Losing Vision

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One of the most frustrating experiences of being an artist is losing the ability to create something new. So many things can get in the way of our ability to see clearly what is next. Stress, worry, anxiety, busyness, depression, ect… All these things keep us from being able draw a few lines on a sketch pad, or to fire up our equipment and get going on a new project.

In other situations, something inside just kinda gives up, and falls into the pain that comes with a lack of inspiration and direction. Losing artistic vision is a hurt that whispers defeat to the soul and makes you just want to shelve all your art supplies and forget you ever tried to create in the first place.

Boredom and listlessness often follows in its wake, emptiness and a desire to fill time, to get busy, with anything that will make your feel like you are giving or creating. But it doesn’t fulfill like sitting down with an idea that you are going to get your hands into. Creating art is such a visceral and physical activity. It involves emotion, movement, sight and sound.

But when you have run out of inspiration, have lost sight of the artistic vision you had, you are feeling cheated, and like you have suffered a loss. For awhile things get rather dark, the world loses color and purpose. The things that you enjoyed don’t bring you the joy that they once did. You are left in a still, dull, and empty world.

I hate it when I get to this place, and lose the joy that doing art once brought me. I end up here way to often, and I wonder why. Am I unsatisfied? Am I just not thankful enough? Did I do something wrong to make this happen? Then it hit me, losing vision is a part of the process of creating. There is a point when enthusiasm vanishes and motivation slows to a crawl.

The question then arises, how are you going to respond when you can’t see a foot in front of you anymore? For me, I would like to hide, pull up my drawbridges and forget about it all. Yet, by completely shutting down I will not be open to when inspiration comes knocking again. On the other hand, if I try to reengage my creativity by getting really busy I am not giving it the space and time it needs to find me again.

This is what inspiration is, it is not something we can will into existence but something that we allow to come upon us. We need to give it space and time, not pushing or striving, but remaining open to its presence. Especially when our sight grows dim and we become listless and discouraged, we need to remember that this is normal. Creativity has an ebb and flow, this loss will not be permanent.

Also, remember that you are not a failure, that there is not something wrong with you if you can’t seem to find the energy to create. Don’t let the frustration become an opportunity to criticize yourself for not being able to do art. Have grace and patience with yourself, take care of the hurting places that need to be dealt with. Inspiration will alight upon you again, if you don’t give into the despair and fear that comes with a loss of vision. The greatest thing that we can hold unto is the hope that we will create again.

A QUESTION TO PONDER:

Can you find beauty in the space and time when you cannot see what comes next? Try noticing a few things every day.

 

Being Content

As an artist, I am hypercritical of the work I do. It is never good enough, there is always something to improve upon. It is hard to imagine that someone would look at something they created and feel like there is nothing else they could do to make it better, and say “this is good just the way it is.”

This kind of contentment is confusing to me, it is like staring at a two-eyed raccoon as my brain keeps yelling at me that the creature only has one eye. They don’t exist (except for the instances of some kind of deformity). My brain just does not process this kind of reality-bending encounter well, in fact, it often makes something completely ludicrous out of what is an obvious answer.

Why is it sometimes so hard to accept the truth? My sanity feels called into question for wanting to believe that all raccoons have one eye, apparently, there is something off in my perceptions.

A Dictionary Moment: 

The word contentment literally means “a state of happiness or satisfaction” (according to dictionary.com).

The End

At the moment I read the word “a state of” my brain starts making noise again saying to me, “See, See! They are trying to make you believe that reality is different then you have known it, doesn’t everyone know there is no such thing as two-eyed raccoons!” Let me tell you, my mind can put up a convincing argument, but what I have discovered is that it would rather be crazy than wrong. <Ouch>

There is the core of it that keeps me from being content with my abilities, what I create,  or anything I do really. I simply don’t believe what others tell me about raccoons, because if I learned that these animals were not cyclopses my fragile construct of reality as I know it would collapse. Certainly, then I would have to be institutionalized for believing something as ridiculous as one-eyed raccoons, that carry a faint smell of deception in their wake.

So, you may be wondering where I am going with this, or seriously doubting my sanity at this point, but what I’m trying to communicate is that which keeps us from contentment is often a war between our ears. When we believe one thing about success and failure our entire life, or see the world one way it is hard to be content because our perceptions become dogmas.

