On Becoming an Artist

I was absolutely immobilized when my friends suggested that I support myself by selling my artwork after the death of my husband.  I had earned an associate degree 30 years ago and could recall something about Composition 101, the importance of having an identifiable style, and the need to know the right people.  However, that was a lifetime ago.

Yes, I can create a nice composition, but doing so is inherent, not deliberate. My niche?  I work in so many different mediums and styles that the thought of being put in a box made me want to give up on my dream and get a 9-5 job.  Can’t I have my own eclectic way of creating art and support myself at the same time? Since I recently moved to a new city, knowing the right people is not an option.

Jewelry – Glass and Stone Beads – Photo by Mark D’Harlingue

Today, all I know for certain is what feels right for me.  Forget the norms.  I simply want to create for the sake of filling a need and desire — to feel unleashed, free, and full of possibilities.  When I walk into my art studio (a spare bedroom with my art supplies), my mind seems to shift, and time stands still.  I may have walked into the room to grab a pencil so I could write a grocery list but emerge hours later.  The smell of the paints, the sight of an unfinished ink drawing, the feel of a paintbrush between my fingers entice me to stay.  It is an occurrence that is sweet and familiar.

Summer Daisy, Pen & Ink, 8 X 10 Inches – Photo by Josh Massey

Beginning a new painting, wood carving, or piece of jewelry and ending with a finished piece of art is extremely exhilarating.  Standing in front of a blank canvas is like getting ready to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.  You want to jump, but let’s think this over.  Too late!  The door opens, the wind takes your breath, and your knees tremble as you take the leap and lay down the first stroke of pigment onto a canvas.  As soon as the paint dries and your feet hit the ground, you’re ready to take off again.  The level of contentment is spell binding.  What grocery list?

Life Path – Acrylic on Canvas, 24 X 48 Inches – Photo by Josh Massey

I have created artwork that, to this day, I stop and recall how I moved the paint across the canvas and ask myself why I chose the colors I did, and it brings me great joy.  I feel like Harry Houdini as I imagine who will be looking at my work – my baby – and I hope others can feel what I feel and escape, if only for a moment.

That’s the beauty of uninhibited, instinctive creation.  All is right with the world…until I log onto social media and admire the amazing art that others are creating.  Doubt floods in and, again, I wonder if Hobby Lobby is hiring.  Who am I kidding?  I have nowhere near the level of talent possessed by these artists.

FUNctional Art Hooks – Acrylic on Wood, 7 X 12 Inches – Photo by Josh Massey

Then, I take a deep cleansing breath and remember the hours and hours of podcasts and audio books I have listened to; the hundreds of YouTube videos and webinars I have watched; and the many networking events I have attended.  I remember the meditations I have practiced, chanting “I Am” mantras until it all becomes crystal clear: “I Am” unique and no one can create the way I do.  Often, I have told my children that there may be someone who is more “talented” than you, but if you try your best, you are a success.  Time to take my own advice.  No more feeling defeated or immobilized.  My plan is to become the best ME I can be. 

Moonglow – Acrylic on Canvas, 30 X 48 Inches – Photo by Josh Massey

Recently my daughter and I had the privilege of admiring a painting by Pablo Picasso at the Saint Louis Art Museum.  As I stood there, mesmerized by his uneven brush strokes and seemingly out-of-place black swoosh of paint inside a red circle, I tried to channel the message he was trying to convey.  What was he thinking as he created this piece?  Was he sipping a glass of wine?  Was he happy or angry?  Was he gazing at his lover?  How nice it would have been to witness Picasso creating this masterpiece.  I can only hope that someday, someone will be critiquing my work and wondering what I was thinking.

Painting is a blind man’s profession. He paints not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen. – Pablo Picasso.

I want my children and grandchildren to be proud of me, knowing that I created a fabulous life for myself and followed my dreams and passions.  I never want to settle for less, and I hope they won’t either.  I use my desire to create as my North Star to find the way to contentment and peace in this season of my life, and I couldn’t be more grateful.  The road hasn’t always been smooth, and the hills have been too high to climb at times.  However, as long as I have the love of family, the delight of old and new friends, the excitement of fresh places to travel, and blank canvases to fill, this artist will continue to create.

Reaching – Acrylic on Canvas, 18 X 24 Inches – Photo by Josh Massey

About Bonnie Sales

Bonnie Sales is an award-winning artist from Cincinnati, Ohio, now living in Arnold, MO. Bonnie enjoys the notion that her artwork will ignite viewers’ imaginations and kindle dreams of new possibilities.

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