When I got the opportunity to paint my first custom piece of artwork, I was nervous. My process for so long had been very personal and I’d never considered someone else’s interpretation. In a way I felt that painting something specific for someone took away from the organic experience of creating that I’d become accustomed to and I feared that it would make me a fraud. A fake artist, trying to please others. That is what I felt in my core. I believed that doing a commission would ruin the purity of expression. It sounds silly because I think there is this perception that everything is made to be consumed in our culture (especially art), but I’d never considered it until people started to reach out and inquire about purchasing.
Maybe in the beginning I was just scared. For too long I was overly insecure about my work (ability) and that held me back from considering selling anything I made. Who would even want them?
Finally, I had to confront this hurdle and climb over it (if only I could jump) because I loved the idea of creating for someone other than myself. The next step was to create something meaningful and true to myself, while simultaneously meeting the needs and desires of my customers. How would I avoid feeling like an art fraud?
Trusting my gut instincts and riding out my chaotic waves of emotion.
I've created a system now that seems to be bulletproof when it comes to painting for someone else.
To get the seed of inspiration going, I now always fall back on feelings.
1. What do you want to feel when you look at your painting?
2. What emotion(s) do you want it to exude?
3. What colours do you want to represent these feelings?
4. What colour(s) do you despise?
5. What quote or adjective(s) do you want the painting to symbolize?
Seemingly simple questions to guide a not so straightforward painting process.
Commission painting is a practice in patience, empathy, and understanding. Every customer is seeking something different, and in that I’ve felt incredible pride knowing that I am trusted in helping them realize this abstract emotion. It is such a gift and nothing feels better than delivering the painting (usually in person) and seeing their reactions. It's like Christmas day in a way. Watching someone open a gift you've put so much effort and thought into.
Abstracts are unpredictable and so I had to find the few ingredients that seemed to have been consistent in my personal artistic expressions to make each work feel authentic rather than contrived.
The formula is reliable and the results, well, I haven’t messed up yet (paint brushes crossed).
If only all of our habits were good ones. I mean, I could probably survive without ripping my nails on a daily basis or consuming an eight cup pot of coffee (by myself) before noon (nine), but what’s the fun in that? Now breaking these bad habits can be quite difficult. I’ve broken many terrible life consuming habits, but haven’t quite kicked my desire to rip nails or chug caffeine, and I don’t feel too guilty about it. Habits take a while to form and an even longer time to break. I’ll kick those habits eventually, but until that day comes I’m going to focus on the routines that are more feasible to defeat (hopefully).
Habits also exist in our work and I greet my comfortable patterns daily with a smile. I wouldn’t consider painting everyday is a terrible habit (in fact quite the opposite), but what I’m painting or where/how/on what...that’s what needs to be challenged. I think we can get into creative ruts where we create the same thing over and over again, not just because it becomes a habit and we’re good at it, but also because others enjoy what we’re creating. Kind of like musicians whose music we love. We get so accustomed to a certain sound that the second they make a new album where they experiment and go in a new direction, well, it’s hard for us as consumers to adapt to that change! As artists, we respect the courage it takes to makes changes because you risk disconnecting with some of your audience. But if we don’t challenge ourselves, if we keep producing the same thing over and over and over again, well, I think the art loses its lustre, and the artist misplaces their passion.
The changes don’t even have to be monumental. Small, incremental changes are so significant and not terribly painful to execute and commit to. If I compare what I was creating last year to right now, the change is evident, but it didn’t happen overnight. Those slow daily changes and risks have guided me here. It’s patience. It’s trusting the process. It’s breaking the habit slowly but surely. We get so comfortable in our daily lives that the thought of change sounds horrific and detrimental to our way of living, but maybe our comfort is equally detrimental?
Some food for thought.
HOW AM I SO LATE to the Spotify game. Goodness, what a game changer! It makes my music game so much stronger and all I have to do it click some buttons. Lazy music discoveries means more time for the real work: eating, reading, and of course painting!
