In the 1980s, 30-some years since he birthed his cool and changed the shape of all jazz to come, Miles Davis began to paint. Never one to to take life by half-steps, Miles threw himself into the new discipline, sketching and brushing for hours every day. He even took lessons, submitting a raging ego to instruction, humbly taking a giant step to understanding a new form.
“It’s like therapy for me,” he said in his Autobiography, “keeps my mind occupied with something positive when I’m not playing music.”
The man’s not alone in that. There’s not an elective art class on the planet that’s not at least half-full with those seeking self-help. Learning to self-love, to let go the hold of fears and frights. To give voice to still-blank canvas. To set white-space free, to crush the sterile tyranny of bleached-perfect sheets and make marks indelible. To be seen, to be known.
The virgin page must go if our thoughts are to have life, to reproduce. We must muck it up, leave our stain. Break a few things.
It’s not a kid’s game, this art. Miles waited until his 50s to try it on. It’s risky, dangerous, and it blew up his movie-star marriage. So be warned, there’s power there. Use it wisely, but get going. Because as Miles once said, “Man, sometimes it takes you a long time to sound like yourself.“