What You Can Learn from My Journey into heART
I have avoided painting for over two decades. The unexplained longing kept showing up and every few years I purchased more brushes, canvases and paint, sometimes even the occasional how-to book, but I always put them in a drawer or closet for someday.
You see, I had another voice that came with the longing to get lost in paint, to get out of my head and let my soul speak in this new language. That voice had a lot to say, such as, “You don’t know how to paint. You don’t have any training. You wouldn’t even know where to begin. Why do you keep wasting your money? You have more productive things to do. You don’t have time to paint. That’s stupid.” And so on. You may know this voice as well as I do.
After tiring of this war within, I decided in 2014 to treat myself to a few lessons from a trusted friend who is an accomplished artist and a passionate teacher. Soon we realized I was drawn more to abstract art and she referred me to my eighty-two year old mentor. I took several series of classes with her and almost every day, I wanted to quit. I was frustrated. I hated being a beginner and giving myself permission to not know what I was doing. The voice said, “You have no talent and you need to stop making a fool of yourself.” The quiet longing said, “No, let’s keep going. I love the feeling of paint on my hands.”
When I published my book, Finding the Gift, the launch party was held at an artsy coffee shop in November, 2015. For some unknown reason, I decided I wanted to have several of my paintings at my book launch. I was nervous about showing my friends a new side of me (what if they thought they were awful?) yet determined to do it anyway. On the day of the party, I seemed more focused on how to get those eight paintings there than minding the other details like catering and the book displays. I thought to myself, “This is ridiculous! Why am I putting so much pressure on myself to have these works at my book launch party?” But I wanted my art to surround me and help tell the story of emergence—of coming to life when my corporate career ended in disability and left me scratching my head, clueless of what else I could possibly do with my next forty years.
In the following spring, I was asked to speak to a local art society about Finding the Gift and how to market art, given my recent success as a new artist. That keynote was held in a local art gallery and I brought several of my paintings to help me connect with the artists. After the talk, the gallery owners approached me and asked if I was interested in letting them represent some of my work. But … But … Doesn’t anyone know I don’t know how to paint? And my soul said, YES! Ironically, the first painting sold at the gallery went to a customer who has purchased my mentor’s work from them as well. (Please don’t tell her. Even at 82, she’s very competitive!)
All of this happened because I let one voice grow louder than the other one. Because I listened to my heART.
Which voices are you listening to? Which voices need to be turned up and which ones need to be silenced and proven wrong? Someday is now. Do it.
My abstract art evolves like life. It’s messy and chaotic and at times, makes no sense at all. As in life, my paintings initially lack balance and meaning. I focus on what I know and trust everything will eventually work together for good. I start by randomly, yet intuitively, layering the canvas with color, texture, and expressive marks. Though some areas may be interesting and pleasing, the whole piece is often fragmented in the beginning.
For a while, each facet of my painting doesn’t necessarily relate. Then all of a sudden, magic happens and clarity begins to surface. Shapes take form and I find myself solving a puzzle with clues that have been there all along. How is life any different, provided I am mindful and tuned into my spirit? Likes and dislikes. Victories and disappointments. All are gifts that shape my direction.
Slowly, balance finds its way into the chaos and creates meaning in the composition of my art, as well as in my life. I see now how every single stroke had its purpose, regardless of what remains visible in the end. Gratitude surfaces and the next steps become clearer. What appeared to be a crazy, disjointed mess becomes intentionally simplified in order to place emphasis on what matters most. Often, hard decisions must be made regarding what to keep and what to lose, and perhaps, what to bring back.
What works? What doesn’t? Sometimes it’s difficult to tell. I proceed anyway, because rarely is any move so permanent that it cannot be undone or recovered. A life lived unafraid of mistakes, is a life really lived and one of my constant aspirations!
In life and art, my perfectionist never tells me I’m good enough or “It’s done,” but I’m learning to ignore her deception. Life, my work, my art—they are not done, but this is where I am so far. Not where I used to be and not where I will be. I’m merely Finding the Gift each day, stopping at interesting places and letting my creativity flow. As I step out of my comfort zone to show more of my true colors, I hope others will be inspired to follow their own heArt and do the same.
* All artwork on this site is the exclusive copyrighted works of Angela Howell. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Any unlawful redistribution or reproduction of artwork featured on this site without prior express written authorization of the copyright owner is strictly prohibited. If you’d like to purchase the artwork, please contact Angela.