Mark Ballard

Life is a canvas and we hold the brush

Mark Ballard gets started on a fresh canvas.
Mark Ballard gets started on a fresh canvas.

Over the years there have been times when I completed a painting, stood back, studied it and wanted to immediately paint it over. As an artist, I can do just that by painting the canvas white and beginning anew. It is nice to have the ability to completely start over — to be able to paint all the good parts of the painting again yet get a second chance to improve on the parts I didn’t like as well the first time. By learning from my mistakes, I can make the second painting better than the first.

Just the other day, I visited a friend of mine who is also an artist. She was showing me around her home and studio when we came upon several paintings she had done years earlier. “Don’t look at that one!” she said as I stopped to gaze at one of them. “That was from a long time ago and I paint much better now.” I smiled, because I completely understood what she was saying. Everything we do is a learning process. Being able to see we are growing is the only way we can continue to improve.

Sometimes to understand how far we’ve come, we need to look back at where we have been. These reminders allow us to measure our growth. Years change us in many ways. Not only in the way we are seen, but also in the way we see things. We realize we could do a much better job than what we were satisfied with before if given the chance. When we can clearly see this fact, we know we’re headed in the right direction. Moving forward is always better than standing still or, worse yet, going backwards.

That’s how I always try to look at the start of a brand new year. It is our chance to bring the good things with us from the year before while leaving the not-so-good things behind. I always strive to learn from the mistakes I made in the previous year and try my best not to repeat them in the upcoming one. The first of January is the perfect opportunity to begin this process of starting over with a fresh, new life canvas by keeping only the positive things from the previous year.

I will never forget, as a young art student, having teachers talk to me about some of my paintings looking muddled in certain areas. “Mark, you have certainly overworked this part!” they would say pointing to a particular area of my painting. “There is too much paint mixed together so this section is muddy. You need to give it more thought and fewer brush strokes.”

That’s the same thing that happens in life. We can’t bring everything from the year before with us or we’ll start off the New Year already confused and unfocused instead of clean and fresh. Of course, there are some things in life we simply cannot change — things we can’t paint white and just start over. But in the parts of our lives we can make changes, we should.

It’s not an easy task! It’s one that requires digging deep and taking an honest look at what needs to be changed. It is time-consuming, but the reward is worth it. I’ve found that writing things, both good and bad, on a sheet of paper helps. There is something about seeing the words that makes the needed changes clearer.

Tomorrow will be the first day of the year 2018. What we will accomplish this year depends on what we have learned in years’ past, what we choose to bring with us and how we handle each new day that lies before us. This brand new year is full of opportunities and possibilities. They are out there for the taking. We just need to be prepared, remain positive, stay focused and charge forward. We are the ones who are responsible for our own lives. Our life is our painting and the brush is in our hand! Happy New Year!

▪  New series of drawing classes with Mark starts soon. E-mail or call for details!

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to 3514 Ridge Avenue, Macon, GA 31204; call 478-757-6877; email; follow him at creates; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.