Thursday, September 25, 2014

Throwback Thursday: I'm An Artist

This Throwback Thursday post is one of my favorite inspirational blog posts I have ever written. It is not a very practical post, as most of my blog posts are. But I as I reread it I found it to be quite motivational, even though I was the one to write it! I hope it inspires you to explore your own creativity and rethink what it means to be "gifted" in any area of your life.


"I'm An Artist" January 7, 2013

I started painting on canvas fourteen years ago at the age of ten. I was drawing and playing with Crayola watercolors long before that. Some of my first memories are of me sitting at the kitchen table scribbling away in coloring books with my mom. My dad worked his way through college and seminary as an illustrator for Sunday school curriculum. He is a talented artist in his own right and he taught me the principles of perspective and shading before I could even write my own name. I began private painting lessons when I was ten and continued to learn artistic skills on my own and in school. I even minored in art for the short period of time I was in college.

So it is safe to say that I have been artistic my whole life. I really can't say that I am a naturally brilliant artist. But I have always loved creating things and creativity was always highly encouraged in my family. My skills did not evolve over night. I have had so many people look at my work and say, "Wow, I could never do that. You are so talented!" I have to admit that that is one of the most frustrating things for me to hear as an artist. People may think they are giving me a compliment by saying such things, but really such a comment denies the amount of hard work and years of practice that went into the skills that I now have. I was not born with the ability to draw and paint. Just like I was not born with the ability to knit and sew. I was not born with the ability to ride horses or train dogs. I was not born with the ability to cook or even the ability to keep my house clean!

So many people view creative ability as this elusive lottery that some people win at birth while the rest of the world misses out. That is just not true! Yes, it is true that some people might have natural advantages over others for a particular creative skill, such as a keen sense of observation, great fine motor skills, a natural sense of rhythm, etc. But everyone is born with an imagination. Everyone is born with a creative nature. That creative nature may be expressed in different ways, such as music or dancing or interior design. But it is all based in that same raw creative potential.

Something everyone must keep in mind is that creativity is like a muscle. If it is not used and exercised it will atrophy and grow weak until it is apparently useless. Even an artist with the greatest natural talent will become rusty and regress in their skills if they do not exercise them. I am a testament to that!  There was a period of time from 2007 to 2011 where I did not touch a paintbrush and where I could count the number of complete sketches I did on one hand. Why did this happen? I got busy with life. I started a career as a horse trainer and found that I had no time for creativity. I thought I needed to focus all my time on my "real" job. At first this was by choice, but then after a while I couldn't draw anything even if I tried. Did I suddenly forget all the years of artistic training that I had? I may have forgot some techniques, but if that was truly the problem then it would have been easily remedied by reading a book or two. No, I had neglected my creative "muscles" and had chosen to believe a lie that my creativity wasn't worth expressing to the world. Once I started believing that lie I found it quite impossible to create anything at all.

Thankfully, such a state of atrophy can be remedied. In the fall of 2011 I went through a process of rediscovering my own creativity. I realized that I had greatly neglected my creative nature, an essential part of who I am. And I also recognized the lie that I was believing about my creativity. The interesting things about lies is that once you KNOW they are lies they actually can't deceive you anymore, unless you choose to let them. So I began to tell myself that my creativity was worth expressing and that what I create has value. The amazing thing is that as soon as I did this my artist blocks shattered! I was able to be creative again and right away I was producing drawings and paintings and even dabbled in techniques I had never tried before. There was a bit of an adjustment process where I had to re-acclimate myself to the many techniques I once knew (I am actually still in this process some). But there was a huge difference in how I viewed my own work and how I approached painting and drawing. When I realized that my creativity had value in of itself, apart from the finished product that came from it, my perfectionism began to melt away. Perfectionism had kept me from expressing creative freedom. Attention to detail is a gift, but perfectionism is a lie that says if you mess up and don't get things just right then whatever you create will be garbage. But that's a lie!

Before my four year artist block I was never really able to call myself an artist. I felt that in order to call myself an artist I needed to reach some standard of perfection. I was always striving towards that standard but could never quite reach it. But now because I value myself I openly call myself an artist and am experiencing creative freedom that I've never experienced before. Is my artwork like De Vinci or Van Gough? No, but it doesn't have to be. I am just as creative as De Vinci or Van Gough or Mozart  or J R R Tolkien or any other artistic person in the world because I was born with a creative nature. How I choose to exercise that nature is completely up to me.

Now, you may be thinking, "But I have NEVER used my creative muscles. Isn't it too late for me?" Not at all. You have probably been exercising the muscle in other ways and just didn't realize it. All arenas of life require creativity, and all arenas of life can be made better by increased creativity. Choose your arena and just start exercising. You were born to be creative. So just start creating. You are already amazing.

Miranda Joy

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