Sometimes the right path isn’t the easiest one. About 20 years ago, a desire to make my life and living as an artist came over me like a light. I tried to resist making art because it seemed difficult if not impossible to make a living at it. I reasoned that I was too old, couldn’t draw, and there were already legions of artists competing for the same slim slice of pie.
But having asserted itself to a level of awareness, the desire to be an artist would not die. I have come to identify insistent desire and dreaming as a call. The choices are either to turn a deaf ear or to answer the call.
For me, the call was not resounding like a dinner bell or telephone ring. Like the call to the ministry, the call to be an artist was heard in the inner ear. Although compelling, it was more an inner sense, an inner knowing that others might not hear, understand, validate, or encourage.
The strongest deterrent to answering the call was the possibility of failing. To me, failing would have been proof of folly. It would have meant I was wrong to want something so “frivolous.” It would have meant that my dream was an aberration and a useless, possibly dangerous appendage.
What finally broke me out of my stalemate was the extreme example of the many enslaved Africans in America who ran away. Some of the enslaved who broke for freedom were caught and captured. They were flogged or killed for their attempt to make it to freedom. They might have failed, but they were not ever wrong. Each of their failed attempts contributed to the freedom I enjoy today.
This realization released me from the fear of being wrong and the need to be right. I felt free to take the first steps toward my heart’s desire. Moving in the direction of my dream was critical to my well being because buried dreams cause stagnation in the flow of life.
Twenty years ago, I answered the call by simply starting. I remembered the way children painted—with spontaneity and with their full being—and thus, I entered into a creative process that has informed, enriched, and vitalized my entire life. Once I faced and answered the call, my whole life opened.
The most difficult part of being an artist was my inner struggle to go against my instinct toward a more predictable, secure path. Today I am living my dream.
Preparation, by Deborah Singletary (Gouache on paper)