I’ve tended to err on the side of caution most of my life. Actually, I say that but now I think about it I wasn’t like that when I was younger! From doing a parachute jump aged 16 to travelling 20 hours by bus from my home town in Cornwall to Scotland aged 19 to sail with a bunch of strangers on the Malcolm Miller tall ship, I wasn’t averse to a bit of risk in my youth!

As I got older though I seemed to develop a reluctance to risk. I got settled into what felt safe and comfortable and taking risks didn’t seem necessary. With that came a nice sense of security but also, eventually, a boredom and longing for something different.

As I entered my 40s I realised that I was potentially halfway through my life, and that triggered me to re-evaluate everything. I made some huge life decisions and decided the time was right to take some risks. And here we are today!

When I talk about risk I don’t mean anything life-threatening, but very definitely life changing. I made decisions that shook me to the core and disrupted everything I thought I knew about my life. It was scary as hell, but oh so liberating! And from that pile of rubble came my new life – and it’s shaping up pretty darn well πŸ™‚

What does this have to do with art?

Well, having gone through a major change like that I realised that the old saying ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ might actually have something in it! And with that came a willingness to take more risks, personally and professionally, to open myself up to new possibilities.

One of those risks was to publicly re-launch myself as an artist. After a 10 year creative block the prospect of that scared the heck out of me…. but with lots of support and encouragement from my nearest and dearest I took gentle steps towards rediscovering Natalie the Artist. As I started dipping my toes back into the creative waters, I started to feel that a part of me which had been long buried was resurfacing – the part of me that noticed the colours in nature, that felt a longing to open my sketchbook, that wanted and needed to have art in my life.

And from those small steps came another risk – a decision to invest a fairly hefty sum of money in getting some direction and support as I eased my way back into creating art. I reasoned that yes, I could do it on my own, but knowing what I’m like and my tendency to wander off in different directions, a solid structure and course plan would serve me well on the next steps. And I can say now, what a fantastic investment that was! Not only did I re-learn a lot of the technical stuff that I’d forgotten from college (design, values, colour etc), but I joined a network of other artists and was hugely inspired by engaging with them.

From that, and inspired by one of the group members, I took the biggest risk yet – I submitted an application for a national art show taking place in November. It raised all sorts of fears in me about whether my art was good enough, whether it was commercial enough, whether it was of the right standard to ‘fit’ into the show….. I nearly talked myself out of it several times, telling myself that I wasn’t ready yet, that I needed more time to find my style, that it was something to aspire to but now was too soon. Blah blah blah, all that destructive self talk that usually wins.

But not this time.

I’d promised myself that this was the year I took myself seriously as an artist and would do whatever it takes to live as such. I’d invested in improving my skillset, I’d joined a coaching group for artists wanting to learn about the business side, I’d spent half the year experimenting with my art materials, getting comfortable creating again and starting to find what I especially enjoyed making. Now it was time to put myself out there and show my work (if they’d have me!). Application sent.

That same afternoon I got an email back inviting me to exhibit. I had to read it 3 times before I believed it. But there it was, in black and white – I was exhibiting in Windsor! Not only that, when the call for exhibitors came out last week for their new show in Newbury I actually had the courage to send my application off straight away. Not giving myself any time to think about it or worry about it. I had thought I might see how I get on at Windsor first and make the decision then, but quickly realised that if I want first pick of stands I need to get in now. Even replying straight away, 3 of my first 4 stand preferences had already been booked! But I got my 4th choice and that’s it, I’m exhibiting in Newbury next May.

In addition to that I’ve also got 11 pieces of original art in a local gallery summer exhibition, another nearly-talked-myself-out-of-it application that was approved.

I’ve accepted that as scary as it is, taking such risks has already opened up opportunities for me that I came so close to missing out on.  And the more I challenge myself and push outside my comfort zone the more I’m realising what I’m capable of.

This is being reflected in my paintings now too – I’m much more willing to try something new, obliterate something that isn’t working, shake it up in a way that I would never have had the courage to do before. Because I know that from that discomfort and unease will come insights that I would have otherwise missed. From accidents and mishaps on the canvas will come marks and textures that I would probably never have been able to create consciously.

My current work, as seen in this post, is a culmination of that learning and willingness to take risks. Each time I worked on these, something I really liked would manifest. But the process wasn’t complete yet and I knew that to make it better, more vibrant, I had to lose what I liked and keep going. So those parts were covered up, scraped back (or not) and worked on some more. This raised an enormous amount of resistance in me, fear of losing something I liked for the unknown of what would follow it. I knew that I could make something even better from what I had, but the fear was still present. Take a deep breath, load up the paintbrush….. and go! Cover it quickly, move on, let go.

These aren’t quite finished yet, and they’ve both had significant cover-up-and-start-again areas along the way. But I’m really pleased with them, and I’ve learnt so much about my process from these two in particular. And as I move them into completion I’m also adding to my understanding and learning, how to challenge myself and get the best from me πŸ™‚

If you like what I do, please support me!

Β© Natalie Day 2018

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