Last weekend, I took my very first trip to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and let me tell you, it was quite the experience. Tears were shed (mostly by me), odd looks were received (all by me), and inspiration had struck.
With wide doe eyes and a gaping black hole for a mouth, I cemented my feet down in front of every artwork for probably a bit longer than socially acceptable. But the transition from a page in my art history textbook to right in front of my face was too insane to grasp. Everything felt so tangible, so real. It was as if the artists were saying to me, “Hey look! All we had to work with was this surface and some colors and look what we made! It’s so easy and attainable, even you can do it!”. To which I mentally replied, “Who? Me?“. And they of course answered with a resounding, “Yes, you!“.
So with an ego boost due to Monet’s imaginary encouragement and thoughts swirling in colors that even Van Gogh would envy, I went out in search of a canvas to knock out a masterpiece myself.
Because that’s an easy thing to do, right?
I sat down with a paintbrush in one hand and a palette full of colors in the other. I was ready to take on the world. (Or maybe just the canvas. It’s good to start small with that sort of thing, you know.)
And I painted for hours. I went through my entire play list of songs multiple times. I mixed colors and splattered paint and lost track of the time and it was wonderful.
The end result was no Picasso. And it was definitely no masterpiece.
The only walls it will probably ever be hung on are those belonging to my bedroom.
And I won’t lie…there was some disappointment creeping into my thoughts at that moment, because Monet made it look so easy. Van Gogh made it look so beautiful. So why the heck didn’t mine look like that?
And then my little imaginary Monet voice came back into my head as I remembered that he probably felt the same way at some point. Museums of course are only going to show the best of the best. The masterpieces. They leave out all the messy work. We don’t get to see the behind the scenes action…the ideas and the sketches and the mess ups and the throwaways. We don’t see the hidden notebooks containing the thought process and the works that didn’t make it to the museum walls. Because Van Gogh painted more than just The Starry Night and Monet painted more than just Water Lilies.
All of the great artists had papers and canvases lying around that were just ideas floating about.
Because the process is just as important as the final result.
Your work doesn’t have to be hung up in MoMA to be significant. If creating it made you lose track of the time and made you happy, then don’t stop.
Pick up the pen. Get out your paints. Dust off that typewriter.
Open up your mind and put thoughts onto paper.
Open up your mouth and put ideas into the world.
You don’t have to be a master to do something that you love. Continue the practice and enjoy the process.
As Vincent probably said at some point in his lifetime, “Just Van Gogh with it.”