Secret Ambitions

I have shared a little bit before about having been diagnosed with a progressive inflammatory disease that causes internal bleeding, and that I was able to have a life-changing operation last summer that has resulted in my going into remission. After years of feeling ill and dealing with constant, excruciating pain, I found myself at the beginning of 2021 looking at a completely different future. I was still six months out from remission, but realized that things were going to be very different.

I originally leaned into making art because I was sick. If I am no longer sick, what does my art mean to me?

I have been focused on this question for months, now. My main motivation for making art has gone so I have needed to reevaluate and reexamine. What should my priorities be, what should I be pursuing, what do I want to do with a body that works?

It’s a lot to process and I do not want to rush it.

In tandem with my reflections, I have been taking some classes to help broaden my horizons. I’ve studied color theory, observation, and, most recently, creativity. I am about half-way through a 12-week course on creativity right now that has been exactly what I needed. It’s asking me all of the right questions.

I’m working through a book you may have heard of: “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. When I finish the book, it will definitely need its own blog post.

“The Artist’s Way” is designed to help dissolve creative block and to revisit parts of yourself that you have shut away.

Throughout this process, something that has come up a lot in my self-reflection is painting. I have very romantic notions of painting, but I’ve never felt I had good or consistent results with it.

Mainly, I’ve tried watercolors because they’re on the cheaper end and because they are portable. However, recently a funny thing happened. If you follow me on Instagram and watch my stories, you’ll know I entered an art supply giveaway on Instagram and through a randomized selection, my name was drawn! Among other things, I won a set of nice paintbrushes and a set of gouache (rhymes with “squash”) paints.

I painted some with the gouache and was pleasantly surprised with my results, having never used the medium before. My husband (who knows all about my secret interest in painting) was so excited for me that he went out and surprised me with a bunch of canvases and a different type of paint: acrylics.

I had never used acrylics, either, until about last week. Playing around with them, I made some of the most fun (and also worst!) paintings of my life. I had no idea what to expect when working with them, and it has been an interesting experience! They’re very different from gouache, which is more similar to watercolor.

I decided to do a quick study of portrait painting. Reading some articles online and watching a couple of videos, I learned words like “underpainting” and also that I needed some more art supplies (any excuse will do). I went out and bought myself a glass palette and my very first palette knife – a dream tool I had never worked with.

Over last weekend, I worked on this painting I’ve shown in stages on this post. It’s a portrait of my husband, Stephen, using the paints and canvas he bought for me. It’s my first real attempt at painting a portrait, and I think it turned out pretty well!

I have had so much fun learning this stuff. The experience has reminded me of a quote attributed to Van Gogh: “If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”

Maybe I can be a painter after all.

What secret artsy interest are you holding out on?

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