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Forest of the Lonely River

I used to want to be a painter more than I wanted to be a writer. As high school graduation approached, my art teacher encouraged me to look at art schools moved me up to portfolio classes, but I gave up before I got started. I didn’t see a future in it. How likely was I to make a living off of painting? I dropped art in my senior year so I could join a program that allowed me to leave school after lunch to go to work. I became an artist all right – a sandwich artist at the Subway. Glamorous, I know.

Now, my main character in The Sculptor of New Hope, Ona Price, has taken on my struggle as the aspiring painter. Me? I haven’t painted in years, but I was inspired by my friend. Her name is Fay Kambos and she is always on some creative endeavor. I decided to make painting this week’s artist date because giving up art is a source of regret for me. I had some potential back then. If only I had believed in myself, I might have done well.

Here is my first humble attempt at watercolors. I didn’t plan on what to paint. I didn’t use anything for reference either. I forced myself to trust my artistic intuition. I forgot the simplest of drawing techniques, but I kept going, curling my nose at it the whole time, trying to relax into some measure of enjoyment. I tried not to dwell on the fifth-graderishness of it. Do you know how difficult that was? You’d be amazed at what your inner voice says when you start taking dictation. Some of the thoughts that went through my head were:

  • Ha! You don’t know what you’re doing. This sucks
  • It’s watercolor. You’re supposed to leave white space. Duh!
  • You should just crumble this up and throw it away.

I don’t even register them most of the time, but they are definitely sneering and sniggering whenever I create something. Now I know the culprit of my creative blockages.

I turned on music to distract me from the annoying voices. Soon, I began to stop thinking. I reached the place where I wanted to be. Not thinking, just doing. In the end, I’m pleased with my little scene. It’s no Van Gogh, but I made something out of nothing.

I did it. I painted.

But I wondered why the scene was so bleak. What did that say about my neglected inner artist?

I decided this forest would not be desolate, but fertile ground for the creative future. At the very last, I painted in the first few leaves as a sign of the new growth to come.

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It goes to show you how self-doubt can kill you before you get started, but if you persevere through those negative feelings, you will create something – anything, and it’s yours. No one else could’ve created anything quite the same.

(And it just so happens that I had a breakthrough while writing the last of my SICK series. The artist dates already seem to be working!)

Keep writing, keep painting, keep dancing, keep the creative fires burning. Take your inner artist out on a date and hashtag it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as #myartistdate so we can all share in the positive creative vibes.

Learn more about my The Artist’s Way challenge and get a chance to win my copy of the book by Julia Cameron!

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