Four days a week I wake at 5 AM to paint before leaving for my day job. Why do I wake up before the sun? The primary reason is simple: I am devoted to my art practice. I am a morning person and I like to give my best to my art. I am also often an anxious person and making art in the early hours helps me stay centered throughout the day. But the big reason I wake up early to paint is because it is an act of devotion.
Devotion may seem like an odd word to apply to an artistic practice. The idea is one I learned from Business Awesomizer, Fabeku Fatunmise. I didn’t fully understand it the first time he spoke about it but, like many good ideas, it came back to me when I was ready for it and when I needed it the most.
Last month I experienced a serious loss of confidence. I was accidentally cc’d on an e-mail from some local artists in which they spoke about me and my art. Hobbyist. Wannabe. No talent. On the same day, a writer I respect critiqued a draft scene of my novel and told me that I should give up writing and pursue photography. Purple prose. Juvenile. Showy. This all came hot on the heels of the end of an engagement to a woman I had loved deeply. It was a lot of rejection and loss all at once. The black clouds of doom rolled in…
For a while I was sad and anxious. I questioned my worth. I avoided the studio. I cried a lot (a lot a lot). I couldn’t keep my sorrow hidden – it showed. So much so that a stranger stopped me to give me some advice. “Your every worry is a prayer for what you do not want,” she said. Her words were just what I needed to hear. Perhaps she was an angel in disguise.
One night I sat down and prayed for what I did want. I wanted to create again. And so I picked up a brush and began. That simple. That hard. I was afraid – it felt uncomfortable and awkward, but I woke up the next day and I painted some more and eventually, the work began to flow again.
I journaled about it and searched for the lessons and for the good. Here’s an excerpt:
My practice is both artistic and spiritual. I am closest to the Divine when I’m creating and I believe that time spent in my studio is an act of communion. I had a practice and I can have one again. What I need now is devotion. What if I put down the emotional burdens of life in the studio? What if I quite literally lay them down? On canvas. On paper. With paint. With ink. In tears. In joy. With laughter. With rage. With love.
How do I commit to a relationship with art that focuses solely on creation and not on outcome? What words do I say?
With the experienced love of a committed and strong marriage, through thick and thin, I am devoted to art.
With the caring and patience of a loving parent, without known outcomes, I am devoted to art.
I am fiercely devoted.
I am in it with all my heart.
The next day I woke up at 5 o’clock, fed the cat, made some tea, lit some incense, and painted until 7:45. It felt really good (really, really good). Several weeks later, here’s what I’ve discovered:
Adding the intention of devotion to my art practice improves my art and my mood by letting joy shine through the action of creation.
What are you devoted to? Writing? Collecting art? Quilting? Cooking? Gardening? Medieval poetry? Mothering? I want to know! Please comment below. [If you’re reading this via e-mail, please visit the website to leave a comment and start a conversation.]
Free offer! Contact me if you’d like an image file (sized for your phone) with the French proverb featured in this post. It can be a powerful reminder and I’m happy to share it with you!