Here I am. Just barely eighteen. It’s Wednesday in the first week of September. I am walking into my first university art class. A first year Bachelor of Fine Arts student. Totally scared, and determined not to show it.
I know two things. I know I want to be an Artist. I know when I draw, time and the world go away. There is pencil, paper, my hand moving, marks on the paper, breath moving in and out of my body, and nothing else.
What I know is not enough to carry me. At the end of the year I transfer to Business Administration.
Here is what I did not know the first time I started Art School.
No one names me. I name myself. I claim Artist for me.
My professors don’t know everything. But if I am lucky, they are generous and share their experience in creating art.
I am not an empty vessel waiting to be filled. I have knowledge, experience, passion, inspiration, belief, heart, hands, and head.
I know what feels right to me, and what is right for me.
There are as many creative processes and paths as there are creators. What is right and true for me may not be right and true for another.
I create from my heart, from passion and love rather than fear (although fear is information I can use).
My feelings are information and sign posts. Use them.
Use everything, whatever shows up. My entire life is inspiration for creation, if I choose to see it that way.
I have choice. Everything is a choice. Not choosing is a choice. Stuck is a choice. Accepting, or not, anyone’s view of my art is a choice.
Here I am. Thirty-eight years old. It’s Wednesday in the first week of September. I am walking into Art School for the second time. Nervous, and it doesn’t matter who sees it. I know who I am. I know what I don’t know, and what I do know. I know what I need and want. I am Artist. Let the learning begin.
In this post:
What I believe: The list of what I needed to know and didn’t, touches everyone, whether we are Artists or not. The learning never stops. The wanting to know never stops. And we are all Creators.
I’m sitting in my dining room, on a camp chair, my laptop and papers and pens on our camp table. My iphone is tuned to Jazz24 for background music. The bedroom down the hall holds an air mattress and bedding, clock radio on an upturned box. My son’s bedroom downstairs has identical furnishings.
The dining room window is open to a warm breeze, sun, blue sky. I can hear the hummingbirds talking. They are nesting in the white lilac next to the house. Last year they were in the holly tree at the far corner of the yard. I won’t see the babies learning to fly this year. I won’t be here.
This home is pretty much empty. Everything was moved to storage this past weekend. I have a week of camping out in my house, and then on to the new house-home-studio. (Excited? Yes!!!)
I am finding it interesting how little I need to be comfortable. And interesting how the floors and walls have become a kind of furniture.
I am thinking, these past few days, about doing long work. The big projects that take time to come together and mature. This home project is a big one.
Becoming an artist and writer have been big projects. More than big. More like continual. Can’t help it. I keep discovering new things to play with.
In all the packing, junking out, giving away, I uncovered a box full of old morning pages journals. Pages written when I began this I-am-an-artist journey.
Most of these journals I fed to the woodstove. Letting go of old beliefs, angst (there was lots of that), limits I’d built around my creativity, limits I’d built around me.
I read a few pages here and there, as I fed them to the fire.
What I noticed—the Cat in these pages is no longer me. Someone else’s story. The incremental shifts really do add up to change in a good way.
As much as I love creating, it was a battle for me at first. I had to fight my way past massive fear and anxiety. Fear of making mistakes or a mess. Fear of making bad art. Whatever bad art is, I never did define it. Anxiety over wasting art supplies (read ‘money’) because I’d screwed up a drawing. Fear I was fooling myself; I wasn’t really an artist but no one had told me. All fear.
What saved me was love. When I fought past the fear, I loved creating. Loved the ideas that grew. Loved the surprises that arrived in my drawings. Loved the inspiration sharing with other artists of all disciplines. Loved what I discovered about myself through the creative process. All love.
My love of creating was bigger than my fear of screwing up and making bad art and being a fool.
Inside the front cover of a journal, ten months after graduating from art school, I wrote notes to myself:
“You have to give the drawing everything, all of it, and now.”
“There must be something rattling in the brain and trying to fall out of the pen.”
“Okay Cat, tell me what I’m keeping out of these pages?”
