Moving the Barricades

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“To me, art is an adventure into an unknown world, which can be explored only by those willing to take the risk.”  Mark Rothko (from

Capturing what is in the heart and splattering it all over canvas or paper is what artists do.  Facing what others say about that heart is what happens with every work of art placed into the public arena.  The risk of acceptance or rejection of what’s in the heart, what comes from a place that in most other people is only rarely exposed, is the daily life of an artist.  Some are more able to handle the daily unveiling than others.

For many artists, facing the big “F” word is a major challenge.  Fear!  And with fear comes the tag, “of failure.”  These two big “F” words pack a major punch.  What if no one likes my art?  What if no one wants my art?  Why am I risking my heart if no one wants to see what’s in there?  Maybe its better to just keep it hidden.  That’s the safe thing to do.  Keep it all inside.  Don’t let it out to play.  That way it can’t get hurt.  It stays safe, tucked away deep inside where the outside world can’t get to it.

In her blog, “I paint, I write” Pamela Hodges says, “The little girl wants an A on her paper.  A shiny star on top of the math page for not getting any problems wrong.”  That little girl or boy is inside the heart of us all.  We go into protection mode to shield the child from hurt.  So we erect the barriers.  For people whose life work does not require the continual heart exposure this is no problem.  For the artist, it can be a daily problem.

Dr. Bob Tobin, in his blog, states, “artists show the courage that many of us could only begin to imagine.”  This daily pumping out of what’s inside is a courageous undertaking.  Pamela Hodges states, “Creating takes courage.  Courage to stand out and be seen.  Courage to risk failure, and to risk success.”  To do less is to give in to the big “F” word.  Do we allow that to happen?

No!  The courage to conquer the big “F” comes from the same source as the art.  Courage comes from the heart.  As the art is allowed to flow from the heart, so must the courage.  To open to one, is to open to the other.  Like the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz, it was there all the time.  It just has to be acknowledged and out it comes.  All the Lion lacked was a medal, an award of courage.  Go to the studio and make a medal.  You’ve earned it!  Then stand aside and allow the courage to flow along with the art as you allow the heart to come out from behind the safety barricades, and step into the sun.

Shady Grays

The autumn addition of a home décor catalog arrived last week.  Flipping through the pages revealed the new product lines to be in pale grayed down colors.  The bold headlines proclaimed color as the topic of each product line but the photographs portrayed a totally different scenario.  Linens were in dusky grayish blues and greens with subdued grayish red violets and toned down yellows.  The likely goal was to create serene spaces with pale hues.  The effect to me was one of complete depression.  These rooms all made me want to cry.  If I needed a good long cleansing cry, I would choose a grayed room.

A grayed room is not to be confused with a gray room.  A gray room can be quite striking if warm or rich grays are used, with touches of pure white or black.  Accenting the walls of a gray room with graphite drawings or artwork in silverpoint would further add to the charm.  This type of gray room could actually be serene and comforting.

But a room in which everything has been grayed down gives the impression of being stuck at dusk in neither day nor night.  A constant drizzling rain is compounding the dusk adding to the depressing feeling.  It makes sense why an author would name a book about sadomasochism after the color gray.  Living in dusky, drizzly grayed down surroundings might make someone think about pain in some form or other.

The great C. S. Lewis wrote a book titled, “The Great Divorce.”  The characters in the book are stuck in a town where it is always dusk in a drizzling rain.  It is not yet dark enough to turn on the lights but not bright enough to see well.  There is never any sun or moonlight, just the constant dusky drizzling rain.  The book deals with the key to escaping from this gray world of never having either night or day.

Perhaps I am being hard on the catalog and its products but what about those grayed linens would make me want to buy them? The entire color line gave the impression of having been washed in old dishwater.  Why would I want to put those colors in my home?  And why on earth would I want to put them in my art???

A delightful blog called Art-is-fun examines how color creates different effects in abstract painting making the profound point that, “color is a powerfully expressive tool!”  The blog goes on to examine the work of Joseph Albers and Mark Rothko in their groundbreaking, “color field painting.”  Albers and Rothko showed how a subtle change in color application is able to make a profound change in a painting.

For further proof of the emotional impact of color, do a simple experiment.  Go to any home décor store and check the feeling you get when seeing all the fall grayed down linens and other home furnishings.   Then check the bright and colorful Art-is-fun blog.  What feelings do you get?  Me?  I get happy just looking at the bold colors of the blog.  I will choose happy over depressed any day!  Bring on the Color and do it NOW!!!  The same goes for my art.


Cypresses, 2001  oil on canvas, marygwynbowen, copyright, all rights reserved

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