Why Can't I just Draw Already?!

I’ve been hearing a lot about finding ways to bring creativity into your daily life lately, and I have to say that its really resonating with me. I have always found making art a daily practice to be a struggle. I have gone through periods where I would produce like mad, because I was in a class, and then as soon as the class was over, so was my drive and inspiration. Life just always seemed to take over. I found this cycle so incredibly frustrating and demoralizing. I bought into the myth that “real” artists are driven to create and that they are unable to “not create” and I let that convince me that I probably wasn’t meant to be a “real” artist…whatever that is. 

And when I look at the reasons why I would move creativity back on the priorities list, I can’t really say that I was wrong. I have kids, and they matter. Not that parents who make art don’t prioritize their kids, but I sure struggled with how that looked. I’ve seen artists who are so inspiring in how they carve out that time for themselves and get it done, but I couldn’t seem to do it.

Besides my kids, another obstacle was that I had undiagnosed bipolar II, so often I would be in a manic phase and over-extend myself and then hit the depression wall and drop everything. This cycle happened over and over for me and I had no idea that it was all related to the funky chemistry in my brain. 

And then there was the whole thing that what I tried to draw and paint just didn’t turn out the way I was hoping. My skills didn’t yet match my dreams and I found that fact so incredibly frustrating that I forgot to focus more on the progress I was making, rather than how far I still had to go. All of the upbeat positivity about just enjoying the journey was lost on me. I wanted to be fully developed right from the start, or else I just wasn’t good enough. 

But ten short months ago something changed for me. Well, really, it was a year and a half prior to then. A little over two years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar II and was placed on medication for it. It took some trials and adjusting to get the mix just right, but it has truly changed my life. I had no idea that those head-spinning, whiplash inducing, mood swings weren’t just a part of my everyday life. Once I got that stabilized, I was finally able to gain some traction in other areas of my life that had always been chaotic. 

And ten months ago, I was offered the gift of an opportunity that was too good to pass up. Through an association and friendship formed over the love of dogs, and in particular, pitbulls, I was offered the chance to be a vendor at the annual San Diego Pitties in the Park event that is put on by the San Diego Pittie Parents. The vendor fee was so reasonable, that I just couldn’t say no. So, I didn’t. I said yes, but I hadn’t actually drawn anything for about three years. I had nothing to sell! So I started to draw, every day, and every chance I had. I was feverish and driven in my goal to get some halfway decent examples of my work that were appropriate to display at this event in the hopes that I would get a commission to do a pet portrait for someone.

By the time that the event came, I had several pieces that I was really proud of and I was so happy with how my booth looked. I had done the work and made my goal and I hadn’t gotten side-tracked by any major mood swings! Yay me! And I did not get one single commission or sale off of that event. I even offered two gift certificates for a free pet portrait and wasn’t contacted by either winner! I could have walked away from that event so discouraged and disappointed and have felt like an utter failure, but for some reason, I didn’t. I just kept going. 

I have drawn or painted or done something to grow my art business just about every single day since. My skills are starting to match what I want to do in my head, and my head is off and running to imagine bigger and better. I have participated in two other events, and I did sell commissions and prints at those. I have built a business where I teach other people how to paint their own pets and to have fun doing it. I have discovered that I love both the time at my easel where I feed my soul and build my skills, and the time in front of a group teaching them what I have learned and helping them to do it too. These things make my heart happy and my brain quiet. 

Now, when I look back, I realize that so many of those times when I just couldn’t bring myself to even try to do something creative, I was actually in a depressive episode. When I am in balance with myself, art is something that keeps me grounded and happy and its not drudgery in cement boots to do it. Now I can see that even if I’m not good at it, I just have to keep trying and I will eventually be good. So every bad drawing, every bad painting, was a step on the path. I want to keep walking forward so that I can keep growing. Even now, when I think back to the 16 year old me, I know if I had seen some of the work I’m doing now, I would have been blown away. I can’t wait to see where I end up and I hope that some of you will join me and walk with me. I would love to hear about how you have found ways to carve out time for creativity in your life and what obstacles you have struggled, or still struggle with, to overcome.