Why is it that no matter who I talk to, I find out that they are battling demons that remain in their mind from childhood? It doesn’t seem to matter if you are 30 or 40 or 50 or even 80, there are things that happen in your childhood, stories you take on within yourself that influence who you are and how you are later in life.
For me, I decided early on that I couldn’t draw or paint. According to the story in my mind, I didn’t receive the artist genes of the family. My younger brother got those. He has always been able to draw, paint, model, use any materials and make amazing art. As a kid, he said he wanted to draw cars and get paid for it. And that’s exactly what he did for many years. He’s a designer, although now he designs as many lawnmowers and leaf blowers as he does cars. And he is more likely to use a computer than modelling clay or paint to submit his designs.
I always envied him. In my mind, he was the artist and I was the writer. Until I read a paper he wrote in high school and realised he could write too. It didn’t seem fair. He was so creative. He could do anything. Besides art and writing, he’s a great musician and all around friendly guy. Everyone loves him. And he’s always the life of the party.
All I could do is write. That was the story that I took on and believed in my heart.
Over the years, I have had many friends who are artists. I’m always amazed by their creativity and their passion. Some of them have held their own exhibitions. Some have sold their works. But far more are artists for themselves. Because art touches some part of them and is a way for them to express themselves.
A while ago my Reiki teacher told me that I needed to paint or draw to use a different part of my brain. I really didn’t understand what she meant at the time and told her she was crazy. Didn’t she know that all my creativity is in the side of my brain that controls words, speech and writing? She assured me that I had another part of my creative brain, I just needed to find a way to unlock it.
I decided a few weeks ago that 2017 is the year of creativity for me. I started the year sewing a dress without a pattern (I’ve never done that before. I always have to have a pattern. And it turned out great. The other day, a woman at Costco even stopped me and told me how great the dress was!). I decided I would keep my eyes open for other ways to be creative this year too.
On Friday I was feeling kind of low. My kids had just left to go to the UK on holiday with their dad and to see his side of the family. I won’t see the girls for three and a half weeks and I was moping around the house. I got on Facebook and a friend had posted something about a painting and intuition class. I clicked on the link, found out it was being run this weekend and within five minutes I had signed up and paid my tuition.
I didn’t even think. I just did it. I’ve never taken any kind of art class. I’ve been too scared. But I figured it’s the year of creativity…
Then I freaked out.
I sent an email to the teacher and asked what I needed to bring. It turned out that she supplied everything except for the canvases. She told me I needed to bring at least two LARGE canvases (at least 2 feet/61cm square). So I went to the art store to buy canvases and started hyperventilating in the shop. Large canvases??? I thought we might paint an 8×10, not a huge canvas that will hardly fit in my house!!!
Shit. What had I got myself into??? I kept telling myself I was a f%&*ing idiot for even signing up.
In the end, I calmed down and bought a 3ft square and a 2 ftx4ft canvas.
But by Saturday morning I was shaking as I walked into the class.
The group was lovely. Although everyone else had painted before, they were very welcoming to me and I felt at ease immediately. It probably helped that when the instructor Karen started, she told us intuitive painting is all about TRUST: trusting the process and trusting yourself. Well, that’s what I’ve been doing in the rest of my life, so I figured I could give this a whirl. She also told us that we didn’t need to know the destination, that every mark contributes, if we got stuck all we had to do was change something, and to be BRAVE!
Hmmm…isn’t this what I have decided my whole life is about??? I hadn’t even picked up a paintbrush and already I decided this class was for me. I was no longer hyperventilating and actually felt calm.
Karen provided a range of painting implements: sponges, palette knives, picnic cutlery, chopsticks, expired iTunes cards, all kinds of stamps and toys from the kids’ craft aisle, and of course, some official brushes. She told us we’d work on our two canvases simultaneously; while one dried, we would work on the other. Then she told us to take our first canvas, cover it with warm colours in whatever way we wanted and then go from there.
I was stunned. Where was the lesson on how to hold a brush? Where was someone telling me what to do? I decided to TRUST in myself…
I honestly don’t know when I’ve had so much fun. I put layer of paint over layer of paint. On Saturday, I learned my favourite painting implement was an iTunes card. My favourite painting implement on Sunday was a combination of putting paint on the canvas with my fingers and then wiping it back with baby wipes to get different effects. I probably used a traditional paint brush for a total of 15 minutes all weekend. It was brilliant.
By noon on Saturday I was already kicking myself that I hadn’t bought bigger canvases!
When I looked at the blank canvases on Saturday morning I had no idea where I would end up by Sunday afternoon. I didn’t have a destination in mind. I enjoyed every minute of the journey. I learned that even when I made a mark or used a colour that I hated, it all contributed to the end piece. There was a point where I got horribly stuck Sunday morning. I decided to change everything and it turned out beautiful. And yes, I had to be brave and try things I had no idea of how they would turn out. The mosaic above shows each stage over the weekend of my square canvas.
My two paintings ended up reflecting two of my happy places: a eucalypt forest floor and the ocean. I didn’t mean for that to happen. They are wildly different and I can hardly believe they came out of the same brain over the same weekend and that I could easily swap back and forth between the two. I feel like the forest floor painting is finished and I’ve hung it in my living room, but the ocean bubble painting still has further work that is calling to be done.
I realised that these paintings are so much like my life. All of my experiences make up the layers of my life. Sometimes those experiences get painted over and forgotten for a time. Then something happens and, like using a baby wipe to take away a layer of paint, that old layer re-emerges, but with some other experience laid over it which may give it a different perspective or allow a glimpse of the old to be seen.
At the conclusion of the weekend, we all admired each other’s work. Everyone had started with the same instruction, but every person had taken those instructions in a different way and applied their own intuition to get what ended up on their canvas. It was wonderful to see. Even those in the room who have sold some of their artwork had ended up painting in radically different styles to what they normally do.
I realised that I can paint for me. For the joy of painting. For the love of it. I don’t need to be stuck in the stories in my head that my brother got all the artist genes. I don’t need to listen to what anyone else thinks or have to paint in a certain style because that’s the way it’s ‘supposed to’ be done. I can paint how I want to paint. On huge canvases, larger than life. With iTunes cards if I want.
The photos above show the journey of my ocean bubble painting over the weekend.
As I said, my ocean bubble painting doesn’t feel finished. And my life journey definitely isn’t finished. I just need to remember to trust and to follow these four ideas:
- I don’t need to know the destination
- Every mark contributes
- If I get stuck, change something
- Be BRAVE!
With my ocean painting, I may paint over the entire thing and start over… or I might keep elements. Much like my life at the moment.