This summer was 100% about my course, my students and my art school plans. A year worth of planning, writing, recording and creating had to come together in these weeks before my new course “Foundations I” started early September. And now, in the final week of this 6-week live course, I feel like I can start thinking again about what to do next. 

It started when I was in the middle of recording my course projects; this uneasy feeling I had towards my painting. I was painting, but painting for a course is different. It’s planned, directed and even though it’s still very personal, it’s for the most part controlled. Basically everything that doesn’t work for me in my art outside of teaching.

Uneasy feelings are usually a  prelude to some kind of change. I know that much by now. Painting doesn’t work, sketches are worthless and you wonder if maybe a career as anything else would suit you better. Maybe it’s my relative lack of experience, or maybe I’ll just never get used to these moments. But I find those times hard to navigate.

During the summer my mind felt flat, if you will. I worked mainly on finishing my course ‘Foundations I’, and it’s those final weeks of work that seem to drag. I’d finished the painting, the drawing, the art. Then comes everything else. I don’t hate it, but I do need to manage it. Better. I need to manage it better. The last bit of editing, writing, checking, fixing, felt like living with a 3-year-old again screaming I DUNNO WANT TO at every turn.

It makes you want to paint again though, for sure.

But what? How? I feel like some time during the high of the pandemic, I fell off my learning track. That sounds awfully dramatic, because well…just get back on then. Learn some new stuff, pick a subject, paint away. Stop feeling so sorry for yourself.

"Choir rehearsal II", September 20 2022. Compressed charcoal on paper.

My son’s school started, my course group was doing great and I figured I would just spend the last three months of 2022 working on new techniques. Rather uninspired, I ordered some supplies. Please imagine a picture of me here, looking sad, a tear welling up in one eye, while clicking on random shit at my art supplier’s website, before placing my order. Life is hard, HARD I tell you! 😉 

Jokes aside, that’s what happened and then this next thing did as well.

A friend called and said; “Hey, remember when we planned on doing creative stuff together and then we didn’t? How about we do it?”

This friend is Janneke and Janneke does things with musical notes that I don’t understand. The most important thing is that, after she’s done with them, they sound like music. 


Neither of us managed the pandemic very well in terms of creativity, so our plan to combine our respective arts was shelved for a while. But we’re allowed to go to galleries again, and perform on stage, and sing in groups and what not so I guess both our lives started breathing again slowly. 

"Choir rehearsal I", September 20 2022. Compressed charcoal on paper.

The whole point is, it got me working again after months of what felt like a creative halt. There is always something needed to change directions; from the endless hours of video editing, to what seems to other end of my spectrum; working on artworks. 

I’ve come to accept that I can’t do it simultaneously, and I also don’t want to live without either one. So as I’m working in my sketchbooks, I’m trying to envision a life that flows like that; blocks of months devoted to one thing. While at the same time paying my rent of course. It’s a rainy country, this Holland, and I’d like to keep a roof over my head.

This isn’t the first time my art flow (if you will) has halted and I didn’t know why, what to do, how to fix it and HELP! I recognise that it might be part of this job, of this life. So now I’m trying to see, what the things are/were that got me going again, because I somehow feel that it’s important to be aware of this. And write it down.

Connection, was the first things that came to mind. 

The idea that you can be with someone, complete opposites in personality and nature, and still connect in creativity. 

Sketches, 7-14 September 2022. Charcoal and acrylic on paper.

The idea of this scares the shit out of me, because I have a mighty strong tendency to keep people very far away from me, my insecurities and therefore, my art. The online community I’ve created around my art and art school is also – in part – a great way to hide from actual real-life encounters. I may not like to admit it, but there is an essential difference between talking, seeing and hearing in real life, and their digital counterparts. 

The idea of doing things in-person has been suggested to me many times over past years and of course, I always felt like I ‘had’ to at some point. That when you don’t, you’re not complete. Or something. 

It did hang over my head like a big, dark cloud, I will admit. People have offered help, pointed out opportunities, but I deflected them all with a smile and a good excuse. But honestly, it made me feel like crap. Not the people! The feeling that I really wanted to be able to do that. Fear and anxiety can make any situation feel very permanent and that’s what this felt like. It was never going to change so I might as well drop it, I told myself.

Sketches, 14-26 September 2022. Charcoal on paper.

And then this connection happened. Why? No clue. You open a door that you kept closed for ages and find out there are no monsters. No panic attacks. No drama really. When that time comes, it’s very easy to say “see, I told you, when the time is right, it’ll happen”. Because it already happened. But I know the next I’m in some rut, thinking Nothing Will Ever Change, I still won’t be seeing the light at the end of that tunnel. 😉 Hence this journal, this writing. A moment in time that will be here when I’ve moved past it, look back on and learn that it turned out just fine.

Janneke brought a great (but slightly abstract to me) idea to the table; an art expo and choir concert, weaved together. Christmas 2023. Can you imagine it? Because I can’t. Maybe that’s for the best, for now. It leaves something to be explored, and room to breath without the overwhelming panic I feel luring.

I went to one of her choir rehearsals. With actual PEOPLE. I opened my sketchbooks and saw things I’d drawn in the past, that now belong to the present. I touched paper and charcoals and worked. 

And I typed this journal because I feel at home in my studio again, to direct my focus on this thing that is ahead. And as always, I’m very lucky and grateful to have you follow me as we move through this. Until the next update! <3

8 thoughts on “Encounter”

  1. I love your blogs, much of what you describe is often how I feel, please continue to create, teach and blog, you are very much appreciated for your uniqueness as a person, teacher and artist 👩‍🎨

    1. I always connect with your words and art. Your sketches are truly exquisite. And that fear of stepping outside the comfort zone of home and actually seeing people….is very familiar. Can’t wait to see where this will lead you.

  2. Dear Sabra!
    I too have times when I feel rather ‘flat’ and unable to get going on things. I think the pandemic exaggerated this because we all got out of the habit of going out as much, going to meetings and gatherings, etc. I for one now find it hard to feel like going to get togethers. I plan on it, then in the end, I tend to find excuses and stay home. This lack of social contact– except online, which I agree is different– tends to make us more introverted and in a way, lonely. I didn’t realize how getting out fills the well with ideas and sparks creativity until I didn’t have it. So, I am glad you connected with a creative soul partner and things are looking up! Lesson for me– get out more!!!! As I once heard, keep your eye on the donut and not on the hole! Sometimes that is harder than it sounds!

  3. Thank you for being you and your art. I always feel connected when I take one of your courses or hear you on a video. I’m very introverted. I did post a sketch I did in the foundations course and that almost caused a panic attack. But you were very encouraging and that helped so much. Thank you for being willing to share yourself. I know it isn’t easy😊

  4. Your feelings and words always, always resonate with me. Thank you for sharing your struggles, your joys. I thought I could do something like that, but I chickened out. Turns out I’m way more private that I thought I was. That hammy little girl singing for the world turned into a very private grown lady who sings only for her immediates now. Funny though how the craving for public expression hasn’t gone away yet.

  5. Pingback: Direction - Creative classes by Sabra Awlad Issa

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