art therapy

dark blessing

“dark blessing”

I was visiting with a friend a few days ago when she said something that got me thinking. I had just given her a tour of my studio and she said, “You must be in heaven when you’re painting.” My reply surprised her.

Sometimes I am in heaven and everything flows and it’s easy. Other times I’m wrestling with feelings of frustration and self-doubt. Nothing is working. I feel like a fraud. Ugh. It’s a lot like therapy. I like the outcome most of the time but it can be a grueling process getting there.

I think a lot of people have romantic ideas about artists and art in general. They don’t believe me when I tell them that I’m struggling with a piece or that sometimes it’s hard work and I doubt my abilities. But it’s true. There are moments of sheer panic when I want to toss all my supplies out the window and give up.

But then there are those moments when something beautiful unfolds. I understand myself more completely. I feel at home in my body. I’m filled with gratitude and wonder. These are the moments that propel me forward through the dark times and the fear and anguish.

So, I’m curious: if you’re reading this and you’re an artist, is this true for you too? Or if you’re not an artist, what are the things in your life that challenge you this way? I know I’m not alone. There’s a principle of proportionality that seems to be universal. It goes something like this:

To the extent that something has the potential to bless you, it has an equal potential to cause you grief.

For you, it might be parenting or writing or exercise or your career. Whatever it is, I’d love to hear from you. It will make us all feel less crazy and alone and we might just emerge a little more whole in the end.

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Posted in art process
9 comments on “art therapy
  1. Tanya Poling says:

    I definitely feel this as an artist and am also very curious if folks feel this way in other places in their lives or careers. Ya know it’s kind of like parenting. Sometimes we are like “I so got this!” but then sometimes we just have to have faith we are doing it right.. either way I’m still a parent and have to keep moving forward in it, keep learning and growing just as I do in art I guess. Great post! Thank you for sharing!

    • Hi Tanya! Yes! And what gets me is, to the extent that we try to avoid pain or discomfort, we are missing out on so much growth and joy! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Sue McFadden says:

    Yes, yes Terri. It seems the more talented an artist is the highs and lows are more extreme. I have worked in the arts and crafts for many years. Highs and lows and everything else in between but I love the stretch and growth that happens in my being. So worth it all!

    • Hi Sue! So glad to have your company here!

      Isn’t it funny that our unrealistic expectations and harsh self-critiques tend to increase with our experience and skill level? It’s so hard to extend kindness to ourselves and just stay curious and open. I have to keep reminding myself over and over.

  3. Cindy Benko says:

    YES! Terri, you said it perfectly. This process is filled with every emotion. You have an idea…you’re excited…you start your painting, then you can’t breathe and you pace back and forth….you question yourself….why isn’t this working….ugh! Then you walk away and come back to it, new eyes, and with one brush stroke something magical happens, your heart is all a flutter…there it is! It somehow comes together. Even those times when it isn’t working, there’s something in us all that moves us to go – because there is that beautiful feeling in the end when it does work and we have all felt that before…..we know it’s there 🙂

  4. May says:

    I’m with you on “sometimes wanting to throw all my supplies out the window” ! Sometimes I feel like a “bipolar artist” i totally doubt everything I’m doing and think….this is rubbish! you can do better! Almost ashamed to show people , dabbling in the unknown ( for me anyway) playing with mixed media. I keep telling myself it’s okay to do this! Sigh… I love what you do and I want to find your confidence.🌸

    • Oh May I love your work too. Keep going! I think it’s so encouraging to see artists we admire wrestle with the very same demons the rest of us contend with. I’m taking a class from Misty Mawn and that has been so good for me. She’s so honest about what’s hard for her and as you watch her videos you see her going through all these different stages in a painting…changing things over and over and over again. That’s very freeing to me. If I don’t like where something is going I’m so much more at ease about the process. 🙂

  5. Exactly. As a writer I can sit and write for hours only to hit the “delete all” button at the end of the day. Other times all the right words come together and it turns out better than I had imagined. And on a rare occasion I feel like someone else is writing and I’m a bystander waiting to see how the story is going to end!

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