Time is slippery. I spent many years of my life sliding through marriage, parenthood, jobs and responsibilities in the uneasy awareness that I possessed an artist’s eye, an artist’s aptitude, and the skill I need to actually produce art—someday, when I have time. Occasionally I would paint or sculpt and complete enough pieces to show in an art fair or post online and try to validate myself as an artist. Then I would slip through weeks or months without ever clearing off the dining room table and pulling out my paints or my clay. But life’s highway, slippery though it may be, has episodes. Sometimes the brakes lock up, everything spins out of control, and you wind up facing in an entirely different direction.
It’s a turning point—sometimes it comes in the form of a situation in which we find ourselves facing our own mortality—a point when we have to accept the inevitable fact that some day we will no longer exist in this physical body that we call home. In the backs of our minds we all know that we aren’t going to be around forever, yet mostly we go about our day-to-day business as if we’re immortal. Most of us don’t like to think about death—especially our own.
My turning point spun on a single word: cancer. I was devastated. It felt like the end of me. Little did I know that it was also a beginning. The cancer was in my uterus, but it changed my brain. It changed the way I think. I suddenly saw with great clarity all that was deeply important to me. I had a new and intense appreciation for the people and circumstances in my life. Most importantly, I became aware of the undeniable reality that my time on earth is limited, and I acquired a compelling sense of urgency.
I realized that I had spent more time wanting, planning, dreaming and thinking about being an artist than I actually spent making art. And in this newfound clarity I knew the truth about time that can be summed up in a single question: If not now, when?
The transition from “wanting” to “being” was monumental. I started managing my days and my moments being and doing what really mattered to me. I created a real work space—not just my dining room table—that was functional, warm and inviting. I established a disciplined daily studio practice that fit within my daily routine and worked with my circadian rhythms, scheduling my studio time at my most naturally creative time of the morning. I also discovered within myself a new kind of courage and willingness to take risks.
Studio time has become a spiritual practice for me. It’s an exercise in being fully present in the moment (without the awareness of the passage of minutes and hours). I immerse my attention in the tactile quality of the clay, the richness and variety of the colors, the consistency of the paint on my brush . . . I fall in love with the subtle emotions that emerge upon the faces of my creations. The studio is my temple; the creative process is my meditation.
I keep my commitment to show up in my studio each morning, but I’ve also learned not to force anything once I’m there. By simply showing up I am effortlessly guided to the next right action . . . the next step . . . the correct color . . . I keep multiple projects going at once and will go back and forth between them as I am drawn. As the clay begins to take form, I allow my sculptures to lead me to what they want to be. Their personalities emerge. Their stories are revealed.
Through my art, I express the deepest parts of myself—my fears, my dreams, my spiritual thoughts. I like to believe these aspects of my Self are common in the collective unconscious and that sharing them is my way of connecting with my fellow travelers on this journey that we all share
I used to think that I needed approval and validation in order to call myself an artist. Now I just do what I do.