This is my current art studio. It's not a studio, so much as a corner of the family room. At my parent's house. We've been living with them this past year, and they graciously let me take over this corner of this room so I could work. I also spent half the last year pregnant, and the other half nursing a needy newborn and mothering my other three small children. I had no idea when we moved in what was ahead of me and how much this last year would change my life.
I was an art major in college, but the grades and comparisons really messed with my head and I couldn't touch art after I graduated for a long time. After a while, I did small projects and tried to open myself back up. Here and there I hit on something good, but I had no idea how to repeat the formula, and everything else wasn't anything I was very proud of. I could see in my head how I wanted to paint, but couldn't get that out of me, no matter how hard I tried.
A year ago, I felt quiet voices stirring inside of me pushing me toward art. Not just pursuing it as a hobby, but really working at the profession and being an artist. I was filled with fear (I'm not good enough. I'm not a REAL artist. I'm not as good as so-and-so.). The fear mixed with bewilderment that THIS was really the right time in my life to actively pursue this-- I was pregnant with my fourth baby in four years. Now? Really? As if there's not anything else in my life that needs my attention...
But the feeling didn't go away, and, if anything, it just got stronger. It's a crazy thing when the thing you WANT to do lines up with what you feel like you SHOULD do, and I was excited that maybe I could really pursue it. I watched in wonder as doors opened for me, like slots in workshops with artists who were so perfect for my style and artistic goals. There were books recommended multiple times that turned out to be the perfect answer to helping me work out all that angst and clear my pipe so I could create again (have you read "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron? Changed my life). I worried about how to take care of my kids while working on professional development, but family and friends jumped in and took right over (my kids were thrilled! it was a treat for them to play with grandma, play with friends). My husband, Adam, has been in a masters program for the last three years and graduated right as all of this was starting up for me. He transferred all that extra energy he now had straight into helping on the homefront so I could grow this little business. I got a business license (I NEVER would've guessed I'd be a small business owner someday), started a website, went to a conference, learned about taxes. I drove the preschool carpool, made butterfly sandwiches for lunch, changed diapers, rocked babies. Then Adam got home and made dinner and folded laundry while I hung out at my easel and painted and painted and painted. Often, I painted while the kids drove cars over my feet and played barbies up my easel. I'd pause to read, "The Little Blue Truck" about twenty times to my toddler, and then pick up the brush again. I'd put my brush in water, sit down to nurse the baby, and stare at what I was working on, often getting insights into how I could make it better by pausing to look, instead of just overworking a painting. I learned how to be really efficient with my time, maximizing nap times and forgoing some play groups and social activities.
It's been a busy, hard year. The thing about pursuing your dream is that there are days it doesn't feel like a dream, it feels like a lot of work. And it has been a lot of work (like two kids sitting on my lap as I try to type this), and some sacrifices. But I've been so amazed at the artist I've become. I'm finally painting the way I want to paint-- creating work that I'm proud of. I put my faith out there in the universe, and I have felt a divine hand guiding me and making more out of my hands than anything I was doing on my own. It's been an honor to sell my work at art markets, have paintings hanging in exhibits and being able to paint commissions for people that mean something personal to them. I don't think I'm at a finish line, by any means, but I'm out here and I'm running the race.
And it's all happened in this little corner-of-my-parent's-family-room studio.
So, what I've learned is this. Waiting for everything to line up perfectly, before taking brave leaps is never gonna happen. Waiting to be the perfect artist before I put myself out there among professional artists was a waste of time. Who knew that I had all of this in me, just waiting to come out once I got over my fears and tried?
And this. I've learned that life comes down to moments. I get to choose what to do with all the moments of my day, and when I plan ahead and carve out times I really CAN do much more than I thought I could. I've learned that waiting for giant spans of hours on end to work is just not realistic for this phase in my life. But it doesn't mean I can't work. It means I take advantage of the fifteen minute stretches, and if I get interrupted sometimes that's for the best. I come back with fresher eyes. I learned that creating art (aka doing something that rejuvenates my soul) has made me a better mother. I'm more patient with my kids when I've had a little break from them. But being a mother, has made me a better artist. I appreciate the small things when I see them through small eyes, and that wonder of beauty everywhere has led to some great art. Waiting for the perfect studio, would've meant not creating the thirty beautiful paintings I've had so much fun working on this last year. Setting up a table and easel in the corner of the family room and just going for it has opened up a whole life for me that has brought so much more joy.
Next week, we're moving into our own house again. A house where I have a beautiful little room (four whole walls and a door!) that's all MINE to do some creating. I can't wait. But as I pack away this little space, I can't help but feel a little sad. It's fitting, I suppose, that this house in which I grew up in every other way, is also where I grew up as an artist. The lessons I'll take from here, will stay with me my whole life. And if they can inspire anyone else out there, I would be so happy if you took whatever corner of your world is available and start down your path. It's amazing to see what we can create when we start to really believe in ourselves.