As I manoeuver my way through the clutter of my life, walking carefully past the canvases stacked in the hallway, past the shelves filled with art materials, and around the paint trolley and boxes of ‘useful’ objects spilling out from the corners of a room that is desperately trying to function as a kitchen, I sigh deeply and ask myself, “Why did I have to be an artist?”
I feel very sorry for my longsuffering family, who often don’t know whether they’re living in a home or a studio! Am I letting them down by not having a ‘real’ job that requires less space and brings in a more steady and reliable income? On the positive side though, I’m a much happier person to live with when I’m creating art, even if it does mean dinner isn’t always on time because I’ve been lured into taking a hundred photos of something that has unexpectedly inspired me.
What is this compulsion to create art?
It feels as though I have no choice in the matter – as though I’m suffering with symptoms of an inherent condition that pervades every fibre of my being!
Even as a baby I was drawn to the patterns on the lino and fabrics. I recall an early experience that fed this artistic impulse. I was four years old, with my mother visiting Mrs. O’Mara, an elderly former neighbour. I was eagerly waiting for Mrs. O’Mara to lead us into the back room to show us where she created her artworks. Whenever we had received one of her hand-painted cards in the mail, I would study it intensely and marvel at how she was able to capture something from the world and put it on paper using pencil and paint. I was filled with awe and amazement – it was like holding a rare and precious treasure and I could feel the love and care that went into the making of each one. Thus, I could hardly contain the excitement that was building with the anticipation of entering into this mysterious place where such beautiful and amazing things were created!
After drinking in the experience of being in her studio, I declared boldly, “I’m going to be an artist!” I wish I still had that same degree of boldness and confidence – self-doubt creeps in quite often and it’s very difficult to declare oneself an artist while at the same time trying to hide away from the world! However, I have taken every opportunity since to create my own experiences of this sacred creative space, which is not just a physical space, but also a psychological, emotional and spiritual space.
Every time I see something that grabs my attention and fills me with awe and appreciation for the amazing world we live in, art becomes an attempt to express a feeling that can’t be spoken.
When dealing with trauma, art becomes therapy, again expressing what can’t be spoken, or that which has been suppressed.
As a very shy and introvert person, art has served me well as a tool for self-expression. I feel more alive and connected with life and people when I create art. I feel more complete. The creative process acts like a bridge between my conscious self, my subconscious and my spirit, revealing the dark and light tones of the soul (a little confronting sometimes!). Each artwork is like digging for buried treasures, not always knowing what will emerge.
I think if I had to sum up why I am an artist – it is my way of acknowledging the spark of God that exists in all creation and life.
No matter how much the responsibilities of daily life encroach on the time available for engaging with the artistic process, or how loudly the voice of doubt, fear and frustration speaks, the creative fire never dies. It may be left smouldering for a while, but the slightest breeze of inspiration fans the embers until they ignite once more into flames of creativity, reminding me, I am an artist.