Coloring through the Fear / by Michelle Cowan

I finally painted today! I attended a process painting class, used paint, explored, and didn’t have to withstand any critiques. It was all about letting my own creativity out, taking note of my resistances, and seeing what happened when I ignored the resistance and followed my heart.

I started out painting with whatever colors I felt like using. Every couple of minutes, I would see my painting and love it but also want to continue painting. I felt sure that if I kept on adding paint and color, I would ruin my creation. I noticed this resistance, and instead of moving on to a new piece of paper, I followed my intuition and put the next color exactly where I wanted to, just to see what might happen.

What was the worst that could happen? Giant fears of ruining my perfect picture arose within me. Did I really think that ruining a painting would ruin my life? My fear made no sense, and I immediately related it to how I think about decisions in my daily life. I can exhibit such catastrophic thinking. Every choice seems like life or death. My painting process reflected that.

In the studio, however, I transcended the fear and never changed my canvas. The miraculous thing was that every time I continued painting, despite worries that my work was at its most beautiful and would be marred by another brush stroke, the painting got better. Once I made another mark or muddled my “perfect” creation, a new technique or idea opened up that made something else even more shockingly beautiful. By getting to a new stage with the painting instead of repeating the start of another one, I discovered techniques I never would have considered and learned more about color combinations and paint texture. That information remained hidden and unavailable when I stayed in the safe spot and stopped before I “ruined” anything.

It felt good to break through and do the challenging thing. And it felt odd to have been so wrong. Continuing to paint didn’t ruin anything—it opened me up to more.

And that’s what I want to do in life. I want to go beyond safety to a place where miracles and true learning occur. I want to remember that I can’t make a mistake and that resistance is worth examining.