Today is my birthday, and this woman has given me the gift of her friendship. She is kind and generous, outspoken and true. She is funny and quirky, authentic and patient. As a writer in this bizarre world, it's comforting to know that there are others out there who understand what goes on inside my head.
I've said before that she has more talent in her pinky than I could squeeze out of my entire body, and I mean it. She is a writer, an artist, a mother, a friend. Her blog It's a Dome Life is one place that I can always count on for a bright spot in my day. She is, simply put, magnificent.
Ladies and gentleman, Lillian.
Art is cheaper than therapy. Trust me, I have done both. There is something about the creative process that sets you free from mind chatter. You know what I am talking about, right? That voice in your brain that won't be quiet. The one that likes to over-analyze and keep you up at night? Making art helps me shut that off. It's like meditation.
When I was a psychology student I studied Positive Psychology and I read about "flow" a term used to describe the state I am in when I am creating something. The term was coined by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. Don't even ask me to pronounce his name. I never could get it quite right. Flow is all about being so completely focused on your task that time seems to stand still. You don't think about anything else. You are living completely in the moment. It makes you really happy too. I think it gives your brain a break from worrying and thinking and obsessing. Afterwards you feel energized, awake, and at peace. It's the best thing that has ever happened to me. I wouldn't want to live without art.
Making art does even more for me. it gives me peace and makes me happy, but it also allows me to exercise my problem solving skills. Art is nothing but creating problems and solving them repeatedly. I've only taken up painting seriously in the past two and a half years. I try to paint every day and at the risk of sounding a little smug or even arrogant, I think it is making me smarter. I see the world differently than I used to. I see solutions more quickly. I also find I am more comfortable with change and flux and living with problems that really have no solution. I think maybe that is what feeling "at peace" is all about. You can be relaxed and calm in spite of all the chaos around you. It keeps you out of the cyclone everyone else seems to be spinning in.
I feel I need to explain this in order to explain my creative process. I am motivated on many levels to create art. I like to see the reactions people have when I paint something they enjoy looking at. I am not a big talker (which might surprise some people because I am pretty chatty on social media and I am pretty open on my blog) and art gives me a voice and a way to express myself that I might not have otherwise. I was very shy as a child. Art gave me a chance to shine. It also gave me time to collect my thoughts in school. Art teachers didn't expect you to answer questions or talk a lot during class. I found my art classes to be a refuge in a storm of social stimulation that my nervous system wasn't built to endure. It was a haven of solitude and quiet that I desperately needed and craved during the day.
Art also gives me confidence. It has helped me develop self-awareness and a much-needed identity. Becoming a stay at home mom was a struggle at first because I had to grapple with issues like who am I now? Art and writing helped me figure that out. I am a mother. I am an artist. I am a writer. I can say these things now because I believe them. I can say them with certainty because I live, eat, and breathe them. This is who I am. I have skills. I practice. I care about what I am doing.
When I approach a project I often have a goal, but I trust myself enough now to let things flow. Mistakes happen that often become strengths. Colors run together, lines are not perfect, compositions change and I go with it. Art is a process. It's an adventure. I may start out with a destination in mind, but arrive at a completely different place. I find this parallels so well with life in general that it is hard not to make comparisons. Five years ago I had plans to become a mental health counselor and was flirting with the idea of getting a PhD in psychology. I had no idea that I would have a daughter, start painting again and have a blog. No idea, but here I am and I am happy.
So, when I sit down to draw or paint or collage I often express gratitude. I am grateful that I have found a way to center my world. To fulfill my self-actualization. To become the person I was meant to be. I get to use the gifts I was born with. I get to nurture and practice those gifts every single day. There is nothing that could bring me greater joy. So, that is why I always say that making art is cheaper than therapy. That is why I say I wouldn't want to live without art. It makes me who I am.