“Imagine what an artist I could be with a heart fully open and aware (this terrifies me).”
“Do the long work, and trust.”
I read these words here, today, and realize despite the daily fear and anxiety, there was wisdom coming through. I did the long work. I trusted. And now here I stand. Artist and Writer.
I held onto the love in my creating as a life line. Love gave me a path through the fear.
Love helped me trust there was a way through.
Sometimes, when my love even now is not big enough, I borrow love from other creators. I play recordings of Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron reading from their books. I randomly pull books from my studio library and leaf through other artists’ creativity. I leave books open by my easel and on my writing table. Courage and determination are contagious. Others’ images and words hold and inspire me while I walk through my fear and into creation.
During my final year of art school, I borrowed love from poet Pablo Neruda. His words fueled my graduating body of work. Imagine writing poems to a tomato, a pair of trousers, a watch. I borrowed his idea, drawing a pile of carefully folded laundry, a teacup and spoon, a pear and knife, my favourite fuchsia-coloured brocade vest.
On that same front inside cover of the journal, I’d copied some of his poetry.
“The days aren’t discarded or collected, they are bees
that burned with sweetness or maddened
the sting; the struggle continues,
the journeys go and come between honey and pain.
No, the net of the years doesn’t unweave: there is no net.
They don’t fall drop by drop from a river: there is no river.
I am writing this post in the midst of controlled chaos. Namely, I am packing. Everything.
Last time I wrote I had just decluttered and sold my home. I did not have a new home to go to yet. Now I do. I also have a moving date, so I am packing with a purpose. The perfect thing about having already decluttered? No decisions to make about what to keep and what to let go. No decisions complicated by memories or by dreams yet to be fulfilled. That bit is already done. Yay!
I have a new home with my perfect, amazing, big-with-awesome-light studio. This is the studio I have been imagining since I began art school. Twenty-one years of imagining have created me this wondrous place. There is room for my writing desk and reference books. Room for my art table and easel and supply shelves. For my library. An area with sink and tiled floor for mucky projects. Storage space.
I saw a studio like this, owned by a master artist, a few years into my art practice. Always I have remembered it. Now I have one like it.
A blessing. A gift of abundance.
I am dancing inside.
I’ve heard tales of artists and writers who freeze up when they finally have the creation space of their dreams. Like somehow the expectations of results have been upped beyond what they can easily deal with, and it scares them into silence.
I’m mentioning this because when I first walked into this space I said out loud, “Too big.” It scared me, this huge lovely space made for creating. This perfect space that could be mine, and I was rejecting it. This space I had imagined, and I was turning my back on it.
But something interesting happened as I turned my back. I caught myself in the middle of no. I felt the abundance being offered me here in this light-filled space. I stopped, and I began to laugh. I began to feel joy. I began to dance with the possibilities of creating image and word right here. Right here.
In that moment, something unpacked itself and I saw it clearly. Old beliefs limiting my worth, my abilities, what I do and don’t deserve, what I can offer through my creativity, how big or small I should be. For the first time, these old beliefs stood fully in the light, and I discovered they are not mine any more.
Oh, I know their ghosts may still show up once in a while, as I create in my new studio. That’s okay. They no longer have the same power over me. When I see my beliefs clearly, I know what to do with them and how to handle the feelings they carry. I have choice. They won’t stay long, and I’ll wave goodbye as they leave.
Then I’ll go right back to creating.
A note re unpacking limiting beliefs:
Jennifer McLean teaches a gentle and effective method of releasing old beliefs, emotions, experiences, and trauma. Spontaneous Transformation Technique (STT) is an easy and quick process to learn and to use. I know, from personal experience, how beautifully it works in clearing creativity blocks and glitches that slow us down and limit our creative lives. As a Certified Level 2 Spontaneous Transformation Technique Practitioner, I use STT’s powerful process in my creativity workshops and coaching. This link will take you to Jennifer’s information page. http://go.spontaneoustransformation.com/powerhealing
I have a home of thirty years cleared out and sold, all in the space of the last four weeks.
Whew and wow.
