Hope your week is going well! It's always such a relief to reach Thursday and can see that the weekend is in view. This is one of the most magical weekends in the year with Hallowe'en falling on Sunday. I love seeing all the little ones dressed up in costume and living the part of the creature, real or imaginary, that they've chosen to be for this special day. Truth is, we kind of envy them and wish we could be someone or something else at various times in our life. Wouldn't it be nice to try to be something else for one day and then revert back to our usual form once the day was over?
That leads me into this day's post. After reading my last post, Liza Lambertini, my magical artist who captures the pure essence of faeries in her art, contacted me and wondered if I had always wanted to create, what inspired me and what brought me to this creative journey at this point in my life. She also mentioned that in a previous blog that I had said that I wasn't creative and what made me change my mind. I've been mulling these thoughts over for the past few days and hope that my response encourages others to take a chance, go out on a limb and try something new.
Liza, your questions made me do some deep soul searching. I wasn't keen on art class when I was in the lower grades. In those grades, art was a mandatory lesson, but once you entered high school, art was optional. You needed to have a certain number of credits in various areas of study and art wasn't one of them. I always kind of envied the art students and peeked into the classroom when I went by, seeing the students so intent upon their canvases. But, my focus was on what I considered to be the "real academic" subjects that were taught. English, mathematics, chemistry and so on were where I parked my focus and didn't waver for a few years. At one point, I somehow decided that becoming a floral designer would be the best option for me. True to form, I researched the schooling necessary, where floral design was taught, the cost of the course and decided then and there that this was the best way for me to get out on my own, hopefully in my own apartment. I can't say that my parents were overly thrilled with my choice of career. They tried to make me consider teaching, nursing, becoming a nutritionist (sure don't know where that idea came from!) and other fields of employment. The problem with all the suggestions that they put forward for consideration was that they all involved extra time in college or university and for all intents and purposes, living at home. I wanted desperately to be on my own, living my own life and hopefully, that would mean living in another city. Becoming a floral designer was the answer to my prayers and I was determined to make it happen.
Well, I did make it happen and I did move out on my own in another city. I worked in a small flower shop and worked my way from doing the grunt work (wiring and taping flowers for the head designer to make into bridal bouquets) to becoming the head designer myself. It took a few years, but I enjoyed working in a place where there were flowers, plants and a very social atmosphere. But, for me, floral design was more mathematical than it was art. Yes, I used various colour palettes, a seasonal array of flowers, but the actual design of the flowers in an arrangement followed a mathematical equation or at least it did in my mind. My arrangements were nice, the colours worked, but there wasn't always an emotional bond with what I was doing. I was really good at analyzing stock orders, negotiating prices with wholesalers, balancing the cash and doing all the business related aspects the position required. I did enjoy working with flowers but didn't see the connection between what I was doing and being an artist. I wasn't one to care much about fashion, make-up or hair styles. I was just a very plain woman working at a job that paid the bills. Although I wouldn't admit it then and maybe I really didn't know it because I even had myself fooled, I wasn't happy with my life.
Years went by, the industry went into chaos when supermarkets started having floral departments and I saw the writing on the wall. I had better update my skill base or I would be in serious trouble. I got into some adult education courses, learned how to work on a computer and in time ended up working in administrative work at the university. Student life was the area I was stationed in and for 9 years I worked as support staff for the two residence managers. It was a lively office, you had to think on your feet, be prepared for anything from a fire alarm to a dripping student, wearing nothing but a bath towel, who had locked themself out of their room. The life I lived was fast paced, stressful and I loved it. But there came a point where I needed something else in my life. Something inside of me was telling me that there was a part of me that wasn't being satisfied. My sister suggested I read "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron and that was when I found what I was looking for and hadn't realized it.
I had always loved reading. Reading a book involved me to the point that I was seeing what I was reading. The whole story was played out in my mind and in full colour. After reading "The Artist's Way", I started the obligatory journaling and that helped me cope with some of the stress of the work day. At the same time, health issues were surfacing and getting increasingly problematic leading me to become more and more depressed. I started painting little greeting cards to keep my mind off of my problems. It was at this point that I was evolving into the person that not only enjoyed dabbling in art, but needed it to help me express myself when words couldn't and I was discovering a new part of me that I hadn't really taken note of - the creative me. I started reading books on various art mediums and got myself deeper into the realm of the artworld. I found that I enjoyed the textures of paper, that there was a different "feeling" in different brands of acrylic paints, that there was a big difference in the various brands of coloured pencils. All of this turned into a passion and I lived my days as a secretary, but my evenings were taken over by anything and everything artistic.