My favourite feature is the “Discover Weekly” function where it introduces you to a list of songs that the algorithm assumes (correctly) that you’ll like. This week I fell in love with Sofia de la Torre’s song “Flex Your Way Out of Here”, Jessie Reyez’s “Figures” and FLETCHER’s “Wasted Youth” plus so so SO many more. I’m overwhelmed. These jams (plus many other newly discovered anthems) have definitely guided my work these past few weeks. Smooth application, bold colours, chaotic organic shapes. The playlist kind of served as dual purpose: one as art inspiration and the other as real life distraction/avoider of powerful April into May showers. The results are some of my favourites and they are this beautiful little snap shot summary of my week with this mucky transition to spring.
I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend and I’ll just leave you here with some lyrics to carry you into Saturday.
FLETCHER “Wasted Youth”
“It's my life
If I'm gonna waste it
Gonna waste it on you.”
Interpret as you will.
Milestone. Both figurative and literal. One marking a factual mile, the other representing a significant change in one's personal development. Now, where the latter takes place depends on the individual and those actions or events signify the culmination of a hard fought battle. You didn’t walk to this particular milestone, you ran hard at times, slow at others, and you fell down (so much falling, mostly on your face) and tears were shed and sweat stained your clothes, and you never thought you’d get here. You never thought you’d trudge through those miles and after all that, smile at the finish line. Such fortitude. Such relief. And yet the moment is fleeting. You let the emotions hug you tightly, you take pictures to try and capture this milestone for eternity. You hug everyone. You thank as many people as you can, because you’re not here without them. You feel so much of everything all at once, until the hugs loosen their grip and the voices fade and the pictures are part of the past. You arrived and then just like that, it’s gone. Someone picked up that stone and threw it ahead again. This time a little bit further. But hey, you did it before, you can do it again, right?
Today is my small, momentary, somewhat significant milestone. A stone I didn’t think existed on this day last year. This place felt mythical. On May 10th, 2016 I had an idea that had been lingering since January. I thought I’d try, try being an artist, whatever that meant. I’d finally give it a shot and I had no more excuses. Even with school I didn’t think that was a good enough excuse to not at least try.. I had nothing to lose! If it didn’t work out, if my website gained no traction, if people hated my work, then I could just fold it up and pack it away. Simple as that.
And off I went working on something that has no immediate end, that truth be told might never have an end date. It's hard to determine your goals or the number of miles that you wish to walk before you feel like you've achieved a little bit of something in a world that is utterly abstract.
And here we are. A true anniversary of sorts. An anniversary that symbolizes more than my worn out paint brushes and stained floors and unthinkable goals reached. This past year was a true metamorphosis. I am me, but different. My path is clearer than ever before and I greet each day with an out of tune singsong voice. What joy!
I've finally come to cross some kind of invisible line and arrived at a place that I never thought I'd find. Interestingly enough, my arrival feels somewhat confusing and at times undeserved. It's an unfamiliar place. It's a place where endless internal dialogue and innocent dreaming has led me. Those sleepless nights that were once interrupted by smudged future images are now clear as day. My stone is now placed safely in my purse.
I hope to continue along this path (and other paths that may entice me) and to one day reach new milestones that I can share with everyone. Well, I don’t hope. I will continue. I will continue to build and grow and give back to all of the beautiful souls who have held me up when I could not stand (literally) and lit a candle when darkness surrounded me (I have many candles).
Thank you, endlessly, for your support. I’m not here without you. Art is very much a shared experience and to say that I’ve officially shared it for a year feels like magic.
Stay tuned for all of the exciting things ahead. I've got some plans and collaborations in the works that I can't wait to share with all of you!
Why do I paint? Actually, better question. Why do we (I) do anything for that matter? What motivates us or gives us purpose when we wake up in the morning? As much as I'd love to live my cats life (naps all day, food sometimes, someone else always taking care of me), it's nice to think that my purpose in life is a little greater than hanging out in bed all day watching Netflix.
