Growing up I used to love to draw.
I drew on anything and everything. Math homework = sketchpad. Journal = sketchpad.
Shoes = sketchpad. Walls = sketchpad. For whatever reason it was, I just felt the unwavering need to express myself on everything.
Somewhere along the way though, and I’m not quite sure where, the urge to draw and create different pieces of art began to fade. I think it’s probably around the time I entered my first painting competition.
When I was in 3rd grade, I had a “How to Draw Book” that featured this immaculate horse image. After I saw it, it reminded me of the horse paintings in my grandpas house so I got to work. Though no matter how many times I tried, erased and started over, I just couldn’t get the horse quite right. Either the head was too small or the back leg just made the front leg look like one big fat leg. I struggled for nearly 2 hours and then got a brilliant idea.
The paper in the drawing tutorial book was fairly thin so I tore out the image of the finished horse drawing and taped it to my back glass door. I then took another sheet of paper and placed it over the top of that tutorial image.
A hoshposh tracing station.
And for any young artist, the ability to trace was key. And after about 5 minutes, I had a picture perfect image of my (traced) horse. But there just wasn’t enough to it. So I grabbed out some paint and very meticulously painted a beautiful white horse.
My “too much gene” as my girlfriend likes to call it then kicked in and I decided my horse needed wings. So after another hour, I now had a beautiful white pegasus aka a horse with wings.
Of course the next day I went to school, the first thing I bragged about was my new painting. And that conversation led to more conversations and next thing I know, my traced and painted pegasus was going to be shown at the local Puyallup Fairs Young People’s Art Showcase.
Now of course I was excited about this because I was proud of my image. I thought for sure it was going to win.
Then about a week later, I got handed back my pegasus painting with a little green ribbon that read “Overall 2nd Place.”
And although I wanted to win, 2nd place felt pretty good. What I didn’t realize was that 2nd place would cause a lot more problems than it should.
Every single drawing and painting I made after that day, no matter what it was or how long I took on it, I thought needed to be worthy of 2nd place. Maybe even 1st.
Now understand I am not saying that I made a bunch of images and thought that they should be awarded, no entitlement was not the issue. The problem was I basically stopped painting and drawing all together because nothing I made was worthy of another ribbon in my mind.
What started as a fun little event, very easily and subconsciously crushed my creative spirit because I turned art into competition.
The scariest part of it all is, the world keeps turning art into competition every day.
Think about it, we have massive award shows for actors. Huge showcases for musical artists. Immaculate auctions for artwork. And whether we are doing it intentionally or not, we are deciding in every waking moment of our lives what art is important and what art is not.
A completely radical concept since art is completely subjective.
And what right do we hold to tell another human being their self expression is “just not good enough?”
I think creativity is supposed to be for you and you alone. And then let others quietly decide if the image, piece or creative work resonates with them.
But instead, we continue to slap labels and numbers to decide what art is “good” and what art is “not good.”
This naturally forces us to buy into what is “good” and then create art and creative pieces that simply reflect what society thinks is “good.” Soon enough we find ourselves trapped in an echo chamber where art looks the same, music sounds the same and creativity is a principle, not an expression.
So how do we fight against this?
I think we need to find ways to FORCE OUR CREATIVE HAND.
Write a song every single day even if no one listens.
Record a vlog each week even if no one watches.
Post a story each day even is no one reads.
I think the most powerful form of expression and creative freedom comes from your willingness to create with no audience. Yet, we are trained in a modern American society to publicize our work and find ways to “blow up.” But if all we ever do is try and “blow up,” we’ll just end up sounding like everyone else.
FORCE YOUR CREATIVE HAND and find ways to express yourself with no one watching.
And now maybe this message sound ridiculous coming from me since I live my life on a stage as a public speaker and you are taking the time to read my blog, but what you will never see is...
The old homework sketches.
And sharpie covered walls.
Because are those are for me and are not up for judgement. They are just reminders to create like no one is watching and before I know it, everyone will be watching.
Force you creative hand every day and let’s change the definition of art.