When I quit my job and began painting full time, I was so confused. Painting had always been a hobby; something I would choose to do for fun. Now, my bills and rent were completely reliant upon my ability to create…
The pressure I felt was enormous. Luckily, the relief I felt from knowing I was out of the restaurant business was more apparent, so I chose to focus on that. My mind would fluctuate from feelings of gratitude for my newfound freedom, and stress from my increased personal responsibility. As I grew up, my parents were incredibly loving, caring, and helpful. It seemed that whenever I was in a bind, or had a project to complete, I was absolutely never left alone with it. They loved me so much that they were constantly there to help, in any scenario, and of course I am thankful for that. Similarly, when I worked for someone else, they ran the business, they chose my hours, they told me when to be there, and I just showed up. In other words, I had not yet built the skills necessary for the position of being my own boss. Now I would learn.
You might think to yourself… “Is she really complaining about doing what she loves everyday?!” And here’s what I have to say…
I can’t express to you in words how terrifying it is to create. There is this extremely strong tie between the creative process and our internal relationships with ourselves. When you don’t have the healthiest internal environment, mentally, physically, and emotionally, you’ll find yourself faced with that while you attempt to be creative. Every day that I woke up, I felt that I was being forced into a battle that I hadn’t been trained for.
I began taking custom orders for artwork every now and then. Every single painting that I was told to do, felt like the difference between choosing to read a book, and being told to read one for a homework assignment. It felt forced, and it was extremely difficult for me to stay focused. I would break down emotionally throughout most projects, because they seemed impossible to complete. The process of creating commissioned work was painful, yet it was the only way I knew to pay my bills, so I continued.
These custom paintings were painful. I now know that this was no one’s fault but my own. I could’ve been asked to paint the coolest topics, in my favorite color scheme, in return for plenty of money, and still, there was something wrong. There was something wrong for the longest time with how I felt about painting for a living. And here’s exactly what it is that I was doing wrong: I looked at this work as an obligation. While all the while I could have, and should have been perceiving it as an opportunity.
Each and every request presented me with a new challenge. Every project came with its own set of problems to solve, and as a result, left me with an entirely new tool kit. Through this process, I learned what it’s like to push through obstacles, and to experience pain and discomfort that you have no choice but to endure. I felt the pressure of trying to please others place weight on my shoulders that would make the load of this adventure that much more excruciating. I felt devastated if I didn’t like what I created, and even more terrified when I imagined letting someone’s vision down. For a while, I let the pressure of pleasing others restrict my work. I would paint very carefully, with a tightly-gripped brush. I would spend hours and hours on details of a painting, and never truly letting go. It happened very gradually, but eventually there was a turning point. After hundreds of custom paintings, and thousands of hours, I finally began to allow my true creative voice to speak. Not only did I feel emotional release over time, I also began to hone in on my skills as a painter. I found myself actually improving a skill. I don’t think I’ve ever really stuck with something long enough to feel that. It was and continues to be incredible to witness the growth in skill set.
With time, focus, and true, consistent practice, we are capable of incredible things.
Once I became a little more comfortable with my painting process, I felt that I needed more. I wanted to grow, and to stretch myself further. And in order to do that, I had to do something that I was afraid of; something that made me extremely uncomfortable.
That’s when I began teaching painting classes. And boy, did these make me feel uncomfortable. The thought of speaking in front of 25 strangers made my heart drop, and my stomach tie itself in knots. I knew it was just the thing.
I cried on and off all day before class. Once again, Dalton would give me a pep-talk, remind me that I’m not actually being chased by lions (where the fear response stems from), and would somehow convince me for a moment, that I was a badass. This was the routine for the first couple of months, until one day that I remember very specifically…
We were packing up my supplies to head to set up for class, and I broke down as usual. Dalton calmly, completely blank-faced, and asked me, “How much longer are you going to do this?” His lack of emotion, proved the sincerity of his question. I felt that I had to really think about that question, and give him an honest answer… So I did. I wiped the tears, took a deep breathe, and I said, “It’s not going to happen anymore.” That’s when I decided I couldn’t break down like that anymore. No matter how uncomfortable I felt, speaking in front of that many people, teaching something I never even went to school for, I had to remember that I was CHOOSING it. I had to focus on the good feelings that came along with it, and the benefits it would have on me going forward. The moment I made this conscious decision to embrace the uncomfortable feelings that this experience presented, is the moment I began feeling its extreme power. It became my way of “waking up”.
Like a cold shower, it’s always hard to step in, but once you’re out, you feel like a new person.
It’s now been over a year of creating countless custom paintings, and over 50 paint classes, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the lessons, experiences, friends, and growth that this time has brought me. With each painting I have created, every paint class I have held, and with every single smile that my creativity has helped to create, I began to let go. I am letting go of the fear that I was holding onto. I’ve stopped focusing my energy onto what could go wrong, and I slowly but surely have shifted my focus to what might go right. The fear of disappointing a customer, is now a faint whisper in the distance as opposed to a ball and chain on my paintbrush in hand. The small accomplishments that these experiences have helped me to achieve, are what truly allowed me to find my free-flowing imagination. I kept thinking that I needed to arrive somewhere, or that I needed to paint that one specific painting that would cause everyone to go, “Oh look, Kylie really IS an artist!” But that painting never came. Instead, it was in the hours I spent pushing myself through uncomfortable feelings, and connecting with all of you, that really brought me to where I am today.
So, for each and every single custom request that I received, each and every single painter that has come to a class, for every individual that has sent me words of encouragement or love, I am forever grateful. You are contributing to my growth, my healing, my strength as a human being, and as an artist. Thank you for appreciating my work, for valuing my time, and for being vulnerable enough to connect with me. Watching each of you overcome your own obstacles has inspired me to continue to push through mine.