An Artist's Quest

What to do With a Blank Slate?


I am participating in an interesting challenge proposed by the editors of ClothPaperScissors magazine.  The proposal is that I, along with 9 other artists, would be sent a package of mystery products and we would have a month to make art using these materials, we would then send our art to the magazine and some of the art will be published in a subsequent issue.  When the call for artist came I jump at the chance.  It seemed to fit my own personal creative challenge to make art and stretch inventive imaginative muscles in new ways.  Well the package came Wednesday, and my excitement quickly turned to doubts.  The materials are a line of products from Grafix, there is translucent drawing film, transfer film, printable transparency film, and shrink film.  These are products I’ve used in various ways before, so upon opening the envelope I quickly began thinking of the ways I’d used them before and how I could do that same thing again for this challenge.  The pressure is on and I don’t want to fail so my mind raced to the safety of familiarity, “do what you know” it seemed to say, “don’t do anything risky”.  I decided to set it aside for a couple of days to let ideas plop down in this empty pool and see what floats, I want to use the creative muscles I have but I want to stretch too, so I’m going to leave this blank slate blank for the weekend and then on Monday start making my mark.

This idea of the blank slate came with me this morning as I took a long walk with my dog, Lucky. Long walks are my best thinking time my body is moving, my mind is open.  So naturally I began to think about the magazine challenge, not the specifics of the challenge per say, but the idea of the blank slate. The feeling of both fear and excitement at such a rare moment being offered up for the taking.  In life these blank slate moments present themselves rarely.  Going off to college is a big one, new relationships another, but as we get older these blank slate opportunities are infrequent and fraught. It makes me think of my sister, who has been working at a job she doesn’t like and hasn’t ever really felt her full self in for seven years. Right after the New Year she gave notice!  At the end of the month she is leaving, walking right onto a blank slate. She is filled with both apprehension and elation at this ending and beginning. I also have a friend who is confronting a blank slate moment in his life.  His marriage has fallen apart and he and his wife have separated. He is dismayed and relieved all at the same time.  There is struggle ahead for both of these blank slate moments I’m referencing here, all the hard questions; “who am I?”, “what gives life meaning?”, “what next?”  These questions deserve time, a pause to ponder, let the slate be blank. As I pondered these things on my walk a line from a favorite poem from Mary Oliver popped into my head like a mantra “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” All we can hope for is to stand unflinching before these blank slate moments, pause and then make a mark, your own mark, bold and true.

I’ll keep you posted on my Cloth/Paper/Scissors conundrum, here is a link to the website that I found the blank slate image on.


3 responses

  1. Valerie Komkov Hill

    I have received a similar challenge in choreography. For Flatlands Dance Theatre’s Spring concert each choreographer was given a sonnet by Shakespeare to create a dance around. I have Sonnet 147 and 3 female dancers. It is both exciting and daunting but, like you, I relish the chance to grow creatively.

    January 25, 2013 at 10:30 am

  2. Jane

    With four other friends I have formed a small reflection group and we are using a coffee table book called “where will you be 5 years from today”. As there are six of us we call ourselves for 645 as are lives are so crazy we needed something quick and easy to enter on the calendar and short and snappy enough for our overloaded brains! We take one page each month and reflect on it as indivuals then share our findings when we come together. We have found that sometimes we are presented with blank slate moments, but also that this book has helped us create and grab or at least ponder potential blank slate opportunities. Amazing things have happened already – a project in china, a book published … My blank slate goals are a little less lofty but it good to realize that you can take the eraser to that crazy covered chalk board of life and wipe a least a little personal blank space every now and then.

    January 25, 2013 at 12:02 pm

  3. Mary Anne

    Thank you for this blog – love this concept of “blank lates…”

    Possessing an action-oriented personality, my blank slates opportunities have been pursued with positive hope for a good result. Foolish decisions I was told at times but I did live in Europe for 2 years, changed careers at age 38, retired then revoked it for another 12 years of fascinating work. Now I have a new studio life exploring art opportunities I never thought about when younger. Life is a blank slate and we hold the chalk and the eraser.

    January 27, 2013 at 6:38 am

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