Can you remember a time when anything was possible? When we were kids, and there were no limits to your creativity and no bounds to what you could create with your imagination?
I can. It’s a distant memory, but still one I can just grasp with my fingertips if I try really hard.
I can almost even remember a time when painting was just simply fun for me. My favorite part about it was always mixing up the colors; starting with two or three bright hues and ending up with six or more variations.
But as I grew older, and everyone else’s opinions started to matter more than my own, I lost my love for painting. The trouble always came when I had to actually put those beautiful colors on the canvas. I was just too afraid I would screw it up. So I taught for awhile, finding it much easier to instruct others at art than to put myself out there. And then, more than 20 years ago, I put my paintbrushes away. For good, I thought.
Then one day I saw a stunningly beautiful image in my Facebook feed, presented by Elizabeth Gilbert. The painter was Tracy Verdugo.
It was all loose interpretation; vibrant colors, thoughtful subjects, and what looked like flowing, beautiful ART.
My curiosity was piqued; I did some digging and found Tracy’s online Paint Mojo class. I connected immediately. Her style is not just about painting—it’s like therapy.
See, her whole process is about letting go, and not getting too attached to anything you put on the canvas. I know, right?!
I took her online class more than a year ago, when I was still working my corporate job and looking for a weekend creative outlet. It’s a 6-week class, packed with information, techniques, videos, and homework. It took about 3 weeks for me to get completely overwhelmed.
“I can’t do this,” I whined to my ever-patient husband. “It’s too haaaaaard…” I wailed, sounding like spoiled brat.
Letting go is never easy. For me, I loved the part where we dripped a rainbow of acrylic inks on the canvas and then turned the support so they ran and bloomed together. But the next step was to cover up some of that glorious color, and I just couldn’t.
I could. Not. Even.
I had grown too attached to that splattered, colorful abstract mess.
So I put the paints down, and I left that canvas to sit on my easel, in my studio, for months and months.
Then Tracy came to town. And I knew I had to face my fears and go to her in-person class. Because I knew she wouldn’t let me stay attached.
Time to face my fears.
The first day, I got there 5 minutes late. I certainly didn’t want to be the first person in the room! Much to my dismay, I was one of the last to arrive. All the “good spots” were taken.
“We’ve got room over here!” I heard, and looked up to see two kind women beckoning me over to their table.
We started chatting, and they told me this was their first time painting. Ever.
I marveled at their courage, and decided I’d better quit my whining and get down to business.
The next three days were incredible. I let go. Tracy had us writing poetry, and splattering ink across our canvasses, and the only thing we had to “work” on was our reckless abandonment of any preconceptions. We were all part of the same tribe, these ladies and I. Some of them were artists by trade, and some of them weren’t. We were of all ages, from all different areas around the country. But we were all trying to let go.
I felt like a new me in that class. I splattered. I smeared. I tried really hard to not try so hard. With my headphones in, I got down on the floor and I gave myself over to it. I did not allow that familiar critical voice to come in and spoil the fun. I just painted.
I came home covered in paint and exhausted every night, and slept like a baby.
When it was all over, I had created a big, fat, colorful mess of a painting, and I LOVE it.
Is it perfect? NO. Is it proportional and well-rendered? NOT REALLY.
But you know what? I really don’t care. And I’m not just being flippant about that. I really and truly don’t give a flying *F* if anyone else likes my work. Because it’s not for them. Or for you.
It’s for me.
And I’ve realized, in the weeks since that class, that that’s how I want all my creative work to be.
Just like that lovely artist said to me not so long ago, “this isn’t my bread, it’s my roses.” YES. Exactly.
So if you want my advice…go take an art class. Any old art class. At your community center, or your local “wine and paint” place, or a ceramic studio or an online course. It’s incredibly freeing, empowering and fulfilling to express your creativity.
And I promise it will help you get your mojo back.
Finding my love for painting again has reminded me of that kid-like feeling of possibility and imagination, not just in my artwork, but really in all aspects of my life and work.
That mojo is some powerful stuff.
P.S. Looking for more inspiration, or not quite ready to pick your brush up yet? Check out these 5 Books To Start You On A Creative Path. Or listen to Liz Gilbert’s new season of the Big Magic podcast for inspiration—it’s bound to give you courage to take the leap into creativity.
P.P.S. Yes, I finally went back to the canvas I abandoned in Tracy’s online class and…I did it. I painted OVER it. 🙂 It’s still a work in progress. But I’m not afraid of it anymore.
And please, leave me a comment below telling me how YOU get YOUR mojo back! We’re all in this together. We creative spirits have to support one another!