Outgrowing your own artistry

The secret and uncomfortable necessary reality of outgrowing your own artistry.

I want to tell you an embarrassing secret. About a month or so ago, I was out buying my first jars of liquid watercolour paint. A bystander, who was in the same aisle as me, saw me struggling to carry all the art supplies in my hands and asked me if I had ever tried the liquid watercolours I was precariously balancing. I honestly don’t know what came over me, but I boldface lied and said that I had. I have no idea why I felt the need to justify myself as an artist to a complete (most likely well-meaning) stranger, but I think it was mostly reflective of the imposter’s syndrome that most people feel when they are pursuing a dream. Like at any moment, it’s going to be discovered that you have no idea what you’re doing and that your ignorance is somehow proof that you’re not worthy of your own desires. When in reality, we’re all a little lost and scared and it’s far more authentic and connective to admit that you’re also just along for the ride.

I remember the first night I played with my brand new liquid watercolours, and I couldn’t help but repeat the same thought over and over: “I’ve found my medium” was all I could keep thinking. I remained cautiously optimistic over the next few weeks as I played and learned what I liked and what I didn’t like about the medium, and while I will never ever narrow myself to one medium, this medium has made me believe in myself as an artist. Not because I didn’t believe in myself as an artist before, but I had never experienced the level of joy that came with finding something that felt like an accurate translation of my desired expression. I have made art that I have liked in the past and I have loved creating art before, but finding a medium that feels like a physical extension of your mind is a far more intense experience of creation than anything I was prepared for.

The most personal aspect of this story is the somewhat difficult realization that came with finding my medium: I wanted to make art like this and I wanted to dedicate myself to discovering all the ways I was going to develop a deeper relationship with whatever it was that inspires me. I felt like I had outgrown my artistry and artistic process. This realization meant that I was no longer interested in making art the way I had before. Now in reality, you don’t ever outgrow your artistry, but you will outgrow your conceptualization of it, especially if your conceptualization is limiting you to what you think you know about yourself and your artistic process. Some aspects of my artistic process have remained unchanged, and there is still a lot of chaotic and spontaneous aspects of my process that is stereotypical to the hot mess of an artist that I have been, but it’s tapered by the easy flow of inspiration that comes with my enjoyment of liquid watercolours.

For the past year and a half, I had developed an artistic process that included making art with my favourite artist and co-creator. Now that I had found a process that whirled me away to an entirely different reality, I found myself not really sure of how to share that reality. Prior to meeting Jonah, I had not believed that all artists could successfully co-create, or that I was an artist that would ever feel the connection that comes with trusting another human with your creation, and then loving their additions more than your original work. After working with him for over a year and a half on so many types of pieces and projects, and after so much trust and connection had been established, I now didn’t know how to share the individual “zone” that finding my medium had created. Now, I realize this all sounds a little dramatic, but I’m an artist so I’m not going to dull down the intensity of what I feel because it sounds unrealistic.

The most basic core truth that I discovered over the past month, is that I want to play and make art alone. And not that I never want to collaborate with others, or my Forus artner ever again, but that this part of my artistic journey requires that I follow the narrative that arises when I get lulled into the otherworldly experience of inspiration. And currently, that narrative requires my full attention integrated with my imagination.

I’m still not sure how I’m going to combine the variety of artistic skills and talents I’ve been fostering, but I know that when I use liquid watercolours, I imagine whole worlds and scenes of fantasy and fiction that I had once hoped to share as a fantasy novelist. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and I even have a minor in English focused on creative writing; But it’s been over five or so years since I indulged in the idea of writing fiction, and when I play with these paints, I imagine civilizations from other planets, and other natural elements. Recently, while painting, I’ve been enjoying a flurry of brightly coloured otherworldly landscapes complete with fantastic elements that make my mind come alive.

Committing to becoming a full-time artist, has been the most intensive period of growth and reflection yet. Mostly because it makes me question, on a regular basis, if I am what I think I am, and how I’m going to express this messy ego and its messy translation of things that most people don’t even believe in. It’s not easy to welcome change when it results in the disruption of what you’ve come to know and love. But it’s much more painful to keep denying the change when it’s continuously reminding you of the growth that lies beyond what you’ve become accustomed to. Growth occurs regardless of whether we participate voluntarily or not. I choose voluntary participation. I choose exploration and hope that those I love will understand as I pull away into myself to recreate the worlds I’ve always dreamt of.

This post is dedicated to my favourite artist and Forus co-founder, SimplyComplex, whose support and collaboration has helped developed my artistry beyond what I could have ever individually imagined. His artistic support and guidance has helped me develop a sense of self as an artist that extends beyond the academic shroud I had been identifying with for far too long.