It’s not something I am really proud of admitting, but I’m a recovering perfectionist and people pleaser. When it comes to the creative process, those two qualities can kill my creative dreams. A dream can’t survive if you are constantly second guessing yourself, trying to edit your writing even before your story is complete, or getting easily frustrated with your early works of art.
1) Creativity is a process.
If you want to be an artist, you must take action and make art. (Even if it means you are will be making some pretty ugly art for a while.) This painting (above) was made back in 2009. No matter what I did. I left feeling very clumsy and frustrated about this piece. I tried painting over it. I tried adding more things. This painting just never got me to the place I was planning and hoping for, and I shoved it in storage.
Back in 2009, I still had a lot to learn about creativity. My idea of the creative process was very different. I was being paid to create things in my day job as an event planner: write marketing emails, manage designers for t-shirt logos and invitations, and meet print deadlines. This version of creativity had to have relevance and direct to finite results (attendance, money, and budgets). This search for relevance did not sit well in my art studio back then. I didn’t give myself the opportunity to mess things up very often, and I put an unreasonable amount of pressure on myself to produce “relevant” art.
2) Creativity is a discipline.
Through attending art school and reading “The Artist’s Way,” I’ve become more open to what creativity means in my life. The biggest thing has been developing a discipline and creating art regardless of life circumstances- time, resources, and personal situations. As the years pass by, I started tinkering around and working more in sketchbooks and playing around with various types of mixed media approaches. I liked working in smaller formats like art journals because it was manageable and easy for me to continue creating no matter where I was in the world. A 30 x 40 inch canvas is a whole lot more intimidating than an 8 x 10 inch art journal.
3) Creativity can be recovered.
Two weeks ago, I learned about the Japanese art of kintsugi. It’s an ancient art of repairing broken pieces of pottery and melding them with a golden lacquer. Instead of tossing these broken pieces aside, kintsugi celebrates the beauty in brokenness. It’s about recognizing the history of the piece and incorporating the cracks into the new piece instead of disguising the brokenness.
In the magical way, synchronicity typically works. The same day I learned about kintsugi, I was encouraged to bring a piece of art to a party. The theme of the show was sharing creativity. It was enough for me to be encouraged to reclaim and rediscover my relationship with painting.
I took the old painting I had in hiding for years out of storage, and I committed to repairing and reclaiming it into a new piece. My inner critic could have easily reared its ugly head, but I decided to employ kintsugi this time. It takes a lot of balls to do things that make us uncomfortable and to learn how to awkwardly slog through doing new things. I acknowledge this old attempt on my creativity and the faith I had in me to see this idea out. I should never compare my early works to the finished works of other artists who have spent more time developing their art. I should also realize that sometimes we are gonna suck at something before we can truly shine.
4) Creativity can shift.
For the longest time last year, my artistic style was contained and restricted. My art typically looked like this above photo. I liked the minimalism, the utilization of just one page in my journal and the simplicity of using only black ink. Living in Guatemala was the opposite of this piece of art. My life abroad was all over the place: new language, new culture, new community, and new challenges. Things that were once easy like grocery store shopping or trying to find a new pair of running shoes would day hours for me to get done.
Looking back, I think I needed a place for me to have some focus, control and simplicity. I could develop the discipline of repeated shapes and patterns, and it created a lot of ease and flow for me almost in the same way a meditation or yoga practice can provide me. I know what to expect. I have control over the pattern, and I have control over the way it turns out. My art was my one true place where I could have some peace in a world that was always shifting and changing on me through frustrations, disappointment and probably times of loneliness.
5) Creativity can be seen in the beauty of brokenness.
And so here I am back home in the States. I want to stop looking at this old painting as if it is a failure that needs to be hidden away from everyone. It was time to employ some kintsugi and revitalize my creativity. I decided to find some old journal writings specifically during a time I was experiencing some brokenness, frustrations, and disappointment. I really liked this one statement I scribbled above: “I don’t let my past heartaches punish my possibility of today.”
I created an overlay of shimmery and brilliant gold acrylic over my original painting and weaved in this page from my journal. I really enjoyed creating a weblike pattern of intricate lines and curves across the painting. Bringing the piece out into the light gave me an opportunity to make peace with my old attempt and leap of faith in my creativity. It’s good for me to reflect back over past mistakes not in an obsessive way, but in a way that sees the truth in an unsweetened or harsh way.
This kintsugi method gives me an opportunity to continually be comfortable with my often brave and awkward f*ck-ups in life. If I always waited for the perfect moment to do something courageous, I’d never go anywhere or take action in anything. Not just in my creativity, but in life- where are those places we should uncover from our past? What can be restored and recovered? What in our history can we begin to recognize the bravery and boldness?