Joanne Beaule Ruggles

Acting Brave, Finding Courage

There is something in each of us that wishes to be brave. We can observe the way someone walks or talks, and pretty quickly assess whether they live courageously or cautiously. Courage is a magnetic property and we are drawn to it when we see it evidenced in others.

Are you aware that courage (or the lack of it) could also be observed within your artwork? In the same way that we are aware of body movements that are confident, or a voice that is assured, we recognize visual marks that are bold, and creative decisions that express bravado.

Of course to make expressive marks that are confident, the assumption is that you must first be brave. My response will likely surprise you…I contend you must simply ACT as if you are brave. You are allowed to be terrified, but in the face of that terror you can choose to embrace risk (see my face and posture in family lion petting photo from South Africa – I am ready to bolt but still petting that lion).

It is easy to fall into a tight work process. The assumption is that if one is careful enough, using a sufficiently tiny brush, or a precisely sharpened pencil, that perfection can ultimately be achieved. Frankly my neck and shoulders hurt simply thinking about it!

Instead I encourage you to reach for tools with longer handles so that you relax your stranglehold on them, find crude materials you cannot so easily master, and pick up supplies that encourage decisive action rather than endless noodling. You can choose to create a work process that demands bravado from you. That choice will allow you to spend more time acting brave. In exchange, you may actually grow more courageous and you will have a heck of a lot more fun in the meantime!

(Years of experience have allowed me to find courage in artmaking, I suppose if I were to pet sufficient numbers of lion cubs, I too would grow braver in that context!)


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