“Life is a lively process of becoming” Douglas Macarthur
I recently ran into a friend who I hadn’t seen for some time, at a small local art show where she was displaying her beautiful ceramic work. I was in awe of her skill and courage to purse a more challenging vocation in the arts, rather than her formerly safe job as a teacher. As I excitedly embraced her, I said, “I didn’t know you’d be here today.” To which she replied, “It’s so good to see you too and you should be here too.”
In a rather diminished and longing voice I said, “I’d love to…maybe…one day.” The rather different response inside my head instead was “Um, duh No, why would I be here. I don’t have anything to offer. I’m not a bona fide artist. I’m not formally trained in any medium, why would I be here?”
But then I thought, hang on a minute, over the past few years I’ve tried my hand at ceramics, photography, sewing and print making and writing. Surely this counts for something and isn’t there a clue here as to what is my passion?
While I hadn’t been prepared to call myself anything remotely “arty”, I have been in exploration mode, looking for a new world in which I want my future self to inhabit. The journey into creativity isn’t always an easy one for people with low self-belief. Criticism is rife in our world at the best of time, however, it is deeply intrenched in the world of creativity. But I’d had enough of pretending that I wasn’t creative so from now, I am going to give myself permission to…
- Mess around and yes, waste time and paint or fabric or whatever as I practice
- Try different creative pursuits, mediums, techniques
- And EXPLORE!
Explore! Remember that thing we used to do as kids. Get dirty, climb things, cut and paste anything we could get our hands on and sticking them to anything and everything we could find. We’d try this with a dash of that and then asked, what if we turn it upside down, turn it inside out, add a little salt, or soil or a beautiful leaf that’s just been offered to us by the autumnal apple tree in our backyard. “What if?”, we constantly asked. We didn’t look for outcomes. We looked for solutions in the process itself. It was a vibrant and brilliant time. But sadly, over time, some of us can lose this precious skill, this gift.
As soon as I had a quiet moment I explored my ideas around how I saw myself in relation to creativity. I realised that when I got my ego out of the way, and it’s demands for impossible standards of skill and qualifications, that I was slowly growing a nice little body of creative work that wouldn’t look out of place at a small local art show. Importantly, despite not having a Doctorate in creativity, I can at least call myself an Artist-in-training and heaven forbid, even display some of my work.
So far there have been a few wins in the photography stakes, particular success with one of my favourite subjects, flowers. That’s one of my babies at the top of this post. And with each blog I write, there is often a “like” here or there so my writing can’t be too bad.
Then I thought I’d try my hand at a long burning desire to try fabric screen printing. While these first attempts are quite simple, I just fell in love with the vibrancy and joy that comes from even the simplest of designs. I also love the tactile nature of this process and you get to see the results immediately. This simple leaf design has become one of my favourites and as it’s printed on a tea towel, it makes drying the dishes just that little bit more pleasurable. I did say a little bit!
The print below was made by creating simple butterfly cut outs from the cheapest of cheap materials, newspaper! I started with orange on one side and blue on the other and then one of those happy accidents happened, and the two colours began to blend, creating a beautiful purple in the middle. Who would have thought!
The person who couldn’t call herself creative or artistic also made quilts, various other funky bags and soft toys. The list seems to grow the more I look!
She who has struggled to call herself creative also crocheted these baskets and then as I looked at what else I’ve crocheted, the list grows here too.
It’s so easy to forget what we have achieved over time, to dismiss the many things we have tried or created simply because we don’t consider ourselves “qualified”. If you grew up with little emotional support, or for whatever reason suffer with low self esteem, you too might also be very hard on yourself and think that what you achieve is never enough. I know that my crochet basket photo is not perfect, and that I’ve probably made a few mistakes in writing this post, but I’ve decided to leave a few flaws here and there. There is no longer room in my life for perfectionism because it affected my health, and I’m certainly not wasting any more time waiting for the day when I’m supremely qualified or perfect. It might matter if you’re a brain surgeon but I’m not, nor will I ever be a surgeon. I’m someone exploring an old/new passion, exploring vulnerability by exposing my work and my journey, and learning to be brave through creativity and seeing where it takes me.
So when someone asks me what I’m “doing with myself these days”, I’ll bravely reply that I’m an ARTIST-IN-TRAINING. I will no longer skirt around the issue or make excuses for what I do. With my brave boots on, I step forward into my ever evolving life.
I invite you to join me in declaring what it is that you love, and finding ways that you can become at one with that thing that you love.
Don’t waste another day not living as a whole person.
It’s your life. Live it wholly and fully.