Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Size And Shape - Why I Make Art

The prompt for this week's Journal 52 (HERE) page was "create art for a cause", and asked 'Why do you make art?' or 'create a page for a cause you're passionate about'.

For most of my life, I was a person who didn't have any emotions...or at least a person who denied them to an extreme.  One day, seemingly out of nowhere, that changed for me.  Suddenly, I had all these emotions that were completely out of control.  For most people, you learn as a child how to keep a handle on your emotions...but I didn't have any practice doing that.  I had no idea how to stop myself from feeling certain ways.  I didn't know how to make them be quiet...to be in the back of my mind.  So when I had an extremely hard thing to deal with, the suicide of my very dear friend, I was pretty much at my wits end.  It was all I could think about.  It was all I could talk about.  It was the only thing that ever happened and nothing else mattered.  I couldn't function.  I couldn't live my life without feeling guilt and sadness to the point where I was really close to giving up.  It was as if they closed the casket on me the day he died.  And it was at this super desperate point that I found art.  I thought maybe it would just be a welcome distraction, but it turned out to be so so much more than that.

At first, I think I just wanted to make pretty pictures...to make things 'correctly'...so I practiced my fingers to the bone.  And then I practiced some more (and continue to practice...).  And I found out that I could stop my brain from spiraling, if only for the time I spent practicing...

And one day, it came to me...the phrase is 'art journal'...I was doing the art end, sure...but where was the journal part?  I was making pretty pictures, but they had very little meaning for me personally.  So I made it my goal to put myself in the page, so to speak.  I didn't want to make generic pretty pictures anymore.  I wanted to make my pictures.  Whether they were pretty or not, didn't matter as much...I wanted someone to be able to look at my pages and get an idea of who I was and how I felt.

The hard part about it was that I wasn't really sure who I was...and the things that I felt were so tightly bottled up in me that they mashed into one big, messy glob.  I couldn't control my feelings, and I had a really hard time separating one from another.  So, the only thing I could think of was to start with what I knew.  And I knew I was mourning the loss of my friend...it was the only thing I knew for sure...so I started with that.

Once I started to put my true feelings on the page, I found that they got out of my head...not just while I was creating the page, but afterwards too.  When I put them on the page, I could look at my thoughts, understand what they were and what was behind them...and I started to feel like they were real and valid...that my thoughts mattered, how I felt mattered.  Not only that, but I could see that this feeling was different from that feeling...they were not all connected together in an insurmountable mass.  And when I realized that, it was suddenly possible to change... to not be such a helpless mess!  I could look at what I'd done on the spread, understand what it meant and choose to work to make things different.

All that didn't happen overnight...but it did happen.

I've changed.  I'm not the same person I was when I first picked up that pencil to make art.  That girl was sad and scared and on the verge of insanity or worse.  She didn't know who she was and didn't think she was worth the knowledge.  Art made me aware of myself.  Not in an egotistical way, but in a way where I actually matter.  I learned that I have a heart and art showed me that my heart doesn't have to beat so loud that it drowns everything else out.  Art showed me that it's ok to 'wear your sorrow, but come morning, change your clothes'...in other words, feel what you feel but don't let yourself be consumed by it.  That's huge.

It's not only internal changes that have been happening for me.  This feeling of being in control has changed my interactions with other people too.  I saw that what I was putting out into the world was not the person I really was.  Making art helped me figure out who I am and that all those weird little random bits that make me who I am are totally ok.  I'd always felt like such a weirdo...that I couldn't be the real me, because no one would like me then.  Art made me realize that no one could really love me if I didn't let them know the real me.  Through the art, I've gotten to learn who I am, who I really am (because I honestly didn't know).  I find that people respond to me differently, because I am different now.  And, even better than that, I no longer worry myself sick over whether people like me or not...because I like me...and that's way more important than anyone else's opinion on the matter...

If you would have told me, when I first started making art, that all this would happen just because I picked up a pencil or a paintbrush or some water soluble crayons, I never would have believed you.  But it has! Every little mark I made on the page has moved me forward and I feel like...while I'm still moving forward, still learning and growing and changing...I'm finally at a place of some kind of normalcy and not so completely estranged from everyone and everything around me.  I finally feel connections: to myself, to my emotions and thoughts, and to other people as well.

For me, the reason behind why I create art makes art a cause that I am passionate about.  If you knew me before I started creating pages and spreads,  if you knew how much those little marks on the page changed me for the better, then you'd know that it could do the same for anyone.  It healed me more than any medicine I've ever heard of.  It gave me more knowledge of myself and other human beings than any doctor or philosopher ever could.  It connected me to the world around me better than any other meditative practice I've tried.  I could talk about it all day, everyday, to anyone who would listen.  It sounds melodramatic to say it, but art saved my life and gave me myself.  All that from some marks on a page...

"It's so much bigger than I thought and it just keeps growing."


  1. Love your page and your story of what Art means toyou.. It is ver beautiful and inspirational for the rest of us.. Thank you for sharing....

  2. Sweets, I love your page... and I love you! Hugs, Your Pamikins

  3. Sweet, I'm so proud and happy for you. I can see the differences in you very clearly. I'm so honored to have been along for the ride on your journey. I love this page. Those simple but lovely hearts really speak to me. I kept wanting to print this piece and someone incorporate it in my art as well... If I figure out how to do it, I'll email you for permission to use your work.

  4. I truly admire how self aware you are and that you can put your feelings into words so eloquently. You bring art to your words as well as your pencils & paints. Keep moving forwards, your light shines brighter with every step *hugs* Mo :o)

  5. So glad you gave art a twirl... YOU FOUND OUT WHO YOU ARE AND THAT YOU ARE AWESOME! Your talented and open and smart and funny and great with words and humor, and I'm so glad I know you!


I'd love to hear from you!