Anyone who has spent time with me recently may have noticed a few errant flecks of color under my fingernails, or a smudge of dried paint on my sleeve. This is par for the course now that I have added "painter" and "artist" to the list of things I love to be!
I paint nearly every day lately. I have a place in my house that I have designated my "studio area," near a window with a comfortable chair and all of my supplies arranged so that I can get right to work on my next piece. In my own evolving style of swirling dots and dabs, I have painted canvases, wood, sneakers, jackets, jeans, boots, and personal gifts for many of my friends and family. I've even been approached to turn it into a side business and create a line of painted wearables! It's been a very fulfilling, very surprising experience that I wasn't necessarily expecting when I first picked up the paintbrush two summers ago.
If you knew me when I was young, you might say that this is a dream come true for me - one that I gave up a long time ago. I had always been creative and enjoyed making art as a kid. When I got to college, I took an art class during my freshman year and discovered how much better everyone else was than me. There were people in that class who were already so advanced in their skills and styles, I felt like I couldn't keep up. I was okay with it. I hadn't put in the time to get good. My thinking then was, there are people who are incredibly talented at this, and I'm not. It was heartbreaking, but honest. I accepted it and determined that I had other talents and strengths I could develop into something great.
Twenty years later, I revisited this dream, almost by accident.
At a dinner party, a question was passed around the table that really got me thinking. "If you had six weeks to learn anything, what would it be? And you would do it everyday for eight hours a day." The answers varied: horseback riding, playing guitar, taking a course in cultural anthropology, singing, golf, etc. My answer was, of course, painting. Not one to shy away from a challenge, I searched my head for any fears or excuses that might hold me back, and of course found a few (everybody has them!) What if I'm really lousy at it? With three kids and a company to run, where will I find the time to practice? And where do I even begin?
These fears were easy to quell once I dissected them a little further.
Most people are lousy when they first learn how to do something. I wouldn't be a bad painter forever, and I'd have my whole life to improve. Even though I have a busy family and work schedule, I knew there was room in my schedule for painting. I just had to put it on the calendar. Being busy isn't a great excuse for neglecting things that would make you truly happy. So, I made the plan, I set the date, and I went out and purchased the supplies I would need - acrylic paints, brushes and canvases in a few different sizes. To hold me accountable to my dream, I enlisted my very talented friend and artist Linda Colletta, who allowed me to paint with her in her studio every Saturday morning for the rest of the summer.
With practice, patience, and lots of paint, I watched this dream come true.
Almost immediately, I fell back in love with painting. It's so relaxing and meditative and FUN. It was an exciting challenge to figure out which brush worked best for what I wanted to do. I tried different techniques and mediums as I improved my own style. My kids often joined me and we painted together. Many thoughtful, intimate conversations ensued. I gave my paintings as gifts and received commissions for more. A pair of boots I painted for my sister got rave reviews, and the requests for hand-painted items came rolling in. I started to feel proud, and accomplished, and inspired to continue.
Why didn't I do this twenty years ago?
Something was very different about my approach this time around, versus twenty years ago when I took that freshman art class. Simply put, it was "me." I had always been a fairly competitive person, but I had reached a point in my life where I didn't need to get "good" at painting to impress anyone or advance my career or even be one of the best painters in the room. This time around, I had a different agenda: Paint just for the fun of it. Paint to relax, to meditate, to spend more time with my kids, to enjoy a beautiful Saturday morning all summer. Create for the sake of being creative.
That's how I became a painter - much to the surprise of my husband, children, friends and community. No one has been more surprised or more grateful than me to witness this new part of my life unfold. One downside of growing up and getting older and wiser is that you get to know yourself so well, that you stop surprising yourself. You get sold into staying the same, accepting yourself as who you are instead of feeling capable of developing more. That saying about teaching an old dog new tricks is absolutely false. In the area of "learning and adventure," it's especially easy to do. Learning a new hobby or committing to an out-of-the-ordinary adventure is a gift you give yourself, the benefits of which you receive tenfold. This gift will surprise you with abilities you never knew you had. It will challenge your priorities. It will expand your understanding of what's possible for your life.
What will you do to surprise yourself?
It doesn't have to be a huge endeavor, like learning a new language or how to fly a plane. It doesn't even have to be a beloved hobby you gave up on years ago. Search your heart and ask yourself the same question I was asked at that dinner party. "If you had six weeks to learn anything, what would it be?" What would be fun, what would be exciting, what would make you happy, and proud? And when can you begin?
Post a comment below and tell me your plan! If you're ready to make promises to yourself and take the next big step in your own personal development, but you're not sure where to start, we'd love to help. Come to our our next Design Your Life Weekend or sign up for our 12-Week Tele-Course and learn firsthand how to use The Handel Method® to get your head aligned with your heart's deepest desires and take ACTION.
Best of luck, and happy learning!