Last week Nova Scotia experienced the fourth nor’easter in about two weeks. Watching the snow swirl and the waves crash on the shore below us reminded me of those stormy days I struggled into work in the city. I’d dream about staying home close to a warm fire, doing something I loved.
After three storms, it struck me I still hadn’t done anything about that dream.
What was I waiting for?
Decision made, I set up a small painting area near the fire and that’s where I spent my afternoon. Watching the storm out the windows to my left. Drinking tea. Making art. Living the dream.
That pocket of time was right under my nose and I almost missed it. Almost.
I turned off my autopilot, climbed into the pilot’s seat and took back control.
Take the time
You might not be gifted with a whole afternoon as I was but most of us can find fifteen minutes in almost every day. Keep a small sketchbook and pencil handy and be awake to those moments that come our way.
My comfort zone felt safe but it also kept me from growing.
Recently I tried something that wasn’t really new. Just something I left behind years ago – painting with acrylics but it definitely moved me beyond my current comfort zone.
Everything old is new again
I used to teach decorative painting using acrylics. You’ve seen stuff like it on Pinterest, I’m sure, decorating tables and other furniture using fluid brush strokes and simulating 3D. I loved it and still have a few of my pieces decorating my home.
The problem was I travelled (a lot) on business, which meant airplanes and luggage. I didn’t quite trust packing acrylic paints in with my business clothes so I switched to watercolours. They seemed less risky and cleaning my brushes in a hotel sink was easy.
This meant learning a whole new way of painting because, if you use both acrylics and watercolors, you know they require slightly different techniques. So I made the decision to focus on the watercolours and abandon the acrylics. I didn’t have time or budget to learn and practice both mediums.
I never worked with acrylics again – until recently.
Stretching the comfort zone
Frankly, I was a little concerned about trying them again, afraid I might find it confusing to switch back and forth. Plus I spent a lot of time and money bringing my watercolour skills up to snuff. Did I really want to start back at the beginning again?
(I think perfectionism might have been running that train of thought.)
But my comfort zone felt stale. I wanted something with a different energy and vibe and acrylics kept calling to me. So when I dropped off my paintings at Roundhill Studio for their Wee Art show, I noticed her flyer for an acrylic class. I threw caution to the wind and registered on the spot. (That way I wouldn’t change my mind.)
When I showed up for class, I was pleasantly surprised how my watercolour skills crossed over. The brush didn’t change, only the medium. (Duh.)
I felt so excited and pleased with the painting of sheep I created that day, I went back to my own studio and started pumping out acrylic paintings. I’ve done a number of them since that workshop a few weeks back. More importantly, I’m outside my comfort zone, having a lot of fun!
What I learned
I still paint with watercolour but in a completely different style. They tend to be much more detailed while the acrylic paint brings out my loose and playful side. I find it easy to move back and forth between both mediums and styles, which surprised and excites me.
All this time I’ve hesitated only to discover that each one informs and enriches the other. I might never have know this if I had continued to shy away.
Sometimes we just have to get out of our own way and leave the safety of the comfort zone. When stopped listening to that story holding me back, I learned a little more about what I was capable of.
What’s something new you’d like to try? Have you stretched your comfort zone lately? Share what you found there in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.
This month I’m launching what I intend to be a regular feature – “Meet my Creative Friend”. So let me introduce you to Nathalie Villeneuve, an inspiring artist and very grounded woman living a rich creative life.
Although we have only met in the virtual world (so far), we spoke for over an hour on our first phone call. I definitely count her as a creative friend and we hope to meet in real life.
Originally from Canada, Nathalie Villeneuve now lives in New England. Since I’m originally from New England and now live in Canada it seems we kept the world in balance. (You’re welcome.)
Want to meet her? Read on!
What does “being creative” mean to you?
Being creative to me means developing the ability to view life from a different perspectives.
If you are a painter and want to paint the ocean, you can paint it exactly how you see it or decide to change the colors and add more waves.
If you are an entrepreneur, you can look at your business and want to expand, you have a choice to see it’s pain points and address them creatively. You can grow or continue to avoid change and stay the same.
In other words, being creative is removing yourself from your comfort zone and venture towards problem-solving. You creatively shift your approach towards life.
When did you first realize that you absolutely had to lead a creative life?
I’ve always loved to draw and paint. After going to school in art, I tried to fit art into a career but I didn’t want to become a teacher. I’m proud of the fact I’ve had several exhibits and sold my art in many states.
However, when I turned 50, I decided it was time to stop ignoring my inner artist. I founded my own business in the “sip and paint” industry and now devote 100% of my time to leading a creative life AND sharing my love for painting with others.
What inspires you?
I paint women. I am inspired by women. I find my inspiration from images, art, daily life situations. I also get inspired when I attend Church.
What do you want your art to communicate?
Mostly emotions. I like to communicate inner emotions (mainly isolation).
People go through so many emotions and often keep the negative ones to themselves. I hope for my art to become a mirror where people can relate and hopefully reveal something. I want to help them heal through hope, love, togetherness and self-discovery.
I think when people relate to one another through art or other form of communication growth, healing and happiness becomes possible.
Describe your creative process. What kind of patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
Honestly it’s never the same but lately, I seem to be more creative at night. When all my errands are complete and dinner is done I can relax more and abandon myself to my art.
I started my YouTube channel so now I setup my camera to film videos twice a week. That has become time consuming (especially the editing part). I love it though, because it enables me to share painting and pastel tutorials to a large audience.
What is the most challenging part of the creative process for you and how do you meet that challenge?
I am very busy with my business and I create artwork for my Pause and Paint painters. This has made my art more commercial…but I plan to have an exhibit of my own work at the end of this year.
My challenge is to make time to create larger paintings and paint more freely for my exhibit.
What’s the best advice you ever had about how to be more creative?
“You have a God given talent so you owe it to God to use it” ~ Sarit (my girlfriend…lol)
Is there anything you’d like to add that I didn’t ask?
I would like to add My WHY, My Vision and My Mission ?
MY WHY: Is to uplift and support women through art, creative outlets & venues.
MY VISION: Every woman will wake up inspired to live a more joyful life through expressing themselves freely and creatively.
MY MISSION: Is to commit all my talent and all my energies to build that world of inspired women so I paint, make videos, teach and invite. I do anything I can to advance my VISION that was set in motion by my WHY.
The criteria was to work no larger than 6″x6″ in any medium we chose. Of course, I chose watercolours and decided to use what I found on our shoreline to explore the idea of transformation.
The first is the slow transformation of rock to sand. Then I found an empty shell on the beach and felt that was also a transformation.
Finally, I chose the universal symbol of transformation – butterflies. However, I was stuck after that and almost decided to be satisfied with just three paintings.
Then the dog and I went for a walk by the lighthouse. On the cliffs, I discovered a pile of feathers being blown about by the wind. I gathered a few and brought them back to my studio. When I set them on my table, I realized I had my fourth painting – the final transformation we all experience one day. Last flight.
I’ve never worked this small before and found it very gratifying because I completed all four paintings in a relatively short period of time. Even more gratifying, all four were accepted for the show.
If you have an opportunity to stop in to Round Hill Studio. Tell them I sent you.