In just a few hours, my solo show with the Hilton begins. But really, this exhibition has started many months before today. It has been the culmination of so much learning and growth this year. Like all feats, it was not met without fear. This post is a brief glimpse at the creative process, no matter how brutal, it is necessary.
On the 3rd of August I came home from my two-week vacation visiting my family back in the States to face my biggest challenge yet. I was to prepare for a completely solo art show, graciously hosted by the Hilton of Abu Dhabi.
The pressure was on. I knew that it would be the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to have my work seen by a wider audience, and a platform for me to reconnect with my previous collectors. There was just one thing, I had to show up and do the work. The goal? 12 of my best paintings ready in a little more than a month.
I knew this would be an intense process. Painting is as much a physical act as it is a cognitive one, but I wasn't scared of the hard labor ahead. When you're tapped into that "flow state" also known as inspiration, time seems to standstill, and suddenly it's just me in a room with miles of canvas. No, I wasn't scared of the work.
Can I be perfectly honest with you? I was scared of my own ability, my very claim to being an artist. The more I thought about what I had agreed to, the more I started to panic. I questioned everything I had ever done in the past. Was (I) my art good enough? What if people are tired of my camels? (They're so cute though, I can't stop, sorry :P) What if people are expecting something completely different. Maybe I needed to be more like the other artists I admire. Maybe I need to be someone else.
I know it's as crazy as it may sound. I had just landed this great opportunity by being myself, for doing the work that inspires me and energizes me, and there I was, thinking of revoking every painting I had done previously. For days, I contemplated calling and canceling the whole thing. I knew I needed to find the motivation to do this, and fast. Thankfully, my confidence grew when I tapped into these truths:
- Gratitude - Being grateful for such an amazing opportunity is crucial. Exhibitions are work. There are many details to hash out, promotions, and costs. Fortunately, I have the opportunity to go into this experience with the help of the amazing team at Hilton to help see this into fruition. After our first meeting, they assured me that they want ME! Everything I have to offer, authentically.
- Connectedness - Remember that no matter what the critics will say of my art or even me, that the people who show up to my exhibition attend because they are connected somehow to what I am doing. You, even reading this blog post, means that you are connected. We are sharing this moment, this work and this journey. And for that, I am also humbly grateful.
- Value - I had to remind myself that art is inherently valuable. Let me repeat: Art is inherently valuable because art, real art, is created from the soul and hands of an artist's vision. Artists are powerful, magical beings that stare at a blank canvas and dare to transform it into something beautiful. This gift is something that we often take lightly but it is so valuable.
- Vulnerability - Accept that to live a life of creativity and to share that art with the world requires an unforgiving amount of vulnerability. There's nothing for me to hide behind, no fancy gimmicks, no lofty intellectual pursuits. Just me and a wish for a more colorful, happier world. I had to step into that vulnerability and trust it. (I've also been reading Brene Brown's Daring Greatly to help coax me along the way.)
And so, earlier last month, as I paced around the studio still in the state of doubt and panic, I realized I needed to set one rule for myself: do not buy paint. I had plenty thanks to my love of art supply shopping (hello). I didn't need more shopping to distract me from showing up and doing the work.
I know it was simply me fearing that I needed something outside of myself to create amazing art, and that's just not true. Tweet this.
This body of work was literally produced with everything I have. I needed nothing extra. Nothing special other than inspiration, my health (gratitude), and the courage to show up. No more distractions, no more fears. Just me. I am enough. You are enough.
If you're in Abu Dhabi, I hope you will visit my exhibition and get the chance to experience my latest body of work fresh off the easel. I hope these paintings hug you and make you smile as they've comforted me. Each one is a bit of my dreams. They are beautiful dreams, and I hope they never stop.
Start: September 14th, Hilton Corniche, Abu Dhabi, Opening Reception 3pm-7pm. Last day: September 20th.
P.S. A catalogue of my exhibition pieces have been sent out to my newsletter subscribers. To get a free copy of my exhibition paintings, please drop your email here.