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Finding the courage to experiment

I’ve been reading Mati Rose McDonough’s Daring Adventures in Paint and it has totally inspired me to get some thicker acrylic tube paints and start playing on canvas. It’s something I’ve always yearned to do but for weird, crazy reasons always felt “I couldn’t.” When I first started painting, with my mentor, the amazing artist Anne Nye, it was on wood. And when I eventually began creating my own pieces, I was drawn to wood because that’s what I knew. I knew how the paint would spread across the surface, how it would blend and how long it would take to dry. I knew how many coats of a color I would need to cover the mistakes underneath ~ how purple and blue usually only needed 1 coat or 2, but yellow and orange needed at least 3, sometimes 4. And just like that, wood became my thing.

When I began, I was only making a few original pieces at a time, and there was an excitement to it all ~ seeing my sketches come to life and solving the puzzle of making a one-dimensional drawing into something tangible I could hold. But as my work sold more (which I was extremely happy about and thankful for), I began getting orders for the same pieces. I felt the need to make each piece as close to the original as possible, so people would know what they were getting. But the thing that brought me such joy was beginning to make me feel like a factory. And the part I ached for the most, the painting, seemed like such a small part of the whole process. I came to a point where the prep work involved in creating wood pieces ~ the cutting, sanding, dremeling, priming, drilling, etc. began to feel overwhelming. And even then, I felt tied to the wood. Without any formal art training, I was too scared to try something different.

Until one day my husband said, “People aren’t buying your work because it’s wood. They are drawn to the color and the message in your work.” And even though I was still scared to branch out, I knew he was right. If I hated what I was doing, why not just work a regular job somewhere and make way more money and probably get a 401K and a decent healthcare package? If I wasn’t following my heart on this art journey and feeling passionate about what I was doing, what was the point in making such huge sacrifices to do it?

And so I began painting with watercolors. And the words and images came rushing out of me, in a way I wasn’t expecting. And slowly, tentatively, I began squeezing my paintings into art shows between my wood art pieces. And people immediately responded to them. So much, that I brought almost solely watercolor paintings to my last show and had one of my best shows ever. And what’s crazier is that even with the proof in front of me, people connecting to my work and actual numbers showing my sales were higher, I was STILL AFRAID to let go of the wood, the thing that had sustained me in the art world for so long.

But reading Adventures in Paint, has truly inspired me. I don’t know how these paintings on canvas will turn out, and I’m not ready to abandon my watercolors or even the wood altogether, but I want to find a balance in it all that brings me joy. I want to keep experimenting and finding new ways to share my stories. If my art is coming from a place of truth and passion, it’s fueling me in new and creative ways, even if not every painting is a masterpiece. And telling my truth is the thing that has always connected me with other people. Not being afraid to be vulnerable and unsure, but just doing my best, putting my heart into everything and seeking truth no matter what form it takes. And a world filled with more passion and authenticity is definitely one I want to be a part of.

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