Courage on Canvas


The room was filled to capacity with my female friends, along with clean brushes, easels and the most intimidating object of all…a blank, glistening white 16 x 20 canvas. I twisted my hands beneath the table. I listened closely to our instructor who gave us only two rules.

1. No Comparing

2. No “I can’t”

Sounded simple enough, rules that were fairly easy to follow. I am used to following. I have always been more  of a follower and less of a leader, so this part was not difficult.


As I listened, I became more and more anxious about painting, but not in a positive way. I was afraid. Afraid of being a failure, regardless if I followed the rules. I had already told our instructor before this class that I was not sure that I could do it? She encouraged that I could and I would be surprised with the result.

The starting point was fairly easy, since it required a ruler and a straight pencil line. Then came time to dip the brush into the paint. I felt my hands tighten around the brush, but nothing was happening. Quietly she says, “Painting is all about courage, I can only give you the tools, the courage has to come from you.”

My soul starts to whisper….No I can’ts. No I can’ts. No I can’ts, until the first strokes of paint seem to glide onto the blank canvas.


It was a start. I learned that painting is full of “layers” just like people. What you see in the forefront, is not all there is. There was a process that had to take place before it. There were layers, foundations that had to be built. Unless you were there in the beginning? You can’t really know how it came to be, you can only see the top layers. Looking from a distance, I do not really see that my horizon is not straight. Up close and personal? Oh yeah, it is jagged and full of imperfections. Our goal is to see the beauty in the painting while not putting our focus totally on the flaws.

I had no doubt that I would make mistakes. I was assured that my mistakes were not final. At one point I wasn’t sure we were even still talking about painting? It was starting to sound more like things I was familiar with.. Grace, do overs, unpeeling the harsh layers of people, being intentional, and realizing it is “okay” to not get it right the first time…. as long as I continued to try again.

Painting was the most different thing I have ever experienced. All the while, I felt like I was doing more than brushing the paint onto the canvas. I was creating and it was liberating. I also learned that I had to realize when it was “enough”. I think I could paint water in an ocean ALL DAY! The more I whisked that brush through the blues, the more I wanted to enhance the colors. I found a simple truth: my layers are going to be different and that’s okay too. I am me, God created me to be just that…me.

If you have never painted a blank canvas? I highly recommend it. It was terrifying, but that is usually when you find courage. Each stroke of the brush was a step towards courage. I’m so glad I continued and finished my painting. I will never see a Van Gogh when I look at it, but I will see courage…and the layers it took for me to get there..





Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts. – John Wooden




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