I didn’t know it at first, but as I’ve made my way into the creative life, I’ve learned that the process of painting and creating art is a beautiful playground in which to learn a ton of life’s lessons around healing, courage, imperfections, change, and so much more. Simply put, what comes up for us on the canvas also comes up for us in life, and when we’re willing to truly allow and surrender to the process of creating art, our entire lives open up.
My vision and mission for this blog series is in direct service to that truth: when we let art out, we let love in.
And so. My hope for you as you read through this on-going series is that you see how painting, or any creative process, is so much more than splattering paint on a canvas – that it’s a much deeper journey, an excavation of who we are and who we want to become. As with most creative endeavors, painting is very much a spiritual practice.
All photos in this post are credited to the talented Zipporah Lomax.
You know how most of the time your adult self is in the driver’s seat? You’ve got a job, responsibilities, bills to pay. You’ve got mature relationships to cultivate, heal, and grow. You’re problem solving, putting out fires, having important conversations. You’re self aware, nurturing your inner life with books, inspiration, ideas. You’re a caregiver, tending to people in your life who depend on you, and generally navigating a big world. In just about every minute of our everyday lives our adult selves are in the driver’s seat. If we’re lucky, the windows are down, the music is on, and the roads are smooth. But even in our best case scenarios, we’re holding it all together as we adults are expected to do.
Sometimes, when I’m in fear or anger, my adult self hops into the backseat and my inner child self takes the wheel for a bit. And I can tell you that fear and anger are not generally good times for my inner child to be driving the bus. There are meltdowns, unproductive arguments, gremlins, poor decisions, and more. One of my biggest life lessons has been to recognize when my child self is in the driver’s seat (usually causing all sorts of havoc), and then to gently talk to her, tend to her, assure her that all is going to be okay, while kindly escorting her to the backseat. My adult self then regains control of the driver’s seat, fully capable of handling overwhelm, fear, and anger in ways that aren’t destructive or hurtful. Along the way, she glances in the rear view mirror at her child self and lovingly says, “I got you.”
We all have this kind of duality, these versions of ourselves that are tucked in the car with us.
Throughout our lives there are a few magical moments, however, when our lives invite us to allow our inner child to take the driving wheel. And creating art is one of those magical, beautiful moments.
I run a very busy successful business. Most of the time my adult self is most certainly driving the car when it comes to my art business. However, the second I’m at my studio table, my adult self is kindly asked to take the backseat while my inner child 100% takes control of the wheel. It’s essential, actually. Imperative. And 100% required.
Because it’s my inner child who will unleash her joy, make bold moves, be fearless on the canvas. It’s my inner child who has not yet learned that there are so-called rules to making art. She’s free, unconscious in her choices, extremely curious, open, and most of all she is having loads of fun splashing paint everywhere. She knows what delights her, and moves on quickly if she’s not having fun. She doesn’t mind making a mess. She is intuitively creative, inspired, and has imagination! And she’s not attached to making a “perfect” masterpiece.
Unleashing our joy on the canvas is about making a conscious decision to put your inner 6-7-8 year old self into the driver’s seat and put your adult self in the back seat for a bit. Invite your inner child, that part of yourself that is brilliant at accessing your deep curiosity and joy, and let her take the lead.
There will be lots of resistance and friction along the way as your controlled adult self fights to take the wheel, but just like with anything, it’s takes practice. And the fruit of all that practice? Not just brilliant paintings, but a ton of lessons that come straight from the heart of our wise, beautiful inner child selves.