We as artists sometimes go through an “artist identity crisis”–a period of time when we get confused about who we are as artists and where we are headed with our art. That was me this last week. I felt like Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz” or “The Little Tugboat” lost at sea.
In the past, I’ve painted in almost every style I can think of and almost every subject matter. I used to work at Young At Art in Cupertino where I assisted children from 6 years old to high school age with oil painting skills. They painted a vast array of different subjects and styles and it was up to me and the crew to help them fine tune and “polish up” their painting when they were finished. I enjoyed this but when it came time for ME to choose what I wanted to paint in my free time, I got overwhelmed! I could go in any direction, and I spent hours searching for inspiration just to find that I was already burned out from painting even before picking up a brush. I also worked at Custom Artistry By Denise in Los Altos where I did hand-painted tile and ceramics, lettering and murals. Again, I just painted what was in front of me and wasn’t required to grow creatively. After getting married, I took up painting custom pet and person portraits. I even did custom cakes and cupcakes for parties. This was initially fulfilling but after several years, I was done with doing custom ANYTHING.
Skip to today. I got my feet wet with painting again, then went onto painting cupcakes. It all happened organically; it was the perfect marriage of my love of art and my love of baking. Ironically I don’t bake nearly as much as I used to, but I’m still drawn to the sweetness and simplicity of a cupcake.
I’m about to begin a project where I’ll be painting a variety of same subject (cupcakes) in the same style and with the same size canvases. Some might say this would hamper creativity, but I say that it will ENABLE me to be more creative. Necessity is the mother of invention, and when we’re forced to be creative within certain boundaries, that’s when we utilize our creativity and that’s when magic happens. Think Chopped. They have limited ingredients but need to use them in a fresh and creative way.
As for choosing a style for this project, that threw me for a loop. I love so many different styles, and I can replicate almost any one of them, but what is MY style? Do I even have one?
Whenever I’m dealing with something like this, I know what I need to do: pray for guidance. After all, my Creator knows me better than I know myself and He is not a God of generality. He’s kind of into specifics. He knows the number of my eyelashes and He’s the designer of my fingerprints….most importantly He knows what’s inside my heart.
The next day I re-discovered a style that I actually grew up with. Folk Art.
When I was a child I used to lay in bed and stare at the folk art patterned wallpaper for what seemed like hours before falling asleep or upon waking up. I would daydream about the little scenes on the wall or on my bedspread. There was even folk art wallpaper in the kitchen and living room, so I couldn’t escape it.:)
The style is whimsical and playful, but more tight and detailed…something as familiar and comfortable to me as a favorite sweater. In fact, I relish in this kind of work. It’s therapeutic. Wherever we go in our journey, we can always turn back and remember our roots.
“We go around the world in search of ourselves only to find our heart and soul among the rafters of our own home.” ~Brigitta Litfin