Years ago, when I first became a coach, I wrote an article called Creativity: Why Bother? It outlined 12 ways creativity impacts our lives, even if you don’t become rich and famous from your creative labors. I loved that article and still do.
But recently I have gone through another real-time experience of why my creative passions matter.
You may know that in addition to being a writer, I am a watercolor artist and illustrator. Aside from a very profitable year with my art, I haven’t made a lot of money from it. My main income comes from Original Impulse, where mostly I help people who want to write.
Late last year, I realized that I had to focus more on work and less on my art. Meaning, I had to release my goals/expectations of making money from my art. While this felt right, it also felt like a loss.
I tried to reassure myself that I was still an artist and would still make art for fun. I love the play and power that comes from seeing something colorful appear on the page in front of me. It’s much different than writing.
But aside from some gift cards, I haven’t been in my art studio much this year. I was busy designing and launching the Original Impulse Atelier and The Devoted Writer. I got busy with coaching clients and other projects. My art studio and sketchbook began to gather dust.
Did ‘busy’ happen to you, too? I have been craving my art time.
What works for me is to get some structure around my art-making. When I heard that The 100 Day Project was coming around, I had to commit. Since April 3rd, I have been making patterns with watercolor and ink.
But before the pattern project started, something happened that reminded me that making my art isn’t optional.
I went to a Dr. Sketchy meet-up. These are gatherings with a live model. For anyone who has studied drawing, sketching from a live (usually nude) model is one of the basics of learning how to draw or paint. Dr. Sketchy claims to be the anti-art school, with models wearing often outrageous costumes. It had always sounded fun, so on Easter evening, I grabbed my sketchbook and headed out.
The model posed in a corset and lots of feathers in 5, 10 and 20 minute poses. It had been awhile since I had sketched, so to start loose I used watercolor instead of a pen. It was fun to make quick, colorful studies. For the ten minute poses I did my usual practice of drawing with a pen and adding watercolor.
After each round, the sketchers were asked to bring their pieces to the front for a friendly competition. The moderator and some art guy were the judges. The other dozen or so people were very talented and had clearly gone to art school, so I didn’t expect to win.
But at the second round, as I watched them assess the art, I saw them pointing at my sketchbook. Could they be choosing mine? The moderator reached down and picked up my sketchbook. She held it up and announced it the winner.
I was shocked. I got a goody bag of Easter candy and pencils. For the rest of the day, I rode a wave of joy and delight.
Now, what was the big deal? The adult in me knows that a competition like this isn’t a big deal. It’s not about winning and it’s certainly not about the candy.
But this little victory struck me very deeply, reaching the part of me that cares passionately about making art, not for money or for accolades, but because it’s just who I am. Making marks and applying color to the page evokes a deep, innate joy. When I make art, I am me. When I explore line and color, everything else disappears and I access a presence and clarity that I rarely get elsewhere. This is why I teach the class Drawing as Meditation.
Back in the day, when I was first showing people my sketchbooks, I was surprised at the response. I am always surprised when people like my art. Not that I think it’s bad; it’s just that when I am making for making sake, others’ opinions don’t really matter.
But when I won the Dr. Sketchy competition, I realized that some part of me had given up on the art. And that winning was a reminder, a validation, of who I am. Sometimes we need an outer nudge. Sometimes an external force can help remind us that even if no one ever approves of our writing or art, it’s worth doing anyway.
This creative impulse is embedded deeply within us, and no matter what we do or think about the results, our original impulse to create is never going to leave us.
I’m having fun honoring my creative impulse with the 100 pattern project. I’ve always been in love with pattern and this is the perfect way to explore it.