A Voice of My Own

When Icarus flew too close to the sun, his wings melted and he fell into the sea. This cautionary Greek myth came to mind the last time my friend Denis Brown visited me. Denis is no mere mortal; in calligraphy circles he IS the Sun King, the Mozart of Calligraphy, the one who has reached a pinnacle in our art and remains at the top of his game. In comparison, my work seems messy, pedestrian, earthy and most definitely imperfect! Like Salieri in Amadeus, I have felt doomed to mediocrity.

That is until I was surprised by an inner voice which stated clearly, “You are flying to close to the SON!” It seemed perfectly timed as this “message” came to me as I was doing laundry, the most mundane of tasks. I thought about it for awhile, and realized that I had convinced myself that the only standard by which my art could be measured was in comparison to the work of Denis Brown and his ilk, the maestros or SUN’s of Western calligraphy. If I continued to compare myself with ones’ whose light shine so brightly, I not only risked melting my wings, but being blinded as well.

I have followed this clear, intuitive message and it has served to help me stay grounded while seeking my own WAY to soar in art. My wings are not fashioned of wax, but of solid, disciplined studies of line and composition. Art journals have helped me appreciate the value of ephemera, of process, of ordinary experiences recorded with honesty and lack of self-consciousness. As much as I appreciate highly polished, sharp and extraordinary things, I also appreciate the Wabi Sabi-ness of the not so pretty, the decaying and worn down stuff of life.Now when I leap, I do so with the knowledge that my own light is bright enough to guide me, my confidence and skills strong enough to keep me aloft until I drift back to earth softly, landing firmly with my feet on the ground (rather than in the sea, submerged in the unconscious!) Indeed, earth is where I choose to be, immanent, embodied. However imperfect, I am committed to my own voice, my own truth. I can accept my limitations as well as my strengths and keep working to shape my visions, however vague or mundane.
Denis left this morning after a four-day teaching gig in Austin. I did not take his class, but stayed in my studio, practicing on my own, soaring here and there, happy to do what I do. Our conversations were stimulating, provocative. I spoke my truth and he shared his; I was not blinded by his light, but warmed and inspired by it–and ignited by our shared passion for art.

12 Comments

  1. Sharon, you are as magnificent a writer as you are an artist. What eloquence! I love reading your blog. Every entry is like a glimpse into your soul. You have articulated what most of us feel when we surround ourselves with brilliant people. I feel as though I’ve just spent a moment inside your heart. Love, Carol

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  3. Sharon thank you for this insight and your process of coming to value yourself and your work. We all need to hear this!

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  4. Sharon… I just love your heart, your view and your words. They transcend all earthliness and YOU ROCK, Girlfriend! I am so honored to call you my friend.

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  5. Sync equals your art and heart. Thanks, Sharon, for sharing your soul. Your words are inspiring.

    Warm regards,
    Rosie Huart

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  6. Sharon, your thoughts were so beautiful and eloquent, and were comforting to read after taking Denis’ class! It’s good to know that even accomplished, talented artists such as yourself still feel insecure from time to time. But more importantly, you’re teaching us to embrace where we are RIGHT NOW, while still striving to be the BEST we can be. You are a special person, Sharon… thank you for your encouragement and inspiration!!

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  7. Hats off to all you courageous art souls who dare bare yourselves on page after page (or canvas). Those really bright lights among us can dazzle, not blind, when we can appreciate our own light.
    XO, Sharon

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  9. Blogger Sherrie said…

    Dear Sharon,

    This is a very important point, when we, by our own standards, get lost in the shadows of others. How do we reconcile not being a “genius” and know that we, too, have something to offer and a place in the world. I struggle with this, too. We are closely in contact with the best of the best in our field. These people are reachable, our friends, and yet there is something not touchable.

    Denis has Denis’ gifts. And you, my dear, have Sharon’s. Who’s to judge whom is better served? And, is that the question? You are so right; we each need to remember to continue on our path. This is the only one that can come through us.

    How I long to have the ease of some of these other calligraphers. I know that they worked hard, and I have also put in my years. When I get truly lost I look at the masters of painting. You asked what I thought of Kandinsky. He gives words and grounding to what is happening in art. I say this, also knowing he is pointing to the unknown, the spiritual. Yes, line and composition, or as he says, color and form. When I get too messy, I go back to color theory, or basic lettering. Starting over, always adding something to what I know.

    And, just so you know, Sharon, I keep some of your work around to inspire me. – Sherrie Lovler

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  10. Sharon, I have struggled with my own version of this mind game and although I still catch myself doing it, I’ve learned that comparing myself to others is always a losing proposition.

    It came home to me at Cheerio several years ago, in a conversation with the Zeus of calligraphy immortals, genius at its best, John Stevens. I confessed to him over dinner how much of my life had been spent wishing desperately that I were a genius, and that I always felt like a Salieri equivalent at best (or some such words). John startled me by his reply: “Melissa, did you ever think that there are people who consider YOU a genius?” Well, no, of course I never thought this, since I’m my own worst critic! But I realized he was probably right.

    You can never see your own work the way outsiders do – you’re too close to it. But your job is not to judge, as Martha Graham said, but to just DO IT. Easier said than done sometimes, but certainly a goal to aim for.

    I look forward to reading more of your insights.

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  11. Very beautifully put, Sharon. I love your resolution (ongoing) of this dilemma we all grapple from time to time. Like the time I was so excited about my work, got the newest Letter Arts Review and found myself feeling terrible, inadequate, a fraud, etc, etc. So shut up, I said to meself, I said, you’ve done this and THIS and THIS and they haven’t. My life is mine and nobody could make the art that I make, and it’s BECAUSE of my life experiences that my art is what it is. And I wonder, why do we elevate some people to such heights, “no mere mortal”, the “Zeus of calligraphy”. Do we have some need for this hero worship? Most of those people would prefer to be just folks, like us, and they ARE folks just like us. Maybe they’ve got more mojo going sometimes, but they have their trials too.

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  12. Dear Sharon,
    This is my first visit to your site. I’ve taken classes with you and have been very inspired by you for a long time. Your work has a depth I long for in my own art. Reading what you wrote explains why your work is so potent with layers of thoughts, dreams, technique and beauty…among other things.
    I remember when meeting you first, you shared a little about yourself and you were going thru a challenging time and journaling. You started me on that same journaling journey which I still do today…so thank you once again for inspiring me to learn to accept myself just as I am.
    Much love….

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