In 2020 I’m starting my online art school; right here, on my own website. Why am I pursuing this goal? How am I going to get there? And what do I need to tackle? I’d love to take you along on this journey and share my struggles and victories. I’ll be talking about this bi-weekly in this series of blogs. Stay up to date on new blogs by joining my newsletter.
When Kara Bullock asked me in 2018 to do a solo class for her art network, I was hesitant. By then, I had only participated in collaborative courses and being one out of 50 talented art teachers feels a whole lot safer than being out there on your own. I must admit that the only reason I said ‘yes’ to her offer, was because I trusted her – being a long-term and respected business owner – and not so much my own teaching capabilities. Starting an online art school or even teaching a solo class wasn’t in my planning at that point but somehow the thought wouldn’t let go of me.
I quickly said “yes!” and then had a mild nervous breakdown about what I’d just done. What was I going to add to other people’s art journey?! I did have one advantage; I’ve worked as a freelancer for a long time. Planning, problem-solving and making deadlines was my life up until the summer of 2017, when I suffered from burnout-like problems which forced me to rethink my life.
Rethink may be an overstatement, because my brain at that point wasn’t doing much of anything anymore. All I wanted was to get away from it all. Literally all of it. I didn’t want to work, I didn’t want to answer my phone, I didn’t want to get out of bed anymore and I didn’t want to be mother. And that’s a scary place to be. A lot of that recent past plays an important part in my current life and decision making proces.
It’s not that I really didn’t want all of that. No one in that position actually wants to stay in bed all day, every day. And no one wants to give up their kids. The best thing I ever did was to realize that it was my brain going into survival mode, almost like a biological instinct taking over. And that – as a sentient being – I needed to face it and take from it what I needed.
The things I needed in my life
What was that was lacking in my life and caused this state of mind? One was human love and genuine connection. Over the years I had surrounded myself with fellow entrepreneurs. What little personal contact I had with them, was limited to talking about business and complaining about clients. We all pretended to have it all, need nothing and be made out of concrete. None of it was real and none of it was genuine. So I stopped going to network meetings.
Another was real creativity. Not the pseudo kind, where you start out all fresh and then client demands and feedback reduce it down to you picking the colors. Technology is a wonderful but also tricky business to work in as a creative person and it was eating me alive. I gave myself 3 months to finish up my work and ended most contracts.
The last thing I needed and didn’t know I needed until I got it, was gentleness. Kindness. Compassion, empathy, understanding, whatever you want to call it. There was so little of it in my life. When clients wouldn’t pay, my fellow freelancers would go into a raging fit. I wanted to call them, to ask if maybe they had problems, maybe they wanted to talk and we could work it out. But there was this general rule in freelancing that money was strictly business. That you had to be cold and distant about it. It was the same with deadlines or the amount of hours you worked. No pain no gain. Got a kid? Send him to daycare full time. Got a migraine? Deal with it. Want to go away for a few days to spend some time with family? Take your laptop and work on.
I felt sick and trapped and pulled the plug on all of it. Just in time, I suppose.
The things I got in return
When I had to quit all of it, I never felt more empty and failed in my life. No big revelation here. 🙂 It was just a great big mess and I don’t want to write the type of blog where everything turns into rainbows and unicorns in the final paragraph. I don’t thrive well on insecurity and my character is more rigid than a 10 inch thick plate of steel. So to give myself some kind of deadline (old tricks eh) I told myself I could have 2 months of nothingness. Just to see what would happen.
I was sitting in the bus on the way to my mum, browsing Facebook, when an ad popped up on my feed. It was a painting course at an online art school by Juna Biagioni. We talked about that when we met later on and still can’t figure out how it ended up there based on my internet browsing history. But I remember thinking “what is this thing?” and later thinking “oh well, why not?”. And I purchased it.
It was a bit of a big deal to me because I rarely spend money on myself. So I took it awfully serious. I worked really hard on it and figured that that would ‘make it right’ somehow. That I’d come out on top and ‘win’. It’s almost hilarious how these deeply ingrained patterns pop back up the minute you’re not looking.
I think during those weeks I realized one of the most important things in my life; that change wasn’t a one trick pony. It’s not something that ‘happens’ and voila, you’re brand new. It’s a process where you keep on repeating the same destructive shit, with one exception: the point in time where you realize you’re doing it again, comes closer and closer to the moment you’re doing it. Like action and reaction moving towards each other until they’re are almost in sync. That’s change I guess. When I thought about it that way, I stopped thinking “oh fuck, I’m doing it AGAIN” and leave it at that. I watched myself and tried to accept that there wasn’t anything I could change right now and that was ok. And in that acceptance was – ironically – the change itself.
The online art community
During my weeks in the private Facebook group for Juna’s class, I looked around and saw a lot of people struggling with these type of thoughts. The posts about how we felt by far outnumbered the posts about any technical skills. Art – like music – has a magical way of tuning into our souls and as much as I tried to keep it all rational, there’s no way to deny that.
The art community that I met outside of the privacy of a closed group was even more astonishing. It’s more than just any online art school. It’s honest and open and non-judgemental. Dare I say it restores one’s faith in humanity?
It was this knowledge, knowing that you will land softly, that made me say yes to Kara. And it made me say yes to not going back to old, familiar but destructive ways of living. To look for a future that won’t weight so heavy on a creative heart.
So that’s what I’d like to write about here, in this series of articles. Not really how to start any online business but to share how I move through life with a sensitive, creative heart. Share what I’d like to see reflected in the way I teach art. Ups and downs and the whole grayscale in between. I hope you’ll join me and leave your thoughts behind as well, as they connect us even from afar.