I’ve been thinking about doing this for a few years. And suddenly it is now. Let’s quit talking and do it. And we have. Done.
I feel lighter. Excited and exhausted both. There is a new horizon out there. Can’t quite see it yet, but I can feel it. It feels like home.
After thirteen years of seasonal moving between two places that didn’t truly feel like home, I am approaching something that does. How strange that I don’t know what it looks like or exactly where it is, yet the feeling is clear and certain. I feel my feet on the ground. I feel the path in front of me.
Some small part of me is trying to not trust this, saying ‘scary’. The biggest part of me is saying ‘This feels right, feels good. I trust this.’
Trust. A blessing gained from growing into my creative self, trusting the artist-me who knows who she is and what she wants. I am now all artist-me. Not only creating image and word. Creating my life.
I remember doing Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way tasks of clearing out and making room. I’m not sure she meant a whole house, but then again, she might have. I’m laughing, thinking how I’ve taken task number eight in week six to the extreme.
The task says, “Clearing: Any new changes in your home environment? Make some.”
Make some changes? Have I ever!
In this post:
Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way, 2002 Edition, Tarcher/Putnam. http://juliacameronlive.com/ The clearing tasks are on pages 90 and 114. Julia connects clearing out to creativity on pages 83, 197, and 198. “You’re either losing your mind—or gaining your soul. Life is meant to be an artist date. That’s why we were created.’’ Page 198.
I’d say the quote from my last post applies even more so.
I am in the midst of choosing, organizing, and packing this week. I’m making my seasonal move southwards three months early. Leaving tomorrow.
I am a nester, not a traveller. Yet, for the past thirteen years I have lived a transient life. Depending on the time of year, I am in one of two places. I keep studios at both. Most of my drawing and writing is done in my northern studio where life is quieter. In my southern studio I plan, gallery hop, visit, share inspiration with artist-writer friends. Filling my creative well to the brim and overflowing.
Somehow, despite these two places, I do not feel at home. It is the knowledge of another move to come in a few months that prevents me from feeling settled and grounded, even though both places are familiar to me.
I am talking about change.
Not all of this back-and-forth life is my choice, but much is. I find and create and cherish the good. I have beloved friends in each place, artists and writers and creators all. They are a blessing.
Change and change again. This was turning in my mind yesterday as I washed clothes, wrote lists, packed my studio, packed my life. I picked up my sketchbook and opened to a 17th century haiku, carefully copied down three years ago.
The haiku speaks of change, unanticipated and perhaps not welcome. It speaks of finding the blessing, something to cherish. It speaks to how I feel each time I choose, organize, pack up my transient life.
“My barn having burned down
I can now see the moon.”
Samurai and Poet Mizuta Masahide, 1657 – 1723
In this post:
I’ve found three translations of Masahides’ poem. This is my favourite.
I’m in the midst of creating a mixed media drawing for the local gallery’s summer show. Their theme is the story Anne of Green Gables.
The entire gallery, upstairs and down, will be filled with mannequins and miniatures by artist and costumer Korene Kidd of Prince George, BC. The walls will be hung with artwork by local artists.
I read Anne of Green Gables four times, probably more, as a child and teenager. Anne was my kind of hero. She had red hair which I longed for. Funny, that I had the raven hair she wished was hers. I grew my hair long just so I could have braids and pretend they were red.
Although I didn’t get into Anne’s kind of scrapes, I did have the same imagination, loud and busy. Beauty would stop me in my tracks, literally, as it did her. Cherry blossoms against a blue blue sky. A thrush deep in its morning song. The stream that moved through the dark of the trees beyond our house. Wonder and joy.
I’ve been reading bits of Anne’s story as I make my drawing. I’ve discovered something.
When I read Anne years ago, I focused on the actions and thoughts of the characters.
When I read Anne now, I am pulled in by the emotions expressed in the story and mine arising in response.
Anne lives her life wide open to the world. Her heart feels joy and sorrow, love and pain in ferocious, instant, equal measure.
As a child I read the words but did not understand. I was cautious with my heart. I kept my feelings private. There were emotions I didn’t know what to do with. They were either too huge or too terrifying to set free. Love. Joy. Anger. Grief.
