Don’t you sometimes wish you could easily erase something you said or did? Like using an eraser on a pencil, you would just rub a bit and it would be gone. Like it never happened. In a recent art class I was teaching, my friend, Drew Allen, said rather offhandedly, “I want my life to be in acrylic.” As she continued on her project, I wrote down that little tidbit of creative analogy.
Think about it. You could mix up color so you could make an outstanding statement; tone it down to become less or rev it up to be bold. You could easily swirl it around and make it interesting. But best of all, you could cover over your mistakes and make them disappear on the surface. Yet, even in acrylic, are those mistakes actually gone?
Consider this story I related in my book, Be Your Finest Art:
In class today I sat facing a painting I had started a week or so before. Each time I had worked on it, I was less enchanted with it. Today I didn’t like it at all. I found it ugly. I wasn’t having fun anymore. Instead, I was dreading even starting again. What to do with something I saw as ugly? I took out some bright colored paints and mixed them into a beautiful creamy color and began to smear it on my canvas with a palette knife. It was exhilarating! I was totally covering up the ugly with the intention of beginning something beautiful I could enjoy doing. It felt so good to ‘erase’ the dreary, dreaded painting and begin anew. I began to paint colorful flowers. Pretty soon I became aware that I had a huge smile on my face. That is when I realized how much fun I was having.Joanne Miller, Be Your Finest Art, Page 19
Then I added a paragraph from my very wise grandson, Caleb, who was only 18 at the time. When I shared in an email how I had been so discouraged, but erased my painting and began anew, he said:
You wrote about how it felt so good to ‘erase’ what you got tired of and to start something new. This made me think…You were doing something you didn’t enjoy, and finally decided to start over. But you didn’t completely start over. You didn’t use a new canvas. You didn’t even take the paint you disliked off the canvas; you just covered it and made it unnoticeable…even though it was still there. There’s a good life principle in that: When we’re living without meaning and passion, feeling purposeless and resentful of our current situation, we have the power to immediately start changing how we’re living. The memories and scars of our past are still there. However, we can cover them and let them have no part in the future we are pursuing and longing for. When we cover the hardship of our past, and make it invisible, there’s a good chance it will make us stronger and give our future character it wouldn’t have otherwise.Caleb Miller, age 18
One of our former art students, Gail Hyatt, asked in class one day, “Why do we stick with something for so long when we can so easily change it?” A good question to ponder.
Our lives may not be painted in acrylic, but we certainly have the means to use the mistakes, the experiences and the memories to forge ahead and have them be the basis for new beginnings and new, colorful adventures…turning the ugly into something beautiful.