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When creative flow takes a pause

While enjoying my morning cup of tea, my phone pinged to remind me of a video I posted 'on this day in 2015', a time-lapse of me creating my painting, Spirit of Hawk. In two minutes I transformed a blank piece of YUPO paper into a colorful portrait of a hawk looking over her shoulder.

What cannot be seen from this video is my left hand holding up the opposite arm so that I could paint. In the months leading up to that video, I could no longer raise my arm on its own without support due to a series of complications that would lead me to major shoulder reconstructive surgery.

As I watched that video today, I was not reminded of my impending surgery, but of how passionate I was about creating; how, despite my pain and my fear of the unknown, nothing would stop me from doing what I loved.

Fast-forward to today. In a few short months I will be celebrating my ten-year anniversary as a full-time working artist. As of this writing I have two capable, hard-working shoulders, a freshly organized art studio, and a brand new year ahead of me; what I don't have, however, is my creative mojo.

When the pandemic hit in early 2020 I put all of my energy into painting and created a lot of work that year. The following year started out fairly strong; in early 2021 I focused my energy toward humans rather than animals and painted some of the best portraits I'd ever done.

But when cold weather and the threat of another variant pushed me back into isolation, my inspiration up and moved out.

Generally, the holiday season is always my busiest time of year, so I took advantage of that by telling myself I was too busy packing and shipping orders to paint. Days turned into weeks, which turned into months and now here I am with no motivation, no inspiration and no plan.

When the creative muses are no longer present, some unsettling feelings arise that can be a bit difficult to face. What if I've lost my ability to create? What if I never paint again? If I'm no longer an artist, who am I?'

But then my mind would go back to that video. In the weeks and months leading up to my surgery, I had every reason to take time off from painting, yet I worked on that hawk until the morning I was driven to the hospital. And while my shoulder healed I spent the next three months painting with my non-dominant hand, because I'd made up my mind that nothing was going to keep me from expressing myself creatively, and nothing did.

We are living in an historic time. Never before have we had to deal with the type of stressors we've endured these last two years. There's a time to be sad, a time to rest and regroup; there may even be a time to pack up the art supplies and just hide them in a closet for a while and pretend like they never existed. I've done all of these things, yet nothing has led me back to the art table.

But today, I am here when so many aren't; today I am healthy when so many are sick. Today, there isn't a single good reason not to pick up my paintbrush, march myself into my studio...and just paint., let's begin.

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