About a week ago, I tried a new medicine to help me sleep. Being able to fall asleep has been an issue of mine for the past 15 years or so, and I’ve spent many a nigh wide awake late into the witching hour. Three years ago, I found something that helped, but an unknown side-effect was losing dreams. I can’t say for sure if I dreamt or not, but I never remembered anything. It was always just before and then waking up.
One morning, after changing things up, I spent my sleeping hours searching for my phone with my father. When I woke up, I could hear a TV playing softly in the background and my mind, freshly awake, recognized the sound and thought oh, Mom and Dad must be up watching TV.
(If you are new here, my Mom passed in 2015 and my Dad passed this last March.)
My mind fully woke up and realized it was my roommate, that my parents were not here, and that the search I just finished was a dream. It was a gift, a blessing, to see him once again, if only while sleeping.
I’ve been feeling better lately, and combined with recently finishing an online class with Sabrina Ward Harrison (so worth the price tag, so amazing - if you have a chance to take her next offering, do it) had me sitting on my floor and painting with my hands as I happily listened to music. I saw my Dad, and Friday night, I saw my mom and brother, too (my brother passed in 2016). This brought me so much joy!
I had a giant piece of drawing paper down to protect my rug and my art journal out. I pulled out a canvas I’ve had for ages and done nothing with and got started.
Now, while I was painting and playing, I was messing around on the paper. We all know how fun it is to play with the paper we’ve put down to protect the surface - my friend Robin-Marie makes such amazing work from her layers of newsprint under her work. But I kept going, playing with paint and chalk pastels and ink, just allowing myself to be free - this is back paper, it doesn’t count for anything, doesn’t have to be a journal page to share or a canvas. No thought needed. I quickly turned my attention to the piece that was magically coming together.
I pasted down trim I’d pulled from a long-forgotten stash, added scraps of painted papers I’ve collected. My drawing could be wonky - I was only trying out a new supply, so who cares how it comes out?
And then I started writing about my dreams, about seeing missed family members again after such a long time without them. I celebrated the new gift I’d been given, how much I missed them, how I was finally finding my footing after such intense grief.
And when I sat back and saw what I’d made, I cannot explain how happy it made me. I was making the kind of art I always wanted to make, that my ability has finally caught up with my taste (watch this video of Ira Glass explaining the Gap; it is so worth it, especially if you’re struggling with the work you make vs the work you enjoy). I showed a friend and she suggested I frame it.
That’s not something I’ve done before. I have canvases hanging in my space, but nothing on paper, no journal spreads. It was an odd but touching suggestion, and I decided I’d grab a frame for it after my NaNoWriMo meetup. My roommate came by before I left and agreed I should get a frame.
I can’t stop looking up at it, frame on my wall. I had to take something off the wall to fit her, And when I showed my friend, she told me she’d never felt the push for me to frame something before. It all lined up, and now I have a special piece about seeing my family in my dreams on my wall.
I’m totally going to use this approach the next time I have a painting party on the floor. Big sheet of paper, art journal close at hand. Art journaling doesn’t have to be in a book. It can be on paper, or canvas. Anything can be art. And no surface is precious! My dog walked over the paper past where I was working. If I hadn’t been playing around on a surface I was using for scratch, this would never have been created.
My joy to create has returned! I’m writing again (obviously) and creating and painting and exploring life again. Still have the day job, but now I’m charged and ready to dive back into my artist self.
When was the last time you made an unexpected piece of art you love? Got paint all over your hands (I only used a brush for the drawing of the girl to spread the watercolor marker)? Dive in and make a mess! And link me so I can come see!