Thursday, October 9, 2008

Fear Sucks

Are you sick of feeling afraid today?

Me too.

As I tried to find a more positive & polite title to this post-- nothing seemed to say it like, "Fear Sucks," so sorry about that.

So many books have been written about fear and how it affects artists-- I bet you could recite a very convincing essay about the subject-- even if you- yourself are a bit steeped up in fear about all the scary stuff going on today.

Feeling fearful today myself-- and since Fear Sucks-- I will try to think about people who have emboldened me to think otherwise.
It's a good trick to try. (I'd love to hear if that trick could work for you!)

I'll start mine with an artist named Mary.

"Maggie" & "Alexander"
by Mary Louise Short

These lovely portraits were painted by our good friend Mary. She struggled to find her style and tried many different subjects to paint before settling on portraiture. Some years back, every week she drove to Asheville from her home in Etowah (near Hendersonville, NC) to meet with other artists for the purpose of group critique.
Every week her paintings got "shot down" for lack of a better description but Mary never wavered in her quest to improve. In fact, in the face of that or anything else, Mary always said; "There is Nothing to Worry About!" -- when any of her many friends would complain about real or perceived fears.

One art meeting-- after goodness knows how many weeks or months of meetings-- several in the group asked, "WHO DID THAT ONE?" It was a portrait, (may have been a neighbor of Mary's as I recall)... that Mary confessed to being hers. The group all agreed that this is what Mary should be doing-- she figured it out! Yahoo! So it was that Mary continued to paint many beautiful portraits and got paid for most to boot.

This seemed a bit amazing to me as Mary had been very sheltered, had little world experience other than with church and her family. One of her favorite stories is about her experiences in Africa, where she and Steve worked as teachers and missionaries. Seemed one day an elephant was eating their roof! There was a story of a person going out at night and never returning due to one too many lions in the area! She said you have, "never seen black if you haven't been in the jungle at night!" She reported that she loved her years there with her family and wouldn't have traded it for anything else.

Mary and I shared a ride to DC one day-- I wanted to go to Reagan's Funeral and she had a planned annual collage room-mate get together also in DC. During that trip I learned a lot about Mary and what made her tick. We all knew how devoted she was to her faith- yet she never ever preached to us. She just quietly walked-her-talk. Getting into the rhythm of the road ribbons winding their way up and through the Virginia ridges we shared our beliefs.
She told me that Jesus was her very best friend, she talked to Him all the time and asked Him
about the smallest of daily decisions. He always seemed to come through as she had some funny and sweet stories to share. Further amazing me, she said she would drive to some nearby town, set up her easel on the sidewalk and just paint all day! She never worried about getting it right. She painted and painted and painted, (and I'm sure she asked Jesus once or twice for a bit of help)!

I confessed about my lack of training, experience, and confidence with regards to art even though that is mostly what I thought about. She suggested I take a workshop with Carol Bomer and rather insisted that I do! (That did come to pass by the way & interestingly enough, now Carol & I are good friends and we represent Carol in our gallery!)

All during this time-- I feared not "getting it" with regards to my art and did anything else I could think of (cleaning out closets for instance!) instead of working at my art.
A classic Art & Fear combo.

A bit of fast forward and about 3 years ago Mary had a wonderful party for her art friends-- just a week before Christmas. Mom & I were so pleased to be included. The day was so perfect that we both commented it Was The Most Perfect Day ever-- we are talking lots of warm fuzzies here! A day so perfect I can still savor each moment.

14 days later or so, and a week after Christmas I happened to be in Atlanta with our church youth group. A dear friend Sonja called me and asked if I was sitting down.
"Mary died," she said.
Mary DIED? What are you talking about? Mary in perfect health, Mary in great shape, our dear sweet Mary?
Mary was visiting her family and collapsed in the shower with a brain aneurysm.
That was it. The shock was unbearable at first.

I had been driving and pulled over when Sonja called. I immediately prayed for my friend and her family through a torrent of tears. Suddenly, a clear calm came over me and instantly I KNEW where she was -- she was sitting at the feet of her Lord and Savior there was no doubt.

Not much later I made a decision to not be afraid anymore with regards to my art.

I wanted to honor Mary and couldn't think of a better way.
I believe many other artists in our group felt the same way and offered up the same promises.

So perhaps that can also work in everyday life-- to just be done with fear and all the worries fear brings. When it sneaks into your being-- think of what Mary told us, "There is nothing to worry about. God will take care of it. We'll get through this. We have to have faith."

I'll give you one more trick that Mom told me a long time ago about faith.
It's about faith and the mustard seed. You remember the Bible story.
Since the seed is so small-- we can muster up that much faith can't we?

Fear does suck-- but our faith is bigger than our fear.
(Now don't forget to tell me the same thing when I freak out please!)
We just have to remind each other and practice it--
practice- practice- practice
paint - paint- paint -

You get the idea ;-)

This one is for you Mary- with Love!