{ branching out, looking in }

I plunked my paintbrush into the dirty water and sat back in my chair, ready to admