Guest Artist Series: Hogan Burleigh, The Ink-Stained Minstrel, "Finding Your Joy"
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an artist.
As a kid, I would fill notebooks with drawings. My favorite thing to do was to draw characters and then fill the pages with stories about their adventures. My parents always joked that all they had to do to entertain me was give me paper and some crayons, and I could be happy for hours upon hours.
And as I got older, my love to draw and write only grew. I would spend hours watching tutorials on sketching, and then I would spend days working on charcoal portraits. I wrote short stories and novels, and I even published my first book when I was eighteen.
Even so, it took me a really long time to truly discover just how much art was a part of who I am. Yes, I drew and wrote (and I even planned to publish more books in the future), but I still always pictured myself having a standard “job”.
I think most of that was because of the fact that I was always an A+ student. I grew up with everyone telling me that I would do so well in college and that I could be anything that I wanted. A doctor, a lawyer, any kind of “smart” career: those were the things that were always suggested to me.
But what about a writer? Or an artist?
For years, I always just figured I’d have to practice my passions on the side.
MAKING MY OWN PATH
It wasn’t until I started looking for colleges that I realized just how much I didn’t like the path that I had always taken for granted. All of my options seemed stale in comparison to the things I knew I really loved.
I had taken a photography class in eighth grade, and since then I’d been running my own small business in taking family and senior portraits. As I drew closer to graduation and began realizing that perhaps college wasn’t my only option, I made the decision to stick with photography. I began wholeheartedly throwing myself into growing my business.
After all, photography is like an art form. The capturing and editing process to me was so enjoyable and captivating! The people, on the other hand, were another story.
Don’t get me wrong. I had so many wonderful clients that I so enjoyed photographing and getting to know. I found that it was the people closest to me that were causing me to struggle and doubt myself. No one wanted to pay for their sessions or photos and, in the midst of my growing and striving to make my business flourish, I had close friends make comments about how I wasn’t photographer material because I was an introvert.
Crushed by the fact that my hard work was constantly foiled, I gave up.
I stopped booking sessions and advertising. In the back of my mind, I was panicking as I realized that maybe, just maybe, I had made a mistake in trying to make my own path in my artistic passions. Maybe I wasn’t as good as I had thought. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for having my own business.
But that wasn’t true. And it didn’t take me long to realize it.
IT WAS ALWAYS THERE
As always, I had continued to explore and grow in the art of drawing and writing. Somewhere in the midst of my photography foray, I delved into the art of calligraphy and hand-lettering. I found that it was something I immensely enjoyed, and I spent my spare time learning techniques and researching styles.
It was also around this time that I got engaged. Despite my lack of direction job-wise, I was the most joyful I had ever been in my life. Finding the love of my life had started making me find more of myself and, in truth, I was growing more and flourishing more than I had ever been. I used my own wedding planning as a way to do everything that I loved. I poured myself into the details of the décor by calligraphing my Save the Dates and invitations, and I lost myself in the happiness I found in creating all the signage and table numbers. It was like I had stepped into a whole new world; I had found a way to put part of myself into what I created. And, oh, did it feel good!
That was the year that I finally, truly found myself.
And that part of me had always been there; it’s just that I had always kind of kept her in the background. It wasn’t until I immersed myself in the things that brought me the biggest joy (calligraphing my own décor, sending out beautifully written envelopes, and painting to my heart’s content) that I really saw what I was meant to do.
It goes without saying that I decided then and there that, yes, it was okay for me to have my own business. I just needed the business itself to be in something that I had absolutely no room to doubt myself.
FOCUS ON YOUR JOY
When it comes to doing what you love, where are your doubts? Do you have others telling you where they think you should be or saying how they think you are inadequate? You should probably distance yourself from those people or at least stop listening to them. Know that you have these passions for a reason. God didn’t give you these talents and desires just so others could make you doubt yourself.
Ask yourself this question: Does this make me inexpressibly happy? If the answer is yes, then I think you’re in the right place.
Of course, starting your own art business isn’t all easy-peasy. It takes lots (and lots) of time and dedication. There are days where I still have to remind myself that it’s worth it. Sometimes I have to step back and just create. That’s where the joy is for me! I can spend hours and hours sketching and learning (just like when I was a kid!), and it’s this process that reminds me that art is where I am gifted.
It’s a gift I was given years ago, and yet it took me a really long time to realize its full potential.
Don’t doubt yourself like I did. Get out there. Do what you love.
Find your joy and keep it.