Do you remember the first time you picked up a pencil or crayon and made your first few marks? I don’t. I was very young and so I don’t recall the exact moment. But I do recall my first few tries at creation. I was clumsy, my work was kind of crazy, but I loved it! I thought it was the best thing ever and I couldn’t wait to show it off. I enjoyed making art regularly, so I improved, honed my talent and became quite good. Then life threw me curve ball and I gave up painting and art when I was 11 years old (Why? That’s another story. You can read about it here).
As an adult, many years later, I picked up my pencils and paints again with the help of some art and creativity classes at the local rec centre. Like when I was a kid, my first few attempts at art were clumsy. But unlike when I was young, there was judgement and expectation. There was fear. Instead of putting down confident, bold strokes like I did as a child, my hand was tentative and unsure. But because I was in class, I had the instructor to encourage and guide me to move on and continue despite the mess I put down on the paper or canvas. There was a safe space for me to make, and there was a set time each week to create.
With the help of positive instructors, after some time my anxiety and fear settled down a bit. The inner critic was not as dominant and I was able to ignore it longer. But mostly the expectation that I should be making good art right off the bat dissipated. And with that guidance and gentle persuasion, I was able to let go and concentrate on only what my hands were doing. And then there came a peace and joy.
Because of negative events I experienced as a kid, it was many years before I was able to practice art outside of that safe classroom space. It took many workshops via the rec centre, adult continuing education and other creative spaces to give me the courage to once more draw and paint on my own time, outside the classroom and without the instructor at my side. It took a long while, but to me, it was worth it because it helped me inject happiness into my daily life where for many years there was none. That effort allowed me to finally make art on my own and be confident despite what others might think of me and my work. But most importantly, I was able to stand up to the inner voice that told me bad things would happen if I put myself and my efforts out there for the world to see.
Today I am a visual artist — I guess you can say I got over my hangups (mostly). I’m able to create on my own time and work on projects I feel passionate about. You can say I got my mojo back because of some supportive teachers. In a funny twist of fate, I now also teach art classes. A couple of my beginner students have admitted to me that they do not paint or make art outside the classroom and were even apologetic for not being able to do so. And when I told them that it took me many years to create without a guide they were surprised. They also felt better that I not only understood, but also went through the same thing.
We all have insecurities and thoughts about not being deserving or being good enough. This is one of the main reasons why I teach — it is my wish to be able to provide others the same help that I was gifted has to help my students through whatever blocks they might have to move forward in their artistic goals. It brings me great pleasure to be able to encourage my own students as I was encouraged as an adult to be still, be quiet, set aside the time, and to indulge the call to create.
If you wish to heed that call but don’t know where to start, are afraid to start or are stuck in your work, it’s my firm belief that a good teacher, the right kind of mentor, a guide appropriate to help you where you currently are, is invaluable. And you may want to simply start looking for one at your neighbourhood art or rec centre!