The Artist's Way Week 8: Recovering a Sense of Strength

But What If My Work Isn't Good?


Week 8 was a turning point in my journey with Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. I was still in a dead end caregiver job where I was miserable and becoming more disheartened everyday. Working through my thoughts on survival, judgement, loss, and the final products of my work allowed me room to breathe and focus on the strength within my process and learning. By the end of this week, I had delved into what perfection means to me, a list of things I won't allow myself to do, and created one of my favorite Artist Date pieces.

One of the main parts I took away from the articles contained in Week 8 was art is a path of different losses. Each time I sit down to create, I am willingly surrendering part of myself to a canvas, clay, paper, or my other materials. When I sit back from my finished piece, I may not enjoy my end result. I had a piece go awry well before I had started with The Artist's Way. I was bored one night and had a strong need to touch my chalk pastels. I pulled up this photo of Penelope, my cat. In this photo, she had batted at the polar bear ornament and then was struck with the surprise of being stuck to the ornament. I caught this photo right before her panic set in and it has been one of my favorite photos of her. I wanted to recreate the magic and gentleness of her gazing up at the tree, as if she had just come home from a long day and needed some holiday cheer in her evening. What I ended up with was the piece below.

It is definitely not the complete replication of the photo I had envisioned. I remember laughing at how off I was in recreating Penelope and the bear ornament. The problem is, I started with the Christmas tree because I felt the most comfortable recreating it. But, I soon found that I did not leave myself a lot of room for Penelope or had sized the tree correctly enough for it to make sense that she would be upright. So instead, I just had her boop the bear with her nose. I didn't feel the same magic with this piece as I did when I look at the photograph. I often joked that Penelope would be ashamed with this being how I see her. However, I can now appreciate the lessons learned from this piece and that it was a great way to practice with my chalks.

This week made me think of this piece because I had to process why I didn't like the piece, the grief of not being able to carry out my idea, but then ask myself "So what now?". How do I gain strengths in my weaknesses as an artist? What did I gain from the process, not the ending product? There is no one who can deliver me some hurtful judgement like myself when it comes to projects I deem failures. When I really want to hit home that a project has failed, I have certain people to reach out to that I know will also make fun of my work. However, during the quarantine, I had my former department team look at this piece and presented it as a joke. Each person pointed out something they liked about it or appreciated an aspect I had tried out. They even spent some of their free time recreating their own versions of this piece. When I become product focused, I procrastinate, afraid of failure. Now, I have found the strength in the phrase "I can just try this out".

A True North and An Ideal Childhood All Colored in Purple


During the first shelter in place during 2020's pandemic, I relied heavily on female-driven comedy podcasts. Their voices were who kept me company while I was forced to stay at home. And it was a podcast that alerted me to the existence of The Artist's Way. So, when I sat down to do a goal search during week 8, I found myself drawn to the idea of comedy. In this dream future, I named a comedy special based on the different ways I find myself taking on a majority of the burdens in some of my key relationships. I wrote of spending my days writing jokes and being paid to perform them. I thought of how I would start with 5-minute sets and build from there. Now, I will find myself envisioning myself telling funny stories to a crowd while I get ready in the mornings or in other moments of silence. I make sure to then write down and craft the story I was envisioning, making sure to punch up the funny parts and smooth out the mundane. My True North became a Netflix Special. Right after I mapped out my future with stand-up comedy, I was asked to reveal to myself my ideal childhood. Which when reading over these two written entries, I laugh as they don't really match up or have the same end goal. This blog is a celebration of all the ways I find inspiration, so maybe I shouldn't be shocked by this. The following is the direct entry I wrote for task 2:

"If I had perfect nurturing, I would have been a zoologist. When I spoke about my love for animals, no one would mention how hard the science would have been. Parents would have me watch nature documentaries on the tv. We'd have a zoo membership every year. I would have a notebook and sketch book and they'd sit by me as I took down my observations. This would lead me to needing more focused art classes. I would be given some drawing classes after school as well as be encouraged to take drawing in high school. This would allow me to learn not only about my empathetic side but also my love to take what I notice and turn it into art. I would focus on animals for my art pieces. It would help me eventually create art curriculum at the zoo. I would lead classes for both children and adults. This could have happened if only the adults around me weren't always telling me no and instead leaning in and experiencing my second-hand passion."

What is ideal nurturing? How have the imperfect moments shaped this woman who is comedic, empathetic, artistic, and a lover of animals? Today, I am that zoologist teaching art classes. She still lives inside me along with the comedian on the stage. I am also someone who discovered during this week that I am purple. Through task 3, I found that I am a color of majesty and royalty. I am the perfect mixture of the ocean's calm blue and fire's heated red. I can be found in the deep night sky and right along the edges of sunset and sunrise. I am the heavenly color and a signifier of deep magic and mystery. I am all encompassing. That is why I can be a zoologist and a comedian all in the same day.

A Bear in an Enchanted Forest


The Artist Date I completed for week 8 was an idea that struck my head weeks before its completion. I created my bear in his enchanted forest. My sister told me she was proud of me for attempting scaling with small and large trees. She has heard me say countless times it is my weak point. When this piece brought itself into my head, the trees were the metallic silver and gold and the bear was made with the nature prints. But in the end, I decided the bear deserved all the glitter and magic for himself. Sometimes your environment is magical and sometimes your are the glitter that is added to the area around you.

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