Finally, just over two years ago, my health issues dominated my life and as a result, I had to leave the working world. That was one of the most difficult transitions I had ever made and it took a lot out of me. If I hadn't had my interest in art I don't know how I would have managed. When I was able to, I would work on painting little greeting cards, and rest whenever I had to which was frequently. I started painting on canvas and that opened a new door for me. I could rest in bed and read about techniques that I would try at my next painting session. My life revolved around doctor's appointments, resting and when I had the energy, I painted.
At this point, my life still revolves around medical appointments but includes art to a much larger degree and level of importance. I need to paint, to try new things and I have a thirst for knowledge of all things creative. I now define myself as an artist. I find inspiration everywhere I look. The way the fruit and vegetables are arranged in the grocery store, a pattern in fabric or on a napkin, the texture of various types of papers are all things that I now notice. I can't resist trying new colour combinations. I still love making greeting cards and when I discovered the art of rubber stamping, well if there was a stampers' anonymous, I would be a charter member. Art is the medecine that allows me to enjoy life even though I have serious limitations. So this is the start of my artistic journey. I now know that I always had creativity in me, but it took a health crisis to make me look deeper into myself and find it. I've also discovered that I love all things pertaining to Asian art. Chinese block prints, painting, kanji symbols and so much more interest me. I'm still learning what I like and what I'd like to try. Manga interests me as does gothic art, art that has a dark, edgey side to it as well as the sweetness and innocence of faeries. I'd love to write and illustrate a children's book, but know that I have a long way to go before I'm ready to venture down that pathway. My interests are wide and varied. And, I'm never bored!
I still miss working with the students and it's a much quieter life that I live now. The social interaction is something that I miss and that is what led me to Twitter where I've met the most incredible people from artists in all fields who chat with me, encourage me when I'm feeling doubtful, chefs who are so inspiring and willing to share tips, advice right on to university/college students. I wanted to share something of myself, my experiences in hopes of helping someone else who might be at a crossroads and need to find something to bring new meaning, definition to their life. That was when I decided to set up this blog. Where would my next detour take me? That was when I set up an online gallery of my paintings, greeting cards and whatever else intrigues my creative soul. My online gallery pushes me to aspire to do more and by doing more I'll improve my techniques, finesse my style and maybe when I'm ready for it, participate in an art show. What helps is the knowledge that I can put down the brush and rest when necessary. That is important and allows me to work at a comfortable pace and not become stressed. I don't need to push myself until I'm overly tired and not enjoying what I'm doing. Taking care of me is something I've accepted as not only being okay, but necessary and not a sign of weakness. I had it all wrong for so many years. I believed and accepted that I had to work until I had been depleted of all inner resources and that the pursuit of something as frivolous as artistic ventures was something that a real adult wouldn't do. I know now how wrong that was. In order to really live life as it should be lived, it meant that I was allowed to have some fun. Who knew?
The moral of this story is to embrace those detours life tosses in our way. Look inside, deep inside and in this moment ask yourself "What do I want to be when I grow up?" Then see how you can go about making it happen. You'll be a much healthier and happier adult if you do.
*Iris Folding for Christmas from Annie's Attic - great book to give you some inspiration for different holiday cards.
Don't forget the tiara challenge! Decorate your tiara, you do have one don't you? Take a picture of yourself wearing it, of your pet wearing it or just of the tiara and use this picture as your Twitter avatar for the weekend. Have your avatar posted late Friday or early Saturday and then fill in the comment form telling me your Twitter name (i.e. @rutheemac) and maybe your thoughts on this blog. :) I'll set up a list of the Twitter names and keep updating it so we can all go back to the site to see each other's creative side. Let's have some fun with this. The kids have Hallowe'en, so let's give ourselves the green light to let our inner diva come out to play for the weekend.
Tiara Challenge Participants