These dogmas rule every experience and thing that we do. If we come from a worldview that believes in raccoons with one eye, our perspective is limited and rigid. Aren’t two eyes better than one? Yet, we cling to our beliefs (it has to be one eye) because we are afraid what it means for us to dive into the unknown of a situation. We want to see concrete results but are never satisfied. We succeed and see failure because we are trapped by our own beliefs.

What if we were willing to see with both eyes open instead of having one shut all the time. Certainly, our sight would improve and we would be able to navigate the world better! Why would we constrain a poor raccoon to a life of bumping around being able to only take in one half of the environment around them? We cripple ourselves, and others around us if we are not willing to accept things for how they are, to be satisfied with what we do when we do our best.

Letting go is hard, being content is even more difficult, but we will not be successful until we are able to let go of faulty perceptions about success and embrace the potential for failure. Being wrong is not the life and death scenario that we often think it is. It is the humility to know our limits and own our mistakes, but being wrong will not mean we have to “go crazy.” Aren’t we already crazy if we try to do the same thing over and over again? Our wrong perceptions aren’t helping us out here, they are actually keeping us in a cycle of fear which will always keep us running and away from being content.  Aren’t you tired yet? I know I am.

Finding Your Niche

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We all want to have a purpose, don’t we? We become depressed and lifeless if we do not feel our lives have direction.  It is like each one of us was created with a compass on the inside trying to locate true north. How do you know where you belong?

There is a beautiful book called Let Your Life Speak- by Parker J. Palmer that illustrates this searching and desire to understand why your life matters. He states, “Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.” This is an inside-out approach to what we think life is about, that we determine our own direction. Yet Palmer is pointing to a new way of living, being mindful and aware of what our life is already saying.

There are parts of our lives that feel like unconscious movements, values we hold that we do not even know how we got to believe them. By taking note of these things we are allowing ourselves space to reflect and understand what motivates and guides us. The way we live matters, and it is speaking, in part, toward our purpose and place.

It is not only our actions, beliefs, relationships, and choices that speak to our vocation, it is also speaking to how we care for ourselves. If we never care for ourselves, we will never get to a place where we can be of help to others. As again Palmer writes, “Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.”

If we learn how to care and steward our own lives, as well as being mindful and reflective of how we develop our perceptions and values, we are on the way to our purpose. It is not a straight road, or an easy one, often it takes way too many divergent paths that we don’t expect. We often have to learn how to live in ambiguity and insecurity, the most uncomfortable of places, but there is so much value in learning about ourselves in the dark. In that liminal space, we learn who we really are, and what makes up our fortitude and where our strengths lie as well as our weaknesses.

Artistic Grief

Sometimes the things I create are beyond my ability. I tried so hard to bring the image into being and I found myself unskilled to birth it. It was not that the image was a bad idea, but just that I wasn’t there yet, wasn’t ready to bring it to be. My skills had some catching up to do. But in the meantime what do you do with a dream?

When you have to put it aside for awhile, there is grief to walk through. It is the loss of not getting there when you want to, not finishing…yet. This is a particular pain, realizing your limits and seeing where your boundaries are.  Finiteness has its own kind of sorrow, when you have to lay down and entrust your dream to an unknown future.

I often fear that the things I create are not good enough, but am I actually afraid of seeing them never come to be? These may be heady thoughts, so I want to bring it down to earth a little.

For the last four years I’ve been working on a three year Master Degree program in Counseling. I have a dream, I want to be a therapist. I have the knowledge, I know the answers, the concepts, the approaches. I lack the capacity, not the capability. Building and honing my skills is taking longer than I thought it would, all because I never knew what healing this career would require of me.

I had to lay my dreams aside for a season and let go of my aspirations so I could recover and begin to let my soul wounds heal. But just knowing I had to heal wasn’t enough to prevent the grief of having unclench my hands and embrace where I was at. I had to realize my limitations.

As an artist, I think there is a part of me that thinks that I am super woman, that I can do things at the speed of light and that I am completely bulletproof. But the fact is, I’m riddled with so many holes my soul looks like a constellation in the sky. Dramatic? Perhaps. I didn’t want to let go, I didn’t want to stop my process, I wanted to see the dream borne.

But what I didn’t realize is that if I kept pushing myself my hope would be stillborn, not fully developed and unable to breathe on its own. In my life I want to create things that can live, not just be dependent on me, but that they are illustrated in their perfect time.