But seriously, why do you do what you do everyday? What's your purpose? Where do you find meaning?
Once upon a time the morning greeted me with this seemingly infinite block of time in which I could do anything, but chose to do nothing, or at least nothing that felt truly meaningful. Those pointless mornings turned into sad afternoons, and quiet evenings. It all seemed to lack meaning as I just continued to roam aimlessly through the motions society has carefully curated for myself and others (or just sit and do nothing, contemplating how I could be doing something).
Then you light a candle and realize I think I might do something today. Really do something. I chose to go back to school and made an effort to socialize more (so hard sometimes!), started pursuing my dream of teaching, and ultimately realized that there was part of me that needed to connect and communicate. In these actions there was this newly discovered sense of happiness and above all else, meaning. But I wanted to continue to communicate not just in person (that can be kind of exhausting for an introvert), but through a creative outlet. And so painting entered my peripherals.
Humans are by nature social animals and though by nature art is a very individual and isolated process, there is still this inherent desire to connect to others through our work. Though my process starts by painting for myself, I now feel drawn to this desire to feel connected, to know that someone, somewhere felt something, anything, when looking at my work. Even if they think “EW GROSS WHY DOES SHE EVEN PAINT”, I think WOW I made someone feel so frustrated and angry! I’m happy I could give them that outlet to really express their feelings, so ultimately, lucky me!
To make someone feel, to really identify and connect to those inner emotions, what a gift.
That is my purpose. That gives me meaning.
What about you?
Passion. That raison d’etre. That intense desire to do something every single day with enthusiasm and vigor. Sometimes we think we’ve found it, until we reach an obstacle that we are unwilling to tackle on a daily basis anymore because we seem to lack passion. In the past, I’ve always equated lacking passion with being lazy (my own laziness) and not willing to try, or pushing myself to be passionate about developing my "potential" in something that I didn't truly love.
It was all a great act until I decided I didn’t want to pretend anymore. I grew tired of faking it, of pretending I cared about something in a way that wasn't authentic to me.
And suddenly I was liberated from every fake passion I ever pursued.
When you are questioning why you’re even doing it in the first place, you have to ask yourself a few questions.
Am I Happy? Nope.
Am I unhappy just because this it too difficult? Maybe?
Will I regret quitting? I don’t know.
In ten years, will you look back on this decision and think I should have kept with it, I should have kept practicing and pushing harder. 10 years is far away, but Probably not.
What is the road of least regret? The road of what?
Will you regret putting more time and energy into something you semi-like or will you regret not giving your full attention to something you love with ever fibre of your being? The latter option for sure.
What are you really passionate about? I’m not sure, yet.
Then go find out.
And just like that - liberated. Of course, it’s easier said than done, but admitting you’re unhappy with your current passionless endeavour is the first step. Of course I’m aware of the privilege I’ve been afforded in being able to attend University for many years and being able to exist in an environment that supports and encourages my love of lifelong learning. Academia has been that consistent backdrop in my life, an area of comfort that held my hand before I suddenly stumbled upon one of my purposes that moved me beyond the brick walls and deadlines.
Sometimes we just have to roll with it. Who knows. You might think you're really passionate about what you're doing right now, but one day you'll see something, hear something, read something that gives you a seed of hope and you'll want to nurture it to life.
In school I read too many books (just kidding, there is no such thing) and watched too many movies (yeah right) and designed too many lesson plans (teaching is fun!), and yet here I am, painting. Painting because some little bird whispered to me and guided me to my healing outlet. The canvas helps me to make sense of every nonsensical thing that occurs each day, and I’m absolutely obsessed with what I do. I want to do it every single day. I’d do it for free. It fuels my soul and gives me the energy I need to exist. It makes me feel like I have a place in this world. What a gift passion can be.