Today I want to talk to you about how to navigate feeling restricted in your art practice by lack of time, money and/or space.
I think as creatives, we tend feel like we could do such amazing things if only we had infinite money for supplies, all the time in the world and that big warehouse space with natural lighting. And it can be incredibly frustrating.
To give you some backstory on my own journey, when I was first getting into the swing of acrylic painting I was working at an office job and living in a small apartment with a friend (my bedroom ceiling was so low I couldn't straighten my arms above my head).
I was financially scrapping by and had very little funds for supplies.
In addition to that, I was navigating some serious depression and chronic exhaustion. I've talked about this before, but what I may have talked about less is how much I struggled with deciding where to allocate my energy. It was a constant debate around whether I should paint or rest, and I felt like my time was extremely limited because I required so much rest in addition to working.
I share this not as a "poor me" story (there's tons of people who've had it way worse and have learned to thrive), but to give you some context for my frustrations.
I remember thinking:
If I JUST felt better...
If I JUST had a studio or art space of my own....
If I JUST had the money for a couple extra canvases...
...then I could really have a shot at developing my art and expressing myself the way I want to.
On most weekends I would take Saturday to rest, and then on Sunday I would either find the time and energy to paint, or I would spend the whole day panicking about Monday and/or feeling upset that I didn't have more days off like I REALLY needed. And then I wouldn't paint at all.
It was a viscous cycle. I was crippled by my desire to create and weighed down by my situation that felt too restrictive for me to be the creative spirit I knew I was.
What I eventually noticed was I was approaching things with an all or nothing mentality.
I was letting my limitations hang me up. They were stopping me from creating altogether.
No, I didn't have the space to paint things that were 48 x 48" like I wanted to, but I did have a desk in my room.
No, I didn't have the money to buy all that colors and tools that sparked my fancy, but I did already have things I could work with.
No, I didn't have three days in a row where I could dive into my process but I did have 20 minutes to spare when I got home from work.
I started to work with what I had, trying to be creative in whatever way I could.
When I was too tired to paint, I doodled in bed. When I didn't have money for canvases I painted on recycled cardboard.
No, they weren't the big beautiful creations I had in my heart or the inspired ideas I desperately wanted to bring to life. But it was so much better than nothing.
Here's what I came to realize: the resistance I was having toward my situation was more painful than the situation itself.
Learning to take action within my limits proved to be the key to feeling better and developing a consistent creative practice.
This is not to say it wasn't hard. It was. And I wasn't always perfect.
I often got frustrated with my small space. Or annoyed that I didn't have more time to create what I really wanted.
On those days, I threw in the towel and gave into Netflix.
But the important thing was that I kept coming back to the process in the small ways that I could.
Here's why doing this is so, so powerful:
Making art is transformational.
Taking creative time for ourselves shifts us. It works a certain kind of magic on us and on our lives regardless of the capacity in which we are able to do it.
I truly believe that working within my situation (and finding some peace there) is what allowed me to shift my situation. It was slow, mind you. But taking those baby steps gave me a ton of momentum that added up over time.
The thing is, you don't get from A to Z by skipping over LMNO and P.
It's a journey that requires us to work our way up and through, one small step at a time.
Learning to work with what I had in all aspects (space, time, energy and money) proved to be an extremely valuable skill. I didn't realize it at the time, but it was a skill I would draw on for years to come and probably for the rest of my art life.
Because SPOILER--the journey never ends.
Since that apartment I've had two art studios (I'm in my second). I've worked my way through multiple jobs that allowed me increasingly more freedom until I let a day job go altogether. I've done a ton of healing that's given me a fair amount of my energy back and I certainly have more funds for supplies than I used to.
But it's all relative.
(photo taken by Kevin Thom on Soul Art Day)
I always want more space for the large paintings that never stop piling up.
I always feel like there's not enough hours in the day (and that my schedule is often overtaken by the business end of things).
I've done a lot of healing, but I'm also still exhauasted A LOT.
And now that I paint large all the time, I need WAY more paint than I used to! I have to spend a lot more and hence my funds for supplies can still feel limited.
The difference nowadays is that I've made peace with these frustrations and I see them as simply part of being an artist (and a human).
These feelings may never go away. I may never feel totally free to create and do as I please. But I've realized it's more about my relationship to these limits then it is about constantly striving for more, or achieving the perfect situation.
If you can relate to this, or if you're finding yourself in an "all or nothing" cycle of frustration, I want to leave you with this:
First of all, I get it.
The truth? You probably have that feeling for a good reason.
It's probably because you have a whole magical world inside of you that wants to come out and you can FEEL the tension of not being able to fully channel that yet.
It's uncomfortable, and I have compassion for it.
But that's also kind of the crux of what we're trying to master as creatives in the first place: how to bring our inner magic into the real, outer world.
And that journey requires grappling with the realities of the real, outer world.
Your job, your family, your bank account, your tiny apartment.
It's all part of it.
I know. I wish it wasn't a thing either.
But believe it or not, working within these limitations will make you and your art stronger.
Your limitations will probably push you in creative directions you might otherwise not have gone down.
Your resilience will become the guide for a lifetime of hurdles within the creative process itself.
And your willingness to show up (even in small ways) will open the door to more of what you want and need for your creativity.
I'll say it again: the opportunity for transformation lives within the creative moments you carve out for yourself. Big or small,
It lives within the steps available to you in the situation you're in right now.
My wish for you is that you keep making whenever and however you can. You will see the results of that overtime.