Creating art and spiritual growth dovetail beautifully into a process of self-exploration, creating an ‘in-between’ space to discover one’s true self
Being an artist hasn’t come naturally for me.
As a matter of fact, becoming an artist has often been a painful process of shedding, breaking apart and deep soul-searching. So many times I’ve been emotionally chewed up and spit out because I tried to apply old paradigms of competition, self-criticism, and expectations of success that haven’t materialized. My garage is filled with old work, canvases stacked like tombstones that are visual diaries of my past. I’ve never poured my heart and soul into something so close to the bone — my bones — and experienced so much rejection — but here’s where it gets really good.
On the worst days, I’ve been forced to get to the heart of things and answer this fundamental question: Why do I make art? If so few see it, and even fewer buy it, why bother?
I’ve slowly come to see that art is my teacher…
With brutal love, she exposes the most vulnerable parts of my personality so that I can get over myself. It’s been an uncomfortable process, but I see now that making art is setting me free.
I didn’t fully commit to becoming an artist until 2008 when at 37-years-old, I was accepted into art school in London. By this point, I had worked a few years in corporate America, I was married with three children, and had lived in three countries outside the U.S. Moving constantly for 15 years had given my brain a sort of ‘cultural scrambling’ and my worldview had already started to shift.
Starting art school ignited a period of intense growth in my life. Living in another country with a deceptively different culture, having no history with anyone, and being twice the age of most of my fellow students created the perfect concoction of insecurity that left me open to really examine my life and my choices. I began to carve out an ‘in-between’ space for myself, a conceptual void where I could get a little distance and perspective from the character of ‘Christie’. I began to see that my personality was the composite of a lifetime of choices based on an inherited cultural identity. The question emerged, “Who am I, really?” My quest had begun.
That first year, I made crazy work. I sewed a coat of fluffy blue dyed tampons. I drew giant bugs on the wall with black ooze coming out of the ventilation grate. Some of my drawings looked dark and sinister. Looking back now, I see I just wanted to break free of the mental constraints I had created. I had to subvert some of the concrete ideas I had of myself in order to break through self-imposed limitations. My fear of failing, criticism, and exclusion were at the top of the list.
In essence, I began to reprogram my thoughts by changing my ideas about myself. It’s a process that is ongoing. By loosening the grip of a ‘fixed’ personality and choosing instead to remain more fluid, the disappointments don’t have the same sting and the accomplishments aren’t as distractingly intoxicating. There is a middle path that seeks a balance from the extremes, and from this place, the conditions are much better to allow for a natural flow of ideas and creativity.
As I continue to learn to relax the vice grip of judgment and criticism, I see that making art and spiritual growth have dovetailed beautifully into a process of self-exploration. The newfound freedom I’m experiencing doesn’t just apply to artists and free spirit types.
Living in a state of relaxed contentment is available to all of us who are willing to surrender perceptions that are simply not serving our wellbeing.
3 Perception Adjustments
Here are a few areas that I found within myself that needed a perception adjustment. Maybe you can relate to them as well:
1. Stop glorifying the Type A personality
That begins within ourselves, but also in what we teach our children about how to define success. Type A people have a reputation for getting things done and being top earners in our culture. While that may be true, most people I meet that describe themselves as Type A tend to be highly critical, stressed out, and go to great lengths to gain and keep control. Most don’t sleep well and suffer stress-related health problems. Instead, trust the Universe to meet your needs, and look to those who have attained work-health-spiritual balance as role models.
2. Practice loosening the fixed personality
For one week, let go of one aspect of yourself that you strongly identify with. Any habit that you put on autopilot is up for grabs, especially the things you “have to do” but don’t really want to do. You are not the things you do! You are so much more.
3. Find some way to express yourself
This is so important! If you love to dance, but going to a dance club is a thing of the past, put on music in the comfort of your living room and cut loose! If you spend most of your days head down in your office at the computer, go to a craft store and make a simple project with your hands. Sing in the car on your way home from work — really loud!
We are all creative beings here on this planet with such a short time to express ourselves. Your spirit is begging for it!
View the Gallery — click on any thumbnail to enlarge:
Christine is the founder of Arts Evolution, which was created from a desire to help integrate the arts into the community, both through public projects and service to others. Arts and culture are the heart and soul of society, reminding us of the beauty and depth of the human spirit. Arts Evolution aims to nurture creativity and help others find their voice through workshops, group projects, and commissioned artwork.
You may also enjoy reading Body of Art: A Celebration of Life In Motion by Cristen Barker and Kimberley Hise