what i learned from the blank canvas assignment:
did i finish my harp composition? i’m sad to report that i did not. i started off strong, in fact, i was very pleased with my work for the first two days of the assignment. then, something happened: i stopped showing up to work.
despite my failure to complete, or perhaps my success at maintaining the “blankness of my canvas”, i learned something important from the assignment this week: when i don’t take the time to do my work i am only hurting myself. does anyone really care that i didn’t complete the assignment? the answer is no, not really. do i care? yes. and although it is sad and scary (perhaps even terrifying) to admit this, there are not an infinite amount of tomorrows left.
when am i going to “get serious”? when are you? hopefully not tomorrow because, as one of my favorite musicians, janis joplin, so wisely stated, “tomorrow never happens, man…”
the adventureclubinteractive blank canvas assignment gave me some unexpected perspective this week. although it seemed a simple assignment- choose a work, start from scratch and work on it everyday- i came to realize that a blank canvas is like a blank mind.
blank can be a beautiful thing: a nothing that turns into a something, the endlessness of possibilities, the spaciousness for retention, the potential for imagination…
blank can also be frustrating: nothing that could be anything, endless choices, decisions without direction, the potential for failure…
for my first blank canvas i wanted to paint. i wanted to commit to working on it for at least half an hour each day. for the first two days i ended up pacing around, poking around for random materials that might (but never did) have anything to do with the project. i didn’t have any goal in mind. not a single idea or vision or thought. and it’s funny the way the mind tends to wander when faced with a deadline or an obligation to work. the only applause i give myself for the first two days was that my intention was there. i wanted to work. i wanted to do something brilliant. but i wanted the idea to just occur to me. i wanted a masterpiece to just arrive. i admit- i wanted to be told how to do it. because then- of course-i would do the specific work required to make a brilliant masterpiece each half hour of each day. this perspective is of the passive. work doesn’t create itself. art doesn’t have instructions.
without using a brush, i painted a castle onto canvas with acrylics, cardboard strips and a sharpie pen. it’s not a masterpiece but it was fun and the colors pleased me. the above pictures show my daily progress after the first two days of being passive. and the perspective thereafter was this: just do it.
for my garden project, of hiding the hole under the fence, i was a little more ambitious at the outset. i bravely moved the cinder blocks around and actually threw some soil and sunflower seeds into the holes. my challenge in completing this work was not one of passiveness. instead it was the challenge of the uncontrollable and the external. on day three, the landscapers showed up and did their own work of trimming and pruning all the trees in the yard, making huge piles everywhere in the way of getting anything done. hence the final picture which shows little next to anything of a masterpiece. the perspective is this: even when you take the initiative to do your work, sometimes unexpected things get in the way.
it has been a very long time since i sat down at any instrument with the intention to compose. sadly, it has probably been a few years, therefore, for the adventureclubinteractive blank canvas assignment i have chosen musical composition as my daily work. this week i’ve decided to focus my composition on the harp.
it felt wonderful to sit down with the intention to write. i set my timer for 20 min and just started improvising with various pedal settings until i found a combination that suited my ear.
here is my work in progress so far…
for the adventureclubinteractive blank canvas assignment i have chosen two works.
-the first work will be to make something of a canvas board that i painted turquoise at least six months ago. obvious- to those that know me- i don’t draw, doodle, paint, or picture things visually very well. i do have a nice assortment of oil paints, acrylics, crayons, markers, brushes, materials galore. this work will definitely challenge me to make use of my art supplies stash. also- but maybe less obvious to those that know me- perfectionist tendencies tend to smother my commitment to starting and finishing things. case in point- the turquoise canvas has remained for so long- a turquoise canvas with faint pencil erase marks everywhere- because i have been reluctant to decide exactly what i want to do with it, reluctant to just to go for it, reluctant to take on the work.
-the second work involves a hole in the corner of a small fence that separates a portion of my backyard from my vegetable garden. this unfinished fence haunts me before bed at night, and interrupts my garden day dreams. it’s an eyesore and an annoyance. it’s just a hole needing to be covered but a hole that sits above uneven, hard packed soil, spider infested, weed-choked old cinder blocks- and frankly i’m scared of the space. but i will work on it this week, gloved and probably armed (with RAID). what i will do to cover it will be an adventure in gardening resourcefulness and bravery.