Making Time for the Things That Make Me “Me”
I haven’t decided to cut off one of my ears or anything, but I’ve recently taken up painting again. At first, it was an attempt to fill the hours left empty by the absence of my husband (who’s currently residing in another city). I used to consider myself an artist; it’s what I wanted to do with my life. Eventually, I capitulated to my mother’s cautionary reminders (“Have you ever wondered where the term ‘starving artist’ comes from?”), trading art school for an English degree.
As my life got busier with school and work, one by one I begrudgingly gave up drawing, photography, dance, and music; or rather, I swapped them for writing. More than a decade has passed since I forfeit one art form for another, and I was satisfied by writing for much of that time period. There have been moments, however, when I feel a distinct sense of loss, like I have relinquished an important part of me.
So when my job, and my husband’s search for a job, led us to live in separate cities, I suddenly had time on my hands that had typically been spent conversing with my husband, watching TV, or cooking. Without my husband and without a TV, I was forced to become reacquainted with myself. What did I used to do pre-husband? I drew a blank. Then I started drawing pictures…
I started painting, too. The process of blending colors together and finding colors that actually worked together can be described as exploratory at best. And the nub at the end of my calligraphy pen felt foreign, like I was touching someone else’s tools. Yet, it all felt familiar, as if I were revisiting dead relatives in a dream. But unlike my dead relatives who vanish when I open my eyes, my ability to create art becomes more solid the longer I work at it.
I need many more hundreds of hours of painting and drawing to regain what I’d placed on a shelf so many years ago, but I’m okay with this. I’m enjoying my reunion with this lost part of myself, and sometimes it’s nice to express myself without words.
These paintings aren’t exactly an expression of my innermost thoughts, but they are a good exercise for practicing different techniques. One big difference between my artistic abilities ten years ago and today is that this time around I’m having difficulties gripping my calligraphy pen for long periods of time when I do a pen & ink drawing. Straight, firm lines come out a little squiggly and uneven, and an uncompleted picture is waiting for me to finish it. Watercolor, on the other hand, is much more forgiving; a loose grip and a light touch are all that are needed. The most important lesson I’m learning is that I can find the time to do the things I love (sorry, TV), and I need to do the things I love in order to feel like I’m being the truest version of myself.