creative inspiration + the small saints

When I was a teenager, I filled a 3-ring binder with blank paper and proceeded to create an illustrated catalog of my closet.

I did it because the idea came to me and it sounded fun.

It was fun.

I came up with all the possible combinations for my clothing pieces and drew the outfits with pen and colored pencil.

My mom was a little alarmed. She thought it was a really strange thing to do and may be indicative of some sort of problem.

If you ask me, I was ahead of my time. I'm pretty sure there are closet apps now that do allow you to do exactly this with photos of your clothing.

My whole life I've had ideas like that one and I've pretty much always brought the ideas into reality, in one way or another.

It's my personality. It's how I see the world. It's how I experience the world.

You are a creator.

We were born creative.

You are a creative being whether or not you feel creative.

You may also be an artist.

And you may very well be an artist who doesn't make art.

There's an old adage that goes like this, If you're meant to be a ________ no one/nothing can stop you.

Don't believe that for a second.

There are many things that can stop you. Roadblocks, fears, lies, other people's opinions. We all suffer creative wounds and sometimes even creative fatalities.

There are times when being an artist means walking a lonely road in the dark with only your own heart to guide you and continuing to walk when every single person who loves you is calling out for you to stop.

To honor your creativity, you must follow its impulse. You must listen to the whisper of your inspiration and go where it leads you - even if you are the only one going that way.

Not too long ago, I signed up for an online course designed around the idea of painting tiny portraits on dried teabags. As soon as I saw the course listing, I was intrigued. 

I was drawn in by the whole process of drying out the bags, slicing them open to empty out the tea leaves, priming them, painting with tiny little brushes.

It simply appealed to me.

I had great fun completing the course.

I noticed, however, that every time I mentioned to someone that I was painting on teabags, they looked at me quizzically or sometimes, with concern.

Some asked me why. Why would I do such a thing? What was the point of it?

I thought about how many times in my life it has been the case that something I am drawn to do creatively engenders the concern of others.

Many, many times.

I thought about how often a well-meaning, loving person has implied or told me directly that I should pull back, slow down, reconsider, not be rash, not waste time - because they don't see the value in what I'm doing, or they find it upsetting in some way.

Making art means making failures. It means taking wrong turns. It means sometimes having to abandon projects that don't turn out the way you hoped.

There is absolutely no safety in art-making.

And your loved ones want you to be safe. 

They worry when you aren't making enough money. They worry when you might make yourself look foolish. They worry when they think you might be on the wrong path.

The thing is, if you're an artist or if you are committed to your creative expression, the right path with often look like the wrong path.

You must trust your inspiration. 

You must value your creative impulse.

You must be willing to go where other people don't want you to go.

I learned something when I started painting on teabags. I learned that painting small freed my hand (exactly the opposite of what I would have predicted). The teabag portraits were much more painterly than my large paintings.

Because I took that course, I opened a door to painting small and when I saw a pack of 4 x 4 inch square gallery wrapped canvas on sale a few months later, I snapped them up. I probably wouldn't have even looked at them before, but because of the teabags, the smallness called to me.

Within two days, I'd completed nine portraits and had embarked upon a new project, Small Saints.

I'm particularly energized by this project. I'm tapping into a creative channel that is life-giving and rich for me.

But I wouldn't be painting the Small Saints if I hadn't painted the teabags. 

That's how inspiration works. 

That's how creativity is.

It's wild and it knows itself and it knows you better than you know yourself.

Your creativity knows where it needs to take you. 

Listening to it means you will sometimes answer a call that doesn't make sense to anyone else. It may not even make sense to you.

Maybe your creative impulse will tell you to gather up the sticks in your hard and paint them with bright colors, or fill shoeboxes with images cut from magazines, or collect empty wine bottles, or buy a dozen mugs at the thrift store and turn them into candles. 

Maybe your creative impulse will tell you to get in the car and drive - go on a silent retreat, learn a new language, take a dance class, sew a back yard tent out of pillowcases.

When you answer, you won't know where you're going. You won't know the why of it.

You may have to walk past people holding up signs that beg: Stop Go No Further and you will have to tell them you love them and thank them for their concern and keep on going - into the dark woods, into the tunnel, down the road of your own personal creative story.

The world would like for you to set goals and have measurable outcome.

The world would like to categorize and label you based on your accomplishments.

The world would like to keep you safe.

Your creativity, on the other hand, doesn't care about your safety. It wants to take you on an adventure.

If you go where it leads you, you may not end up where other people want you to be. You may not end up anywhere. But you will go on a journey into your truest self.

And that is a place worth going.

Every time.


If you're ready to engage with your creativity, but you're not sure where to begin, let's work together. I offer one-time creativity coaching sessions as well as packages, for deeper work.