You need to take up some space, part 2.
Last time on the blog we talked about that strangely on point message a coworker left me. "You need to take up some space." I felt uncomfortable with the message because I had been noticed and judged, and this person had come to some conclusion about me that I did not understand.
But now, looking back, I see that the message was almost like some sort of prophecy. 2017 was a year in which I learned how to take up space.
You need to take up some space, part 2.
This year began with heart break. Well, I did get married in December of 2016 so there was a lot of love there, but I experienced heart break in a different way. You can read the full account here, but in summary I received an email that called me a fraud. It told me that I had ripped off two other artists, one of which was my unofficial mentor.
Well, I thought of this person as a mentor. We had video chatted, she had given me lots of advice about growing my skills and my business, and I adored every single thing she put out into the world - whether it was a new painting, a quote, a selfie, honestly she could do no wrong in my book. I realize that she probably had a completely different view of things, but she was really important to me as a new artist.
The email was hurtful, but that wasn't the source of heart break.
The heart break came when I approached my unofficial mentor about the email and expressed to her my horror at the thought that anyone could think that I was ripping her off. And she blocked me.
She. Blocked. Me.
I felt heart break then, because I was silenced. But even then I remember thinking to myself, "You're not a follower anymore. You have to become a leader."
My work at this time was directionless. I enjoyed bright colors, so I tried to pack as many of those as possible into one painting. However, there was a strangled perfectionism at play that didn't allow my art to breathe. I considered every single brush stroke, questioned it relentless, was reluctant to make mistakes. I would sit and watch the paint dry, studying my pieces, anger boiling inside at my inability to translate what was in my head onto the canvas. I did not see the beauty in my work - I only saw the flaws.
And now, after that email, I looked at my work with a new loathing. How could I possible lead when I was stumbling in the dark?
Then, more heart break. My grandmother died in May, and those of you who have followed my journey are no stranger to the impact she had on my life as an artist.
Another void had been opened up inside of me, with space that I didn't know how to fill.
The thing that really started breaking through all of this depression, doubt, and self-loathing was my residency in Mexico. I wrote a five-part blog about the journey, but what Mexico meant to me was freedom. Freedom from the impossibly high expectations I had set for myself, and freedom from the judgement of my peers. Freedom to just create, and the freedom to start taking up some space in this world - especially to fill the void left by my grandmother's death and my mentor's ghosting.
I learned to trust myself, and that is still a mantra that plays in my head when I stare at a blank canvas with all of that fear and loathing building back up. "Just trust yourself."
This mantra came to me especially during my road trip across the US with my husband. You can read more about that trip here, but one of the most significant things I learned from the trip is that at the end of the day, I am the only thing I can truly count on. If I didn't have faith in myself, who would? So I leaned more into the permission to fill that void others had left with none other but myself. As an artist, we have to bravely face ourselves at the beginning and end of each day, seeing ourselves reflected in the work, the flaws, the perfection, the discomfort, the uncertainty.
When creating my latest pieces, I was inspired by color and by the geology I've seen on my road trip around the United States. From Chicago to Seattle, down to San Francisco and then through Utah, I've seen many indescribable displays of beauty in landscape. Mountains, forests, storms, fog, just to name a few. Geology is concrete, grounded, and tangible. It feels like the opposite of color - for color walks, speaks, moves, and breathes. Color is a wild animal that I cannot hope to ever fully understand, just as I cannot hope to really feel the earth's crust moving beneath my feet. Seeing the two come together, like the way the mountains go purple in Utah at sunset, has taught me to see the world differently, and to never stop chasing the sublime.
I saw that there was a lot of space in this world, and that I need to take up some of it.
Stay tuned for the next blog post in which I talk more specifically about how these changes are reflected in my artwork!