Yesterday, after a full morning of running around like a crazy person, I decided to treat myself to an hour at an art-filled coffee shop that I've always wanted to visit. I had an overdue artist statement to write for Kristine's show out in California and, with a long to-do list ahead of me, was desperately seeking enough breathing space to let the rather complicated thoughts untangle themselves into words.
I ordered my drink (an iced coffee) and asked where the restroom was.
The quiet, but smiling barista: Under the stairs.
Me: (as though this might be some sort of magical place) Where under the stairs?
The quiet, but smiling barista: Go down the stairs (he points to a dark corner) and take a right at the flashing red star.
Oh, well OK. Down the dark stairwell I went. The walls and floor were painted deep shades of red and black--cavernous, in an old building sort of way--rough stone arched doors leading in all sorts of directions. But then I spotted the flashing (more like pulsing) star, in the deepest corner of darkness, and there it was: the restroom, in all its graffiti glory. I shut the door behind me and, well...as you can see, I couldn't help but take a photo.
don't give up
Let me just say that those were, by far, the best directions I received all day.
After returning to a sunlit world and retrieving my iced coffee from the counter, I went and sat down on a couch in the corner of the room, opened up my (now fixed!) laptop, tried to breathe, and then get to work.
Unfortunately, my mental clock was ticking, music was playing, and an acquaintance had just sat down across the room from me. I was trying to explain my latest painting, "Modern Day St. Francis," in as few of words as possible. It is the painting that I began on the first day of the Be Brave project. An image of a homeless man with two dogs. The reason I painted it is because, these days, I find myself frequently drawing inspiration from St. Francis. Mind you, I'm not affiliated with any particular religious organization, but he is one guy that I have always admired.
The painting didn't turn out nearly as good as I had hoped it to. Actually, I am not sure that I've ever painted anything in such a short amount of time. I've been being very judgmental about this piece, but the truth is that, even if it's not very good, spending time with this painting has served a very deep purpose for me, as it helped me to decide what is most important to me. He reminds me that if I walk through my life authentically, the rest will fall into place and I will be taken care of.
My time at the coffee shop was mostly unproductive. I had an event to attend later in the day and was beginning to feel a dose of nervousness and tension set in. To mingle and small talk with a crowd of strangers with the intention of "getting my name out" does not come naturally to me. I'm able to somehow pull it off--but, for me, these events take a huge amount of energy.
Happily, the event ended up being a wonderful success. I met a really incredible artist there who seemed to have even more self-doubt than me. It was interesting and I'm glad that I met her. She picked my brain and I was happy to share what I've learned. This is, after all, such a learning process. Even though we were technically each other's competition, I think we were both grateful that the other was there. We kept wandering over to each other to talk and, essentially, bolstering each others confidence.
I wanted to tell her: Don't give up! And, in doing so, I was really saying it to myself just as much as I was saying it to her.
Anyway, after a night of meeting many wonderful people and their dogs, this is what I ended up writing...
To live a purposeful and satisfying life takes great amounts of bravery. For me, that act of bravery was in taking the leap towards becoming a full time pet portrait artist. Recently, that leap has grown to include a commitment to helping abused and abandoned dogs. I must admit, though, that sometimes I get scared. Sometimes I worry about where the money will come from or if my ideas will be good enough or if the right people will find me. But over and over again, through painting animals, I am graced with opportunities that allow me to experience the deepest imaginable love. I can only describe that love as God Love. Pure. Egoless. Unconditional.
Of all the saints, St. Francis is my favorite. Since I was a child, his gentle love for animals has had a profound effect on me. When doubt starts to creep in, I think of him and am deeply inspired to continue with my work. “Modern Day St. Francis” represents the notion that—no matter how much or how little we have—we always have enough to give love. My painting is but a heartfelt gesture in celebration of the unconditional love, infinite happiness, and immeasurable comfort that our four-legged friends have brought to us.
~ ~ ~
And so here is a mantra for you, my Be Brave cohorts:
DON'T GIVE UP!