It started out as a simple task. My 7 year old daughter decided she wanted to draw a picture for her brother's upcoming birthday. She asked to use youtube to find a video about drawing superheroes. She found what she was looking for, and locked herself in my study to draw a Batman picture. I kept an eye on her, and she was all smiles. She took her time to create a Batman good enough for her BIG BROTHER. And then disaster. I found her with a face stained with tears, and lying on the floor. Her world had crumbled. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me her picture was ruined. I asked her to show me, and she held up the drawing. She had finished the sketch and decided to outline the cape with a black marker. It was too thick….or that was what she felt. I looked at it, and I was impressed with her drawing. She had drawn it from scratch and I thought it was great. I told her, but she could not be consoled.
As an artist, I know this feeling. I know what it feels like to put effort into creating an image, and then feel a sadness when it doesn't meet my expectations. When we see the flaws, and imperfections rather than the beauty we create. This sadness we can pack up in our little red wagon and drag around for days or weeks.
Rather than try and convince her that her picture was great, I asked her what she wanted to do. She said she didn't know. I suggested she draw the Batman again, and the tears flowed. She told me she had spent all afternoon drawing ( it was actually less than an hour) and she was too tired to do it again. She would make another mistake, and was ready to give up. I asked he why she wanted to do the drawing, and she said her Brother loves Batman. She said she wanted to give him something he would love. I asked her if she still wanted to do that, and she said yes but she wasn't a good enough drawer. I didn't agree with her. I said well if you give up now, will you have a drawing of Batman to give to him on his birthday. She said no, but she wanted a break. I agreed this was the best option, and we cuddled up on the lounge.
I thought about my own work, and how I let my own emotions get in the way of creating. I may not throw myself on the floor but I do let that inner voice tell myself I am not good enough. That my work is not enough. And like my daughter, I feel tired and frustrated. Why can't I capture the emotions, the connection, the love that I see? Why do I miss focus or the moment? Why does Mr Self-Doubt take a seat next to me and whisper his negative thoughts.
I sat thinking about her feelings and the emotions that we attach to our art. We don't always love what we create, and rather than feel inspired, we feel deflated and ready to give up. If we take this option, then we won't move forward. We won't grow. We won't get better. We stay in this state of uninspired artist who is dragging our red wagon of sadness around.
Or we can get back on that horse and try again. We can keep creating, and growing. And that is what my daughter did. She decided to draw the characters from Adventure Time and created a new masterpiece. One that filled her with happiness and inspiration. Life lessons with a 7 year old, and we can all learn something….especially me.
Cindy Cavanagh of image421 photography