The Craft Behind Freedom
Ha, I guess this title was a fancier way of saying "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck" (great book, by the way). At the same time, I do not think not giving a f*ck is so subtle, I actually believe it takes a lot of, well, many things.
To be authentic, to not be our own worst critic, to not set crippling expectations, to actually flow with one's truest self, to giving a f*ck through not giving a f*ck- that's not easy. But in the moments where everything aligns and we are able to feel that cathartic freedom by existing in our most authentic selves- wow. Those moments are hard to describe, and they manage to move every cell in my body.
I used to have a love/hate relationship with art when I was younger because I knew that with my skills, if I practiced enough, I could make realist work, but I was so incredibly hard on myself and such a perfectionist, that the process became a self-deprecating punishment. It had to look perfect, otherwise I was just wasting my time.
I started loving art again the moment I began to let go. I discovered a whole new world through my imagination, playing with depth and thickness of lines, drawing intricate and imperfect details of temples as I traveled across Southeast Asia. I realized there was a way for me to enjoy my own art, and it all started with self-compassion.
I began to fall in love with my "flaws", which in turn made not only my art richer, but more human, and my journey, as well.
In my trip, I stayed over a month in Kulen Outreach, a school in Siem Reap, Cambodia, with children that completely stole my heart and taught me more than I taught them. Their English was perfect and they were excited to practice it every chance they got. They were incredibly disciplined and organized, and their notebooks seemed as if they were typed out from the perfection of their work. I decided to host an art class, where they did Blind Contour, and there were only two rules to be followed: to not lift the pen or look at the paper while they did a portrait of the person sitting next to them. It was a prompt with the intent to let go of perfection and to embrace and trust the flow, the journey, not worrying about the outcome. I introduced them to Picasso and other artists that created non-realistic portraits. It was a challenge since they had to unlearn, for that moment, that perfection and tidiness was the goal to success. Their excitement, laughter and slight embarrassment because it "looked ugly" was so innocent and beautiful to witness. This was yet another lesson I will always carry with me about not taking ourselves too seriously.
I took that idea when I moved to Madrid in 2018, and drew a bunch of friends while the drew me, as we all laughed at ourselves. The idea came about when I was trying to draw a friend at a bar, but the napkin ripped. The next day she gave me a whole note pad made out of (more durable) Spanish bar napkins. Here are a few of the outcomes:
Fast-forward to 2020, to the beginning of the pandemic. I began to fully invest in my art, but still wanted to fully explore mediums, experiment with styles, and not limit myself to one specific "niche", like everyone advised me if I wanted to be successful in the field. I wanted my style it to grow on its own. With all of the available time during quarantine, I decided to give myself daily prompts to try different approaches and challenge myself. I was starting to notice how this was a trying time for everyone, people losing their jobs and needing to redefine how they lived their life, now mostly at home.
So then it came to me. What if I start a virtual art club, for people of all levels, even if they have never picked up a pencil to draw? It would work as an incentive to put our minds elsewhere, away from the stress, and into creating something, anything, without taking ourselves too seriously!
It started growing quickly and we now have members from all over the world- Singapore, Russia, Cambodia, the UK, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Canada, the US - you name it! They have now become weekly prompts, since things started picking back up. You can check out the work (and I encourage you to join, too!) at our Instagram: @upliftingartclub - this was the chosen name because people described the community as, well, uplifting (which completely made my heart swell up). Here are a few example of the prompts and entries (click on the image to enlarge):
What prompted me to write this entry was the feeling I receive each time I allowed myself to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. I did not let anything limit me, even if it was completely different from "my style", and it has allowed me to adopt techniques and trains of thought into the paintings I create as my main craft. I tried realism with watercolor for the first time while drawing my beloved great-aunt's hands, I faced the fear of cross-hatching in the face (it seemed so permanent! ha ha!), and even dared to use colors that I always avoided. I challenged myself to be comfortable with realism, and to enjoy each single process without worrying about the outcome. These are some examples of pieces I have created for the art club (click on the image to enlarge):
I would have never discovered all of these dimensions within my art had I stuck to the one thing I was comfortable with. I found freedom within the limitless world of art, finally.
Moral of the story: be gentle with yourself, think about the freedom behind being authentically YOU, and how being true to that is the most cathartic feeling in the world. Ever. You may surprise yourself with what you discover.
"I have to let go of what I know so that I can grow. Because how can I know what I do not know, if I cannot let go of what I think I know?" (Quote taken from illustration by @sistercody)