I wonder, as I write this blog post, who will be interested in my mind wanderings and creative insights?
In the art classes I ran, we always started with a “talkie bit”, where I’d share my own art practices and invite the students to share theirs. The class would sit in a circle around the table, drinking coffee and eating freshly baked muffins. This became a precious focus time which I treasured. We often joked that it was our “AA” session: “Addicted to Art”. Well, I’m proud to say that I am totally addicted to art and have every intention to paint until the day I die, hopefully with a paint brush in my hand (and hopefully many, many years from now!).
As I launch my new website and focus more on being an illustrator and storyteller, I am wondering, what does beginning again look like? I’ll tell you a little about the recent changes in my life, the choices I’ve made and, I guess, my hopes and dreams as I step off the well-trodden path and venture into the unknown.
To wonder at this world we walk in, to allow our minds to drift to that place of curiosity, is the beginning of creativity. To be truly creative we have to take risks, be humble enough to embrace the unknown and be a constant beginner. This has been my year of changing the story. In my fiftieth year, I’ve started to spread my wings and find the creative freedom I so longed for. Not that my life was bad. To the outsider looking in, I was living the dream. Yet teaching 50-70 students a week from my studio in my garden was taking its toll on my own art practice. I needed to feel inspired again so that I, in turn, could inspire others.
With my empty nest and my baby birds flying off on their own adventures, it was time for my leap of faith – I embraced changes in every aspect of my life. Selling my home, leaving Auckland, I began to wander the world again with some overseas travel. My plan had been to move to Waihi Beach, as I’ve always enjoyed it there. But the universe had other plans! I fell in love and instead, moved to Rotorua – after all, life is too short not to be with who you love. Although I wouldn’t have imagined myself in Rotorua, I could not have found a better place to inspire my creative soul. With its abundance of natural beauty and rich culture, it is a true melting pot for artists.
I came across a Zig Ziglar quote that sums it up well: “There are three C’s in life: choices, chances, changes. You must make a choice to take a chance, or your life will never change.” I truly believe this is how I live. So many people tell me I’m lucky to be following my dreams and doing what I love for a living. I think to myself, yes I am… but I also wonder why these people don’t follow their dreams too and I’m reminded that it’s not as easy as it sounds. Every chance comes at a cost and change, no matter how much it is longed for, comes with a loss. For me that loss is people. I miss my lovely friends and students and the community I lived in. Yet I hope to include them on my adventures as I become more settled here in Rotorua.
With change I’ve observed my ability to let go. I’ve always said “let go and let love in.” It’s what I practice when I draw and paint – I relax and allow the art to flow. Uncertainty is the hard one for me – being unsure of my abilities and unsure of what to do next. I always come back to trust and knowing the right people are here for me at the right times. My partner is wonderfully supportive, yet at no point does he make decisions for me. He says, “I won’t walk before you, or behind you. I’ll be right beside you.” With no judgement or criticism, I’m learning to follow my instincts and care for myself as I’ve done for so many others before.
My yoga teacher, Jenny Lux, speaks of the yogic guidelines known as Yamas. The second Yama, Satya, means truthfulness. Jenny says that when we examine our truth, what we often come back to is uncertainty. There is usually fear in uncertainty, yet if we take it a step further, uncertainty can also be a space for openness. Once we are open, opportunities can happen. When we hold tightly to what we perceive to be true, we risk becoming closed off to so many chances. Thirty-four years ago on my arts foundation course, the Dean asked me why I wanted to study art. Being bright-eyed and eager, I exclaimed, “I want to write and illustrate children’s books.” He laughed, “you and everyone else!” Foolishly, at 16, I let his words be my truth. The crazy thing is, that course was very difficult to get into and I’d been accepted into it two years earlier than most people. Although I excelled during my time there, my belief was that I wasn’t good enough to follow my children’s book dreams. Now I believe that everyone has a story and that everyone is an artist in their own way. Now I know that there’s room for everyone. Back then I let my doubt stop me. I don’t believe in regrets. The textile degree I went on to do has certainly enriched my life. As has travelling the world, raising a family and teaching hundreds of people. However, now it’s time to let those illustrations out! It’s time to pull on those big girl knickers and say “this is me.” And then see what happens.
With no plan or restrictions, I’ve drawn and drawn this year – curious to see where my scribbles will take me. Sharing these drawings and hearing the encouraging feedback from my followers on social media, has prompted me to produce prints of my work. I have six different ‘open edition’ prints available and several hand-painted prints too.
I make my art because it delights me. If it connects with you, that makes my heart sing because my story becomes your story and your story becomes mine. The creative process is what I am most passionate about. “I walk the walk, and talk the talk.” Be curious. Just begin by doing what delights you and do it often, then share it with others.