Every time it’s there, staring at me with glaring whiteness. An empty page, a blank canvas. Then the line begins to form, the color starts to emerge. It’s never something from nothing. The soft pink lips, the sharp creases of the skin, the scruffy bits of mustache, there’s always someplace to start. And so I start. Putting down a line and bringing it up again. Laying on Burnt Sienna, then Cadmium Red, then a touch of Cerulean Blue. I can blend and craft and create and destroy, because it’s mine and there is no wrong. Like a six-year-old discovering the sky doesn’t have to be colored in with the blue crayon, I know my skin can be purple and my hair can be green. Freedom comes once the page begins to fill. It’s in the middle of the piece when I can play; creating shadows and bringing out highlights, turning up the edges of the mouth, deepening the furrow of the brow. In the beginning it’s a blank page and how I begin points to how I end. And in the end it’s the feeling that I’m done but never quite finished. But in the middle, I’ve started something and I am an artist.
Then there is the even more challenging task, when the blank page isn’t mine. When I have to use a piece of vine charcoal to bring out the volume of the skull, that sits with the paint splattered reading light illuminating it from a 45 degree angle. When I have to explore the shape of a philodendron leaf. Still, even when I have to examine the light passing through a glass pitcher I know I’m not drawing the same pitcher as the person two tables over. It is my pitcher and I can make the pour spout fill the entire page. Or I can put down the whole pitcher and make the crystal crevices shine from the paper.
Of course, I’ll be judged. My old man with the wrinkled skin will be praised or quietly ignored before I gently tuck him into my portfolio with the other characters, the ones who started as blank pages.