In many ways, this year hasn’t gone the way that I thought it might. I’m not sure what I expected when my start up job ended back in May and I transitioned back to freelance and our bakery biz, but I thought I would have more time than I ended up having. But as it goes, you can neither predict nor totally control life. There are many things that I can’t cross off my list this year, but the one thing I can cross off is that I’ve started to draw and paint again. I wasn’t even sure I knew how anymore, but as it turns out, drawing is a bit like riding a bike – you never really forget how, but it’s a wobbly ride till you get your groove back.
I may have mentioned in one of my long rambling blog posts that at one point upon reflection back to my art school days, I considered myself a “terrible” artist. Not technically – I mean, I can draw – but I felt like a lot of my art had no soul. The emptiness was the result of a long high school journey to winning art school scholarships that ended up in ambivalence towards art once I entered college. I think it’s a valid observation and one I’m thinking a lot about these days because I sort of feel like I’m starting all over, but also picking up where I left off. Maybe it’s possible that I couldn’t find any meaning in art when I was 17 or 18 because I hadn’t really lived yet. It’s such a young age when I look back on it. But now? Well…I sometimes feel like I’ve lived a few lifetimes at this point.
The inspiration to draw and paint again stems from recent years that were devoid of much creativity. It’s absolutely true that I filled it with other valuable experiences and lessons during that time, not to mention the personal ordeals that took up much of life the last few years. But you really can’t extinguish the creative itch when it’s something you’ve lived with your whole life, even if you think you want to. If you’re an artist (terrible or not!), it’s who you are. I think I just simply needed a break – and not a total change – from creating and designing all the time. It’s what I’ve done for a living the last 20 years. Who wouldn’t be burnt out?
Now let me tell you that I’ve always been slightly uncomfortable calling myself an artist. Not so much when I was younger when art was all I ever did in my waking hours, but during those art school years when I struggled to find myself in the world. I often felt like I was going through the motions but never really believed in whatever I was creating. Which is why I probably stopped. Since then, I could count how many times I’ve made a drawing or a painting on both hands in the last 20 or so years. I was earning a living as a designer, but calling myself an artist felt flawed when I rarely created any art. Life happened and art seemed like a luxury when there were so many other more pressing things that was required of my time.
Art still feels like a luxury to me – that hasn’t really changed. It takes discipline to carve out time to do a sketch or a little painting and I don’t always succeed, despite good intentions. But what’s different, why now? I feel like I’m finally ready to take back time. I spent the last 14 years building as much of a secure financial nest for my family as best as I could, despite the ups and downs of freelance and small business life. I admit to not acknowledging our accomplishments very often, but I am proud of what we’ve been able to build for ourselves with the resources we had. It took perseverance and long hours of work, but it also took away time from pursuing personal projects. I always thought that art was this thing that I would have time for later in life when the kids grew up and I was ready to retire. It seemed a bit irresponsible (for ME, not making judgements about anyone else’s life choices) to sacrifice financial stability for personal work when I had kids to feed and expensive health insurance to pay, so I chose a paycheck every single time.
That being said, I’ll to be honest with you – I’m still choosing the paycheck this year. It’s hard not to when there are bills to pay. Much to my surprise and relief, freelance work has come in abundance the last 7 months. I’ve never been good at saying no, but I’m desperate to try and carve out space to explore personal work because I want my time back and I don’t want to wait until I grow old. If I learned anything from recent years, then I should know that time wasted is time I will never get back.
These days I’m relearning how to draw and paint. For me, this starts with drawing the things I see around me, which in this case is mostly botanical in nature (though I have done a few portraits). This is a time for reacquainting myself with the creative process again and to sharpen skills, not about creating work that is good or bad or expresses any meaning. I trust that the soul and expression that I’m looking for will eventually come in good time. So for now, a focus on the process, not the finished product or what it may become in the future. Basically, for what feels like the first time in my life, I’m focusing on the now.