Wednesday, January 21, 2009


bay arab horse in ink
Recently my husband blogged on courage - inspired by Jelena Dokic’s return to tennis after the break-up of her family and a battle with depression. I never really thought much about every day courage, but it’s something I’ve begun to relate to both in my horse riding and my drawings (I am often feeling the need of it!).

One of the great gifts that horses give people (especially women, who may not otherwise be supported in this area) is the opportunity to build courage. From a beginner taking their first canter to the Olympian rider flying over a 1.60 metre jump, horse riding requires bravery with each new step. As with many things, we soon find that the act we feared is not so alarming after all!

Courage is something all horse riders are familiar with – perhaps because we often feel that we are lacking it. It seems that riders often focus on being afraid of something, but don’t stop to really congratulate ourselves when we go ahead and do it anyway. Of course this is true for non-riders too! It’s something that I’ve started thinking about more carefully when I ride.

After thinking about physical courage, it may be surprising to consider courage in the context of art. Art, as an expression of your deepest beliefs and feelings, requires vulnerability. It seems like those who open themselves to physical risk, are not always comfortable being vulnerable to the psychological risks of creative expression. This can be a really alarming thing. How many people have artworks that they destroy for fear of other’s judgment, or novels hidden in draws that are never shared?

A friend recently spoke about the challenge of teaching young musicians to improvise. Exposing yourself creatively is scary at first but – like a first canter on a horse – it often turns out far better than you expect (exhilirating actually!).

Courage begins with small steps. Here is a list of three small acts of courage I have achieved in my artwork that may not seem at all significant to others, but are certainly significant to me!

1.Using deep blues rather than blacks (a matter of choice. I used to really get into the black, but now I rarely use it at all in my coloured paintings)
2. Attending life-drawing sessions surrounded by professional (and often opinionated) artists.
3. Regularly sharing my work with others.

One of the benefits of living with a life coach, is being reminded that on the other side of fear is courage!

I’d love to hear what others think about physical and artistic courage. Please take a moment to leave your thoughts.

James’ post is at:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When we were walking the many corridors of great galleries in the US, I was struck by the courage and absolute fearlessness that gave so many works their power. In Mondrian and Michaelangelo, we can see their willingness to push into the unknown, to mess things up a bit by going beyond what is safe and familiar. The early abstract expressionists and impressionists, were also in this way masters of the mind, maybe even more than being masters of the brush!