I forget the name of the 1990's British TV program that pitted "normal" people against pro-athletes in an arena full of insanely difficult obstacle courses, but the MC always started with the Scottish accented herald, " Contenders, are you ready? Gladiators, are you ready?" The crowd would go insane. Cameras would focus on the confident grins of the pro-athletes (Visual clue: Barbie and Ken on steroids) and then pan to the slightly twitchy, paler competitors( Visual: mouth-guards and knee-supports).
This week post exhibition opening has felt like that moment for me. I am entering a new arena and the players are big and I question whether I am up for this. Of course I am, but I need a little buff and polish to make it look that way, if only for myself.
I have spent this last week painting the walls of the studio white, paring equipment down to what I need, not what I THINK I need, organising my materials, reference material, desk, stationary and filing systems(chortle, think shoebox). I have cleared the visual slate of the last few years work. I have made plans. I am attending a workshop at the end of November that is so out of my comfort zone that it makes my head hurt just to think about it. But I have enrolled. I have committed. I am in the process of working on commissions that need to be finished timorously( and they will be) and actually enjoying the process.I have a my next exhibition lined up for May. I am flexing my painting muscles and checking out the competition. They are intimidating and successful, but I am here, in this arena too. I am here.
And this is the bit that keeps me here:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
I was turned on to this quote by Brene Brown, a writer , whose latest book is all about vulnerability being the birthplace of creativity. Ouch. That's hard work. But, to be in the arena, to openly invite scrutiny and criticism about ones work , one has to be vulnerable. So here I am, just a painter wanting to paint, looking to grow and be successful (still working out what that one means to me too) and do this forever.
I am pale and twitchy, but I am in the arena.
PS. I have just remembered the name of the show " Gladiators".duh