I have always felt like a visual artist in hiding.
As a little girl, I felt drawn to creating with my hands. I was fascinated with details and the precision of my work. I made gifts for everyone, partially out of financial necessity, and partially out of a deep desire to create art. I had many craft books, but no materials. I loved searching for the pieces to complete my gifts. How could I make googly eyes if I couldn’t go to the craft store and buy them? I painted tiny pebbles black, added a white dot and hot-glued away.
Since then, I’ve rarely given myself permission to follow my passion and create visual art. Perhaps it was my bad art class experience in 5th grade, or the adult who told me that my perspective lines were not straight. Maybe it was the other artists I knew who claimed the title more confidently and left me feeling like there wasn’t room for another artist.
The funny thing is that most people would describe me as an artist—a performing artist. I was a professional actress for twenty years, and I traveled the world singing in musicals. Because I was labeled the actress or the singer, I felt like a fraud for dabbling in creative or visual art.
In spite of having a profession in the arts, I felt something deeper inside of me that I was called to express. As an actress, my art was only interpretive. My performances were always someone else’s creation—someone else’s script, someone else’s character, someone else’s song. Of course I had the ability to bring the inner world of the character to life, but I was still telling someone else’s story.
Creating something out of nothing felt daunting to me, yet I desired it most of all.
For many of us, self-expression and creativity is bound up in emotional baggage. Because creativity is essentially presenting a piece of ourselves to the world, creating and sharing our art is vulnerable practice. Our art could be misunderstood, criticized or belittled. The developing artist in us needs compassion more than anything else. As parents, teachers and guides, we have the profound responsibility of encouraging confident creativity in our children. As humans, we have the responsibility of encouraging it in ourselves.
I wrote once before about a fated flight I took from Charlotte to San Diego where I met two artists. One a was a young 30-something and the other a young 70-something. One trained, the other not. They both heard the inner artist in me yearning to create with my hands, and both gave me the same advice:
“Just paint. Paint every day, for no one but you.”
I went home and bought an easel, brushes, paints and a couple of canvases. As I stared at my supplies, my inner critic had the first word: What a fraud you are to think you could be a painter! You have nothing to paint. You don’t know what you are doing. You’re wasting your time. Why even start? My easel and paints looked official and ready for art in the corner of the room, and yet I was terrified to go near them.
The day I gave myself permission to paint, I was alone at my house. I opened up the paints, dabbed the brush into the colors that drew me in…and then I sat on the floor and cried. I was overwhelmed, but I was not defeated.
This was a cathartic cry: I had finally let myself follow what my soul had been yearning to express. I let myself paint without a plan for colors or a subject. I was “just painting” like the artists on the plane had told me to. Dabbling made me stop compartmentalizing myself and my talents. My finished product was nothing to brag about, but it represented the freedom and permission that I FINALLY was giving myself.
Once I began dabbling on my new easel and letting myself paint, I knew I needed a guide, and I knew I needed to make it fun. I tried signing up for local classes. I tried buying a book, and I kept trying until I found the right fit for me. Finally, I found Kelly Rae Roberts’ online mixed media course. I bought it on a whim, invited my daughter to join me and started painting. Kelly Rae’s course worked for us because it was self-paced and based on mindset and mantras. Doing it with Mirabelle created some accountability for me to stay consistent and follow through.
We took a trip to San Diego together and began our painting class while staying at my friend’s house. She has this beautiful sanctuary of a home with a courtyard that was perfect for our first session.
Together, Mirabelle and I worked through the beginning “mindset portion” of the course. It was such a sweet bonding time to share our vulnerabilities, aspirations and ideas—all of which led to mantras that we would incorporate into our art.
Kelly Rae’s guidance resonated with me because she believes in creating from the inside out. “What feels right?” She’d say. “Don’t judge. Keep moving. Nothing is a mistake.” I needed this perspective to enjoy the creative process. As she led Mirabelle and me through her techniques, she called our beginning canvases “playground canvases”—and it was so freeing.
Mirabelle guided me too. I relished in her ease and ability to try and to dabble without hesitation. Kelly reminded us that if you don’t like what you have created, cover it up or wipe it off. Mirabelle painted with wild abandon, and I I followed suit.
Afterwards, we laid our “playground” canvases out to dry.
Because it never rains in San Diego, we left them out overnight. And guess what? It POURED. Our “playground” canvases became mushy and unusable, and we had to throw them away—another reminder to me to create with detachment from the outcome. What a lesson!
Since then, I have set up an art studio in our home. I have validated my need to creatively express myself. I have come out of hiding as a visual artist, and I have set a goal: To create a piece that I display on my wall!
Do you feel a yearning in your soul to express and create more? Are you an artist in hiding? I’m very excited to announce The [Canvas] Project, which is a video series I’m offering this summer in my Facebook group Creative Uncovery: A Place for the Vaguely Unsatisfied. Join me to break through your resistances, stay committed to your heart’s art desire, and be part of a community that supports you on the journey. It begins June 5th, so click here to join!