Sometimes the only thing standing in the way of being an artist, writer or another kind of creative being is the inability to get over the fear of trying it. Everyone’s an artist. Whether or not you’re good at it isn’t the point. If you’re stuck about being good enough, then you’ll lose the opportunity to feel the joy in the pure creative expression itself, which is the whole point of any art.
I led a healing retreat recently and we dabbled with an art project at the end of the day as another way to move our energy and explore our thoughts and sensations about ourselves and the world around us. “I’ve never been an artist,” I heard a student say to her friend sitting next to her. She stared at the blank paper in front of her and I could hear the voices in her head taking over.
“Everyone’s an artist,” I proclaimed to the group, watching carefully for the look I’d get from this student. “It’s about expression, pure and simple.” “Being an artist just means you’re creating from your own unique perspective.” “The only thing I can draw is stick figures,” she continued to her friend within earshot of me as she reached for a crayon and began coloring on her paper.
As I looked around the table at all the pictures being drawn, some from “real” artists, and some from those who’ve never used that label to describe themselves, what I saw was truly magnificent; a dozen different colorful expressions of soul. And really, that’s all art is, an expression of that essence, which is unique to each of us. As unique as we are. And ever-changing from moment to moment.
“Art is a momentary snapshot of soul. Don’t be afraid to show us yours.” I didn’t get the art card in our family. My sister did. I grew up thinking I wasn’t an artist, and never tried to paint or draw outside of the times I was forced to in school. I was afraid to do it because it wasn’t going to be good enough, because it wasn’t going to be like my sister’s art; perfect, talented, beautiful, right. It took me until my forties to get over that fear and begin to paint and draw again.
And while I see the differences between my art and those who’ve practiced longer than I have, I now call myself an artist. I recognize the simple act of creating art coupled with the joy that creating fills me with makes me an artist. Your art is just the way you express yourself in the world that fills you with delight. It could happen in your dance, or your song, or your writing, or the way you make your garden bloom. You’re an artist. How you make it is up to you.
Here’s the thing about the form of art that includes painting, drawing and sculpting (the ways we traditionally think about art): if you think you’re not that kind of artist, or that you’re bad at it, or you’re afraid to put your paints on the paper because you won’t have a good idea, or know how to do it, or God forbid, someone sees it and thinks it’s poor, how will you ever know if it’s something you’ll enjoy? You must do it, explore it, learn about it, and practice.
Like all other forms of art, and craft, no matter what that craft is, there are skills to master, techniques to practice, and tools to explore and learn. My beautiful artist friend Jeanette MacDonald nudged me one day after I asked her for the 100th time to make me a painting; “Why don’t you take this online art class…it’s really great,” she hinted. And I did. And I was instantly hooked into the belief that maybe I could make art.
I’ve actually come full circle with much of the art I’m drawn to now, with thoughts like, I could probably do that if I learned how. To step into curiosity and courage as a replacement for doubt and fear – well that’s a miracle. And all it really was was a willingness to learn, an openness to the possibilities and taking an action toward that. Along with a gentle nudge from a friend who already knew what was inside of me.
So that month I signed up for an art class and voila, I had created my very first piece of “real” art. She’s a great little mermaid, isn’t she? She became the cover art of my very first art journal.
This creation came from a beginning of “I’m not an artist,” and evolved into, “Wow, I think I’m an artist,” and then finally, “I’m definitely an artist!” Along with that Aha was an intense desire to practice, to learn and to evolve with it, which I’ve been doing ever since, no matter what other people think about my stuff.
This, my friends, is pure freedom, no matter what it is you want to do in your life; to do it with desire, curiosity, and a willingness to learn. You are whoever you think you can be. The first step is understanding that you were born an artist; and it’s up to you to decide how you want to express that beautiful soul.