t paint? What if I can? So I said ok and I booked a flight and she kindly met me at the airport and we drove through the harvested wine fields and their affiliated factories to her farmhouse in the French countryside.

It was past the summer months and the swimming pool was already drained. The heat was not yet on in the stone house but the warmth from the sun spreading into my second floor bedroom made it warm. I had a private room with a newly renovated bathroom downstairs and I took my meals with the family of two self-attentive teenage girls.

My friend had been the cousin of a business colleague that I had met through a joint venture between the company I worked for in Boston and a company in Paris. She had come to visit Boston but found in her new home stay there were no sheets or towels so she had called me at the suggestion of her cousin for help. Can you imagine arriving in a new country to an apartment with no towels or sheets? It was an easy problem for me to solve and thus established a connection that I would use 40 years later for my first painting lesson.

The Painting Lesson. She rolled out a big piece of white paper. Tacked it on the wall with colorful thumbtacks and brought out some paints, pencils, pens and brushes. She told me the painting was already inside the paper and my job was to let it free. What? I had to create the painting, to lead it and control it by my brilliant strokes. She said NO - that painting was a release of what already was… all paintings already exist and they lead you into their existence. Of course, I am condensing here the lessons she was teaching me over the next 3 days. There were some techniques of loading the brush with water, effects that resulted from different brush choices, and color blending: all part of the craft. However, the most important lesson of all is that each mistake that I made was a new window into the picture that was already inside the paper.

So I painted. At first with small controlled strokes and then slowly I saw with the water and the colors they formed their own patterns and with observations I could take one of these patterns and turn it into a cloud, a mountain or a palm. The paint combinations began to reveal the picture in the paper. I didn’t need to impose my vision on top of the paper, I needed to see what the shapes said to me and then bring them into higher relief. I did not have to create the way.. the way … showed itself, I just had to see it.

That life lesson has stayed with me and helped to end my internal self-criticism that has prevent creative expression as well as indecision. The way forward is always there and with each step in the process the next step is revealed. And if you don’t see it, you put the painting away to the next day and you walk into the room and there you see the new direction to take. I had pressured myself so much to know the answers, to know the ways, to make right decisions. And in the end having lived this life, the way was always there. I just needed to act, to put the colors on the paper and not judge the mistakes as ends but as openings.

  • This story was already in the paper (computer) all I had to do was move my fingers and the story would be revealed and any mistake was an opening into the story that needed to be told.

Thus begins my Story telling of the turning points of my life - where lessons appeared that I needed to learn. I begin this journey of creativity without attachment to outcomes, judgements or knowing where this will go.