As I wait, I grieve, I cry over the empty canvas, the half painted scene, the pain of having to put down my paint brushes and walk away. But if I don’t then I would never see the master artist pick up where I left off, and with a few deft movements stun the canvas with a new story I never could have imagined or seen.

 

 

Disappointment

Starting a new thing has periods of disappointment where it seems like your investment is momentous compared to the results.  Desire, hope, and longing all play into the loop that keeps you motivated. Yet how do you respond when there are no results, no successes, no outcomes, just waiting?

Nothing that is worth building doesn’t come free. The materials, labor, and time are all sacrifices that we make to see a house rise up from the ground. Building is not instantaneous, or immediately gratifying.  Yet one day, skeletal frames will give way to structures that begin to look like a place you live in.

If I simply stopped and fixated on the frame of what was before me, I would become disappointed, bitter, and discouraged that the structure before me looked nothing like a house. I feel this often in my own healing process, and in trying to build an artistic platform. The two areas collide with each other with the process both are linked to,

I am tempted way too often with disappointment, to look at any process I am in with a critical eye and despair that it is not finished yet. I want it to be built and flourishing. This is longing, this is desire, but without perspective these temporary motivators will fade.

What lasts is hope, hope that can withstand the discouragement of disappointment, and reach out toward the next day, then the next…Process is not immediate, results not always seen, but what counts is holding unto hope, and not letting disappointment derail your dreams.

When You want to Give Up

“That’s it! I just can’t get it right!” I throw the pencil down in frustration, “the perspective is wrong, the colors won’t meld, the shapes are all off, it’s a mess, I can’t do this.” How quickly my frustration can escalate into despair, and my desire turns to dust.  My heart is fickle, and sometimes I just have to step back from what I am doing and take a few breaths.

When I feel that I want to give up, often that is the moment I find that something in me won’t allow it.  I can get so angry, so frustrated, so lost for words that all I can do is throw it down, to let it go, only to return another day.

Despair is real, depression a fierce monster that eats away at energy and interests. I have experienced its undertow and felt its call to yield to the full impact of its heavy weight. I have known fatigue, anxiety and a loss of interest in anything that used to give me joy.

Recovery is slow and difficult as you try to climb away from its grasp. The key is to not give up, even though that is the thing that chases after you. It is hard to not give into the chaos around you, or to the frustration of slow movement.

But if you give up, surrendering to the pressure and the lies, you are shortcutting your own future. If I feel that I just can’t get it together, or that my projects are not turning out the way I want them too, I have to remember grace. Patience with ones self and ones art is a part of the creative process, and the healing process as well.

They are two processes that are closely tied to one another, and in my art I hope to reflect that.  When I want to give up, I need to remember, I can step away, and I can return to it later. Despair passes, even if it lingers long, remember to hold on, hold on.

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Make it Personal

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Part of the work I will be offering is making custom pieces for individuals that want to capture their pet, a special moment, or something special about a loved one. I have chosen to do personalized works because I believe that art should mean something. It needs to connect on a deep level, the joy of being deeply known by another. These custom paintings are about that, offering my interpretation of another’s desire to communicate something or someone that deeply matters to them.

So far I have done four pieces, three for small children, and one for an Anti-human trafficking organization in Seattle. As I worked on these paintings, I found desire and anxiety. At the beginning, I was anxious that my work wouldn’t be satisfactory or that they wouldn’t like the pieces, ect…

I closed my eyes and dove in, letting creativity wash away my anxiety and giving me perspective. If I remained obsessed my own fear of failure, I would remain poised, pencil in hand, unable to begin the work at all.

Taking a step back from my anxious self provided me the space I needed to begin, and helped me focus on the person who really mattered, the individual who would receive this gift. Fear transformed into desire with each stroke of the brush and swirl of the paint. The paintings slowly took form, until they were fully conceived, and now on the way to the gift givers.

It is a privilege to be a part of this, and an honor to capture a bit of who someone is on canvas. I am excited for what is coming, and for others who will take the risk and ask me to collaborate with them to capture a special moment, thank you!

To order a custom piece go to:

https://www.etsy.com/listing/626973280/custom-acrylic-paintings-medium-size?ref=shop_home_active_1