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art making - small acts of bravery

This Abstract Life - Studio Reflections

Last night I was watching a documentary about tornados, volcanos, earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes on Netflix…as you do, a little relaxing, evening TV viewing haha. As is often the case when watching these programmes, I was amazed by the people who’s jobs centre around predicting and attempting to limit the loss of life from the fallout caused by these naturally occurring events. One scientist was being lowered into the crater of a recently erupting volcano in South America, to test the gases so that she could help predict when the next, potentially larger eruption might occur. I was thinking…what drives someone want to do that? When she got up that morning to go to work that she was okay being lowered hundreds of feet into an active volcano. What makes her different from me? This lady is REALLY brave!

During the height of the COVID 19 pandemic, when the majority of us were locked down in the relative safety of our homes, my partner would get up to go to work as a nurse at our local hospital. We all remember how scary the idea of us or our family members catching Covid was, but the medical staff continued to show up to care for those who suffered the worst with this infection putting themselves at risk every day. This lady is REALLY brave!

As a painter I often struggle with the feeling that my contribution to the world doesn’t seem that great. How am I being brave? When thinking about this I came to the conclusion that being brave in life, in our own way, is what matters…do you agree? I know, that for me, that I often feel like I am being my own kind of brave in lots of small ways.

Here are some of the small ways that I feel brave…

Putting something you have created into the world can fee pretty scary.

They say that if you are doing this art ‘thing’ properly that you are putting your heart and soul into your work. I do believe that. Whenever I am brave enough to ignore what I think people think I should create and paint from that place deep inside me, the best stuff happens. Putting that something, that is different to anything else, out there into the world takes a bit of bravery. All of the doubts and fears rush in…what if nobody likes them!!! being the biggest. That I have invested so much time, energy & love into this object, that potentially no one else but me will like can be terrifying. Not volcano terrifying I know, but still.

Showing up in the studio everyday, for yourself, because you have committed to live this kind of life can sometimes be hard.

There are definitely days when it is hard to show up in the studio. Life is unpredictable and so are our feelings. Some days the last thing we feel like doing is showing up to create from a place inside of ourselves that might be difficult. But like therapy and exercise we know that more often than not it will make us feel better. You have to be your own motivator and cheerleader…only you can do this.

Facing yourself in front of the canvas

This has been the scariest of all. Who knew that when I joined a painting class all those years ago that it would lead to so much personal growth and change. My art has helped me discover and accept my true self. I had been a people pleaser my whole life, that’s what us girls were brought up to be. Discovering my voice through my painting has helped me learn to break those believed 'rules’ and become myself. I read that one of the top 5 regrets of the dying was that they wished they had lived their life true to themselves and not one that was expected of them. I was living life through a blurry filter of ‘shoulds’. I now feel a lot of comfort knowing that I am living life in full colour…literally :) Getting to this point took living through a lot of change and insecurity, but not changing felt more scary.

Learning to like what you do, no matter what anyone else thinks…As I said before I feel that putting yourself and what you love into your work is essential to be able to create work that is personal and unique to you. Comparison can be a killer to this and it can be so easy to be sucked into thinking that other people know better than you. Being different can be scary.

Keeping the Faith

Telling that voice of self doubt to pipe down, on a daily basis. Even when you are on a good run the self-doubt can come out of nowhere. Keeping the faith (as the great Bon Jovi would say) and reminding yourself that you know what you are doing is a constant practice. When it comes down to it if you don’t have faith in what you are creating why should anybody else have faith in it.

Keeping faith can look like:

  • investing money in professional grade canvases and materials

  • refining your technique

  • investing in courses to improve your creative skills

  • working on your mindset so that you can believe you have something of value to offer

  • believing in yourself enough to be able to market the art you produce

  • building and establishing connections with those who will also believe in your work as you grow as an artist

  • connecting with a community who also believes in your work

  • learning the business side of being a sole trader and facing the finances

  • investing in education to continually learn new skills to move your art business forward.…this list goes on.

Accepting that your measure of life success might not be the same as most people

Living life against the grain can be tricky. We are constantly bombarded with what society shows is true success. That we will be happier when we own all the things, so we need to work harder to be able to do this.

For me, I want to spend my one, precious life doing something I love, as much as possible. Yes I could get a job that pays me a lot more money that I earn from painting, but if I had more money what would I do with that money? I’d buy time to paint. Working out what you really want from this life is more important than ‘success’. Life is short…find a way to do that brave thing, even if everyone tells you that it’s not possible.

As I release my latest series of paintings I am feeling pretty nervous…that never really goes away, but it is an excited nervous. Each collection is the result of many small acts of bravery, faith keeping, angst, financial investment and personal investment. Don’t get me wrong, art making is the fun everyone thinks it is, but it is also very challenging, especially if you have chosen this way of life as your work. I currently don’t have any other form of income other than my art business, and I still have all the usual mortgage and bills to pay. For me holding my nerve and not getting a ‘muggle’ job is my biggest current form of personal bravery. I’ll keep doing this art business thing as long as I can…one day at a time…keeping the faith, trying to stay brave x

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