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It was time for the session to begin.
I smoothed out the plastic orange table cloth that would protect my dining room table, and I organized the tubes of paint, the pencil crayons, and the brushes.
I had all the supplies ready to go. However, I was not sure if I was ready. I had registered for a three-hour “playshop” that would focus on creating art using paints and mixed media items.
I do not consider myself an artist. I have become comfortable with describing myself as creative in the arena of writing a book and making cards using my nature photographs. It’s a different thing entirely to imagine myself painting and drawing. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that the feelings of nervousness are often the same in my body as excitement and anticipation.
As we began the virtual session, I started to relax. I was not alone in being a novice at this type of art. Other women admitted their lack of experience and skill in these areas. I took a deep breath and watched what to do.
Then something happened.
My inner critic got really loud. As the facilitator showed us some samples of finished pieces, I was overwhelmed. How could I ever make something like that? Who did I think I was to think I could participate in this type of artistic endeavour?
I didn’t know where to begin. I was stuck, paralyzed, and intimidated. All of my creative energy left and flew out the front door along with my cat who I had just let out into the front yard. I sat there staring at the screen, wondering if I could leave without anyone noticing.
Intuitively, I knew I had a choice to make. Would I ask for help or would I leave? I took a deep breath, and swallowed my pride. I asked for help.
I spoke up and asked to share my experience in the moment. I described my insecurity and told the others about my inner critic’s judgmental voice. By the nods and smiles, I could see that I was not alone. The leader thanked me for my honesty and suggested I take a moment to look at the array of supplies in front of me. What caught my eye? What colours beckoned to me? Could I choose just one item and get started?
As I squeezed out the tube of Prussian Blue and dipped my brush into the paint, I thought of my grandchildren. Could I channel their playful, messy energy? They love to paint and draw and have no qualms about “getting it right.” I decided to play with my paints as if I were a little girl again.
The conversation was rich and stimulating as we all started our projects. The question was asked: does the way I show up here mirror the way in which I show up in my life? What would it look like to pay attention to the process, rather than just focus on the finished product? What if there was nothing to fix? Imagine if this session was not a competition, rather a collaborative time of creating and support for each other. What keeps me from being creative in other areas of my life?
Here is what I am learning about myself as I play with paint.
1. I struggle with change in my life. I get resistant to new ways of doing things. Just as I felt stuck before starting an art project, I hesitate to learn a new skill for fear of not getting it right. I am realizing that trying a new skill or way of doing things may lead to increased satisfaction in my life. I am reminded that perfection is not the goal I want to focus on. The other question I am now aware of is: who gets to decide if something is “right” or not? Perhaps that is up to me!
2. In making art, I learned that there was no right or wrong way to create. I was engaged in this activity to have fun, and the way to do that was to enjoy the process. My tendency is to focus on the finished product, and often, I am dissatisfied with the result.
3. I like to have a plan with an outline that ensures I will be successful. I struggle with uncertainty. Starting a mixed media art project using tools that were unfamiliar to me caused me to feel anxious, inept, and clumsy. Could I see the process as playful, an experiment that might lead to surprises and fun? What if I could measure success by how much fun I was having?
4. There are beliefs I have about myself that limit my creativity. I want to be in control. Not easily done when my paints spill across the page, or the colours mix differently than I had envisioned. I am learning that “mistakes” are not always really mistakes. The idea that there is nothing to fix is a revolutionary thought for me. Letting go of being in control while creating an art piece is a reminder for me in other areas of my life.
5. I become an invitation for others to enjoy life as I share my artistic journey. I had a “play date” this week with my grandchildren and we painted, pasted, and laughed together. They love Grandma’s way of making art! They even continued projects on their own with friends. I was able to “play like a little girl” and I can see how accessing this energy is a gift to me, as well as others in my life.
6. When I take the time to create art from a place of ease and flow, I stop worrying and I am lighthearted and calm emotionally. The heaviness of the latest news items is lifted and I experience joy. I am encouraged to care for others without carrying their burdens as a result of taking time to rejuvenate myself.
I am surprised at the impact of this art session on me. I did not expect that the act of painting and creating a collage with words and pictures would be so life-changing. I have received many gifts as a result and I am celebrating my courage to learn something new.
I am curious about what is next. I want to continue to apply these lessons to my life, and grow in my ability to take risks, try new things, and not worry so much about “getting it right.”
If you are interested in learning more about how play brings thriving to life, check out my friend’s details. Tanis Frame, who calls herself a Play Evangelist, hosted the art playshop that had such a positive impact on me. Be prepared to have fun as you check out her offerings!