Follow Your Bliss – How to Reconnect with Your Art
If you’ve read my origin story, you’ll know that there is a large gap in my artistic journey. I started out as an artist – forgot myself – and then came back more centered and empowered than ever before. But when I decided to dive headfirst back into creating art, I realized very quickly that I had a problem – I was rusty.
I don’t mean rusty like I just needed a little practice time. I mean rusty as in, I sucked. Hard. My work was really, REALLY bad. I tried several different things. I started out sketching. Sketching is easy, right? It’s quick, gestural…doesn’t need to be precise. Sucked.
I tried painting – fail. I tried to do some found object assemblage. I used to really dig that sort of thing – fail. Years ago, the bulk of my work was digital fantasy art. I tried that again but it felt fake. Inauthentic.
I needed to generate something new, something challenging, something from a blank page that I could use an exercise to rebuild my skills. I needed to remember how to see. How to identify the subtle differences between colors, the interplay between shadow and light. I needed to paint a portrait.
The human face is an amazing thing. It is fluid and changing. It is the summation of all those little micro-movements, shapes & shadows that make up the essence of someone’s recognizable image. Then there’s that elusive light everyone has to varying degrees in their eyes. This light is the measure of their health, their happiness, the connection to their inner landscape. When you paint or draw a person’s portrait there is a magical moment during the process when the artist thinks, “Ah-ha! There you are!” (Or, at least I do, anyway.) It’s that moment when the work goes from just a drawing to something that actually reflects the essence of someone as a being. This is magic, and I love it.
When I was a kid, I taught myself to draw by copying the faces of people from magazines. I sketched endless portraits of myself with a mirror and a flashlight to create different effects. I taught myself anatomy from medical books and filled sketch books full of muscles and bone structure, hands and feet. I had a Purple Rain poster on the back of my bedroom door and I used to sit in my room behind it meticulously drawing Prince while listening the to that iconic album on repeat. This was the secret formula for me – immersing in two different art forms at the same time, in this case visual art and music.
Fast forward to 2016, destination: Rustville, CA, population: me. I dug my heels in and refused to give up. I knew that somewhere in there, that creative kid I used to be was just waiting, jumping up and down, excited to get out and play. I just needed to remember how to connect. Since this whole thing got kicked off with an epiphany inspired by another artist, I decided to go with what was working.
I sat down with my laptop and my headphones, and opened up a blank page in Photoshop. I did some research, found four different reference photos and put some inspiring music on Spotify. Three days straight, with only sleep in between, I combined aspects of each of those references into one cohesive painting. This was the first real art I’d created in ages. It was my very finest work, to date, and the experience of creating it became the foundation on which I build, as I continue to push into new creative territory.
The moral of the story? If you have lost your way, stop over thinking. You don’t need all the answers up front. You don’t need to plan out your future for the next 20 years. Create for the sheer joy of creating.
Simply follow your bliss and be open. Immerse yourself in the things that wake you up, get you feeling things. Find a way to tap into your joy. Get inspired! For me, those things are music, nature, acts of compassion, and being a witness to other artists following their bliss. Connect with yourself first. Be gentle and don’t judge your outputs – just allow yourself to flow. What you first create may in fact suck, but keep at it. Once you start producing, a theme will take shape and you’ll know where to go next. Your heart knows what you’re here to do. Trust it. You’ve got this.
I’m here if anyone out there is struggling – leave a comment or drop me a line! I’d be happy to help.