In January 2019, I had my first exhibit as an artist. It was exhilarating and a dream come true, something I had wanted to do since my early twenties, a goal that drove me forward with my painting and my creative community.
Quickly after the exhibit, I got sick. Right smack in the middle of winter when it's cold and dark and no one wants to be swimming in head mucus. After pursuing my dreams and goals as a creative, I had burnt myself out. I say this without judgement, because burn- out is so prevalent and easy to do, especially in our current North American climate of work work work (something I truly hope we are starting to understand and dismantle in the last few months of extreme change). Getting sick and learning how much I had been putting my body through, I took a long hiatus from painting and focused on writing. But I did not truly rest until February of this year when I took a month off and went to England. What I mean by truly rest is I did not hold myself to a standard of having to do. I stopped. I took in England. I took in the ocean and land. I ate scones with jam, crepes from the grocery store and steak pies. I spent time alone in the sunshine and the wind. I walked. I walked a lot. I wrote poetry. I read manga. I saw the old. I slept.
I truly rested without expectation from ego. I took a step back from needing to prove.
With this rest, I was able to learn what I wanted to paint next, where I wanted my energy to be, what expression and emotion I wanted to reflect in my artist style. That means, the strokes and emotions I put on canvas drastically changed. I found I was looking more inward for what I wanted to create and less to social media and cultural relevance. Being relevant is a state of ego I have always been wary of as an artist and a human being. Because what does staying relevant actually mean?
To me, it meant holding my art up to the definition and standard of what others view as substantial and valuable, and this was causing me to look outward. So I rested and looked inward for what I wanted to express. What kind of marks did I want to make? What emotions did I want to expel? What is my true style? What will keep me wanting to build and learn and grow as an expressive person? What will challenge me?
I am drawn to texture and layers in art. This is naturally where I go. It feels like reading a book, like riding a bike, like living a former life. It is intuitive and there, waiting, ebbing at me as a person who gets to explore and use this lens of the world I am offered. Texture and layer is also naturally what I am drawn to in other artists and art forms. So I started to form ideas in my mind, and I did not push the process. I let it come to me day by day.
The ocean came to me, again and again. The force of it. The impact. The connection I feel to it, though I never grew up by a big body of water. The wild, vehement, changing nature of it. The mirror it holds up to us. The tide, coming in with a force and withdrawing, a deepness we do not fully understand, hidden treasures under the surface, endless, wide, ferocious, cold. There is so much we can learn from a massive body of water.
And as I started to paint again, I let my hands do what they wanted to, without forcing them or forcing a particular idea. If the thumbnails I had drawn changed, so be it.
My constant is building up layers and washing them over with new layers, peeling those layers back and exposing the underneath, the underlying, the deepness.
I am okay with this change because if comes from deep within me. From spending time with myself and honouring who I am, the rest I needed and the experiences I hold close to my heart.
Last year, after the exhibition, if I had been shown how much my art would change from the pieces I had just created, I might have had a mini panic attack and questioned why I paint. Well, I got to ask myself that question during my hiatus. I also got to learn that I will need more breaks and rest in the future, and that too is okay.
I paint because it connects me to my deepness, to a place I do not fully understand about myself but that feels the most like coming home and being warm, like being still and not needing to look anywhere else but to my hands and my heart and the things I have learned.