For some this may be shocking, and for others not so much. I’ve realized over the years that creativity comes in many forms. I’m learning to honour the unique contributions that I make, as much as I appreciate the self-expression I admire in others. So, why is it so difficult to do what should come so naturally- to express ourselves free of judgement? I have my suspicions, but definitely not all the answers, so I’ll start with my journey from avoiding art to actively pursuing creativity in all forms and spending my life encouraging others to do the same.
I grew up in a suburb of Halifax, convincing myself I was left-brained and trying to be normal. I took drama and music, but avoided art. I truly believed that unless you were the best at something there was little point pursuing it. I could already tell who the best artists in my class were, and that they could shade with coloured pencils way better than me, so I didn’t see the point in perfecting my drawings of Garfield. The funny thing was that I actually loved drawing, but gave it up around 10 or 12, at the age when so many of us give up things we love because we become self-conscious and begin to criticize ourselves. I excelled at music though, and that became my language of the arts. Music came naturally, and was how I could express my creative voice.
In high school I used poetry as a form of healing, and working through my angst at the unfairness of the world, especially when I lost my dad at 16 and fell in love at 18. So much bad poetry! I gave up playing music after high school because, if I wasn’t going to play in the symphony, what was the point? I didn’t know many artists or musicians and never thought of it as something you continue if it’s not going to be your job. Even now, there are times when I get so caught up in work that I forget the magic of creativity. When I do get back to a project, or start a warp for my loom, I reflect and have those moments of clarity where I proclaim out loud to myself “this is why I make things”!
But creativity is delicate and easily crushed. If not nurtured and given reminders, it can be forgotten.
After university (where I went to a liberal arts school and took classes from every discipline except fine art) I felt this creative urge bubbling up again and searched for outlets and people to talk to about it. Still pretending to be a logical person, these folks were sometimes hard to find. I proceeded to take classes in so many disciplines, searching for that thing that I would be good at, that my husband (boyfriend at the time, and the one I wrote the poems about at 18) announced that he thought what I was good at was trying new things.
The real shift happened when I moved to France to teach English. There was a small community art studio in town that I walked by at least a dozen times before working up the courage to go in. I signed up for oil painting class with a group of retired local people and a sketching class comprised mostly of teens drawing manga. For the first time, I discovered a love for something that I wasn’t good at. I loved the feeling of finding inspiration in the houses and tangled trees of our small mountain town and trying to translate those into art. My work was whimsical and probably my first journey into my own healing process and self-expression. I appreciated the approach of the studio, in teaching basic theory and then allowing students to take their own journey. It could have also been that I didn’t understand French as well as I thought I did, but there was something poetic about learning the language of art in a far away place and in a foreign language. It didn’t hurt that my teacher actually had a moustache and beret a la typical french artist.
In this studio, I felt my first moment of clarity about my true calling in life. I felt so empowered by the act of creating and knew that I had to show others that they were creative too. I still wonder why I felt so strongly about visual art, even though I didn’t have a natural talent for it. I have a few theories about this, but I think that being in a new place allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and into a new role that I wouldn’t have seen myself in if I hadn’t made that change.
Moving to Vancouver and studying art therapy was the first time that I felt I was on the right path, and 6 years later, I still feel the same way. Being a witness and helping to bring creativity into the world is what I love. It’s what pushed me to work with arts for healing and to create a studio where people can step outside of their expectations and explore the mystery and beauty of their own self expression. I hope that we can all surprise and immerse ourselves in that world of mystery that is creativity.
In my work as an art therapist, I meet people every day who tell me they’re not creative. I believe that we all engage in creative acts everyday and may not even recognize them as such. But, finding those moments in your garden, at the easel, the loom or on the couch with your knitting needles are so important for our well-being and inspiration in life. Come to the right side of the brain – its very nourishing here.