A while back I wrote a blog about staying inside the lines, and how we try so hard to stay within the boundaries or expectations that are set for us. Yet it is so desperately unfulfilling. Here is a story of similar nature, depicting life as what we think we are supposed to make it, and then what it could be if we took control of our full potential and passion. You always have the chance for a blank canvas, and you always have the chance to start over.
A BLANK CANVAS
So here we are. This is where it all started. This is what we were meant to have. A blank canvas. Nothing broken, nothing messy, nothing confusing, nothing at all. But while it is blank, it is beautiful. New birth. Something about looking at a baby in their innocence is so incredibly beautiful. No marks, no lines, no scars or pain. We want so desperately to uphold that for them, but in our own experience of the world, we know it will not be easy. We try, for as long as we can we try, but eventually their canvas inevitably starts to change.
So here we are. Yet before we even have the ability to pick up a brush, there are lines. Before we learn what it feels to create, there is creation sitting there on our canvas. We didn’t choose it, but it is there. And eventually we decide that the only option is to follow it. Follow along the lines that seem to create some notion of structure. Colour gently along the rigid dark curves that contrast so vividly. We don’t want to upset the trend, or disturb the creation that has already begun.
It was never that we did not have the ability to create, rather we created within the boundaries of what had already was. We decided that what we wanted could fit inside the lines, and that it would be okay. We believed the most beautiful picture would come out of continuity rather than newness. It was easier, understandable. It formed consistent and predictable framework.
Still you wonder, what might I have created if those lines were never there? What would I have desired to make? Would it be bright, colourful and smooth or intricate lines and graphics that would collide together to produce a maze of unique design?
Is there something I was supposed to follow? A design that I was meant to re-create? I have followed something that existed before I could think differently, is that the point? Or is there more? Is there other canvases that I have not seen? Why do the others look different than mine? Their use of colour seems so practiced, as I look at mine I see mistakes and slip ups.
I swear I followed along the lines, still it did not turn out like I thought it would. It does not look like I thought it would. It doesn’t… look like anything.
Okay I must be missing something, there must be a “normal” that I can follow. I’ll find something that represents normality and fix my mess enough to make it resemble this existing standard. Then it will all be okay, everything will be predictable and understandable. Once again I will be in control.
I lie awake at night, awoken from vivid dreams. Black lines obscuring all that I thought I knew, colours that I don’t recognize, everything changing so rapidly.
I have to believe that there is something to create. Something that is worth creating, something that will extend beyond my years. Something that matters. But how do I do that when my creation is tattered, torn and used? I don’t know anything different, yet somehow I seek to know everything that is foreign to me. Something different, something more.
I see a design that looks simple enough, so I try to copy it. My lines don’t look quite as neat, but at least they resemble one that seems to be getting so much attention. I wish I could say I am proud of their work, but the jealousy of comparison supersedes any admiration that I might have the capacity to feel.
Day by day, I create. I add to this picture wherever there is blank space, some days I resort to re-tracing the lines that are already there, it is easy and does not take much thought. This routine is so stale, yet I can’t seem to see beyond this complex mass of colour in front of me. Maybe there is something behind it that I’m not seeing. I take the hind end of my frayed brush and poke holes in the rigid fabric that holds this creation I’ve built upon. My whole life’s work. But still nothing changes, I cannot see through my creation, instead it just looks even more obscure and disfigured. Now I’m beyond what I can do so I shamefully call upon the help of those that have gone before me, hoping they can fix this mess that I am in. They provide the material, and we work together to try and patch up the holes. It takes a lot of time, but eventually it comes together, though it will never look like it did before. I am weak, exhausted and defeated. Have I had enough? I cannot decide.
After a long day, week, month, year of repair I lay my head down and rest, with thoughts of colour filling my imagination.
I love the reds, and how the brightness catches your eye. Yet its intensity can also be frightening. I love the coolness of the blues, how they create a sense of calm and clean. Yet some blues are too dark, and convey a darkness that has yet to be explored. Some reds are too strong, and any fault in the tone is too easily recognized.
On and on I see these colours, the ones that have brought me joy, and the ones that have plagued me. They start to flicker and rotate faster, until I am seeing a rainbow rapidly transition through my mind. Endless lines, colours and vibrancies that I cannot process. It is beautiful yet overwhelming, the sheer volume of it creates a silent noise that rumbles. I swear it could shake the mountains. Sometimes this noise invigorates me, but for now it is exhausting, and I try to suppress it but I cannot seem to see anything else.
And then it stops. The noise starts to subside, the colours start to fade, and I realize that for the first time I am starting to see white. It is so unfamiliar, yet blindingly beautiful. It is so foreign, yet at the same time it feels comfortable and familiar. I do not know how to respond, so I just pause and take it in. It is so pure, unobstructed, so real and bright. Maybe this is what I have been missing all along. This colour, it is what I have been searching for, but never knew what it was. This colour that I have been trying to cover up, replacing with rainbows to add significance and meaning. But at the same time this blanket of white seems to hold a perfect complexity that I fail to comprehend. Yet I am okay with it.
But it is too late. It must be, My creation is already in progress, and it is far from white. In fact, it has been a long time since I have seen any free space to work with. How I yearn for this pure light, this white that has no blemishes or holes, no lines or scars.
I try so hard to figure out how to create white with all that I have. I mix and match, mix and match trying to create this perfection that seems so tangible. Yet the more that I mix, the darker it gets, nothing seems to make sense. What am I missing? If only I had that, maybe all of this clutter would disappear. If I admit it, there is some lines that I am not willing to let go of. While they may be overdone, they represent all that I’ve created, and i’m not sure I’m ready to let go of that. What will I be without this creation? Surely i will have nothing if I am without my life’s work. Surely there is no more to me than this complex array of colours that I have tried so hard to coordinate.
But still I imagine it. This pure, uncoloured scene. The clean, marvellous surface that has no bumps or bruises, no tears or strains.
Maybe I will never know it. My picture has already been created, I must build on what is. If only I had something new. A second chance.
As I rest my arms onto this blurry mess of colour, a tear drops onto the surface and further blends the dark mix that I’ve created through my diligent combinations, trying so hard to find clarity. Searching for meaning.
And then I feel a shift of weight, the fragile structure of my canvas was not made to hold me up, and I tumble over as it falls to the ground. I shake off the dust, annoyed at myself for being so careless and pick up this tattered piece of art that carries so much confusion and anguish.
And for the first time I see it.
Blank. Pure. Perfect.
On the reverse side of all that I have known sits an empty canvas. Something I subconsciously knew was there all along but never tried to discover. It only made sense that it was here. All along I had the power to turn it over, but I never knew that I really could. I was searching for something that was there, I just didn’t believe that it was accessible. I did not believe that I was worth a second chance.
How beautiful. How free. How un-tainted.
Yet while it’s unique perfection portrayed completion, I knew that it was made to be used. Though I feared marking up the pure, smooth surface, now I could finally see what was in front of me. For the first time I could see that I had a second chance. A chance to create from scratch. A chance to do something I have always wanted to do, but never felt the opportunity was there.
It’s not that I now had more skill, more finesse or technique. I did not have new brushes, new colours or new tools.
But I had ideas. Oh how I had ideas, they bounced around in my head like bingo balls, each one ready to picked at any moment.
The difference was, now I had freedom. I had something to start with, though it began perfect and I was bound to mess it up, at least I can create. I can really create something new. This is my chance, my second chance, and it’s the only one I’ll ever need.
No matter what, it will be beautiful. Because it’s unique. It’s mine. It’s a blank canvas.
Photo: Sarah Klockars-Clauser