Cat and Canary / by Susie Lubell

Her cage was purely decorative.

Her cage was purely decorative.

I have to be honest. I don't exactly know where these paintings are coming from. This one started out very dark. Like a lot muddy paint. Like what my three year old comes up with if I don't get the brushes out of his hands in time. And from the mud emerged an anemic spooky girl and a weird black shape hovering over her. And then the girl got covered over and the black shape was a bird. And then the black bird was sitting on top of a big cage. But then the bird had to go and the cage got a table. And there was a giant magnolia looking tree which I covered up and the pot for the tree turned into a cat in a dress. And a different bird appeared on top of the cat. And then I broke out my new neon vermillion cheapy paint from the craft store and held my breath and slathered it on. And suddenly it all came together for me. This painting was me dealing with fear.

People, I can't paint a cat. I mean not really.  Cats are hard to paint. Truthfully most everything is hard for me to paint. I have a terrible fear of making mistakes and wrecking everything and having to start over and it's fairly pervasive. I feel it when I'm dealing with money, parenting, writing, cooking and especially when I'm painting. Which is why for many years I've stuck with the kind of stuff I can do well - little buildings, trees, fields, birdies. Also because i have so little time to create, I don't want to waste any of it on stuff I have to redo. Or can't sell. It can be kind of debilitating.

But all of that amounts to fear.  Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of sharks in the deep end (that's a literal fear of mine, but may have some figurative aspects). Here I am trying to raise empowered, self-assured, courageous kids while letting my own fears limit my potential. So I'm cracking that shit wide open. I'm painting cats because I can. And they can be in a dress. I'm allowing myself the space and freedom to make mistakes and start over how ever many times I need. I'm reserving judgement. I'm telling the critic in my head to pipe down. I'm leaving the cage to sit bravely with the one thing that, left unchecked, has the power to eat me up.