I am no longer that child. My heart lies open to my life, as Anne’s does in her story.
I learned to be open. I began with feeling love and joy, and now I also know what to do with anger and grief. Emotions no longer mystify me. Well, most of the time.
This, I am sure, is why I am reading Anne in a different way. I am reading with an open heart.
It’s the same story, same words. It is me that is different.
Anne was written with an open heart. I get to feel that now with every word I read. What perfect joy to have discovered this piece of Anne’s story that had previously passed me by. A gift.
My Anne drawing is titled ‘What Gives Me Joy (Anne of Green Gables)’. It holds a list of joy that begins with ‘blazing red hair’.
My drawing ends with what I’ve learned from Anne, what has nestled in my heart.
Notice beauty. Notice joy. Cradle anger and grief, for they too need to be loved. Find people and places and things to love in your life.
Thank you Anne and Marilla and Matthew and all. Thank you Lucy Maud Montgomery, for letting Anne into your imagination and out to the world.
In this post
L. M. Montgomery, 1874 – 1942. Book Anne of Green Gables, Running Press, 1993. ‘I wrote it for love…’ page 286. http://www.lmmontgomery.ca/
I’ve shifted from my inner two-year-old’s tantrum (last week), to my inner teenager’s boredom.
I am bored. I know these words and this feeling. I used to be here a lot when I was a teenager and figuring out my life.
I’ve not felt bored for a very long time. I’ve been busy creating word and image and mostly happy about it. I’ve had perfect successes and perfect failures. I’ve learned and grown as a creator.
And then, Bang! I’m in a week-long tantrum. And then, Pop! My two-year-old morphs into a teenager who keeps saying ‘I am bored.’
Boredom is interesting. That sounds like an oxymoron (love that word), but it isn’t. I am curious about this feeling of boredom.
What I am thinking:
Boredom and my previous tantrum are really the same thing.
What am I bored with? And why?
This boredom is an aspect of my creative process and a piece of my creativity.
My morning pages show me I am tired of pushing myself.
I have four puzzle pieces to play with, and here is the picture they are making. I’ve realized the pushing is towards intentions that are not completely aligned with what I love and how I create. It’s taking me out of alignment with my heart (where my best work comes from) and my process (how my best work grows and completes itself).
This is Big. If I had not gone into tantrum and boredom, I wouldn’t have slowed down enough to see this.
It’s Thursday. Blog writing day. I want to be all sunny today, writing lovely positive words.
Nope. My inner two-year-old took over on Monday and is having an extended tantrum.
‘No’ is my word right now. No, I don’t want to work on my book. No, I don’t want to draw. No, I don’t want to read anything enlightening. No, no, no, and no.
The funny thing is I am totally okay with writing my morning pages. Usually these are what I resist doing. Not this week. My inner two-year-old is taking great delight in having permission to whine, complain, be ratty and growly as much as she pleases in the morning pages.
In fact I have given myself full permission to be as ornery as I want for as long as I want. I have decided to embrace my inner tantrumy-self.
Usually I try to push my bad attitudes away. Cure them somehow. Cheer myself up. Force myself to be upbeat.
But halfway through Tuesday’s morning pages I write, ‘I am tired of pushing myself.’ Six words. They stop me in my tracks. I sit there, pen and mind stilled. I say out loud, ‘Oh.’
I can feel the truth of this. I want to love myself exactly as I am. Always pushing and always reaching doesn’t let me be settled with who I am right now. Instead, it keeps saying ‘not good enough’.
I’m tired of being not good enough.
I need to love myself now. My inner two-year-old needs love and hugs. I need to be loved for who I am, however I am, always. No exceptions. Love myself whether I am having a tantrum like now, or whether I am feeling clear and light and joyful.
Love all my moods. Love all my flaws. Love all my talents. Love all my beauties. Love the whole of me that makes me human. Love me, Cat, the wabi sabi human.
This says I am good enough now. This says I love myself now and I am lovable now. This says I am perfectly imperfect.