Fire in the Belly: Living Life Courageously

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage

Anais Nin, novelist

“Larger!  Larger!  Larger!  Forget small!  Think big!  Abandon fear!  Light the fire in your belly!”  The fifteen of us sat there timidly, hands poised hesitantly in mid-air.

Welcome to first year life drawing class.

A huge, pad of white paper rested on an easel in front of each student.  Neatly centered on our individual drawing pads, a sad, microscopic figure that bore little resemblance to the flesh and blood, Rubenesque female model posed in the center of the room.

Frank, our drawing instructor was small in stature but larger than life; passionately expressive in everything he said and did.  When he talked or rather roared, he spoke with his whole being, eyes wide, body swaying, arms waving animatedly, and each sentence punctuated with a dramatic finger jab.  Each class Frank would stride purposefully around the room, peer over our shoulders, and bellow, “Let yourself go!  Move your arms!  Move your body!  Breathe for God’s sake!  Fill the space!”

Yes, Frank sometimes scared the life out of me, out of all of us but without a doubt, he was a remarkable artist and exceptional teacher who consistently pushed us to challenge our own self-limitations.  At the end of the day, we were better artists for it and by the end of the term; big, beautiful female figures danced across every drawing pad.  What initially seemed impossible was not impossible after all.

Forget small. Think big. Light the fire in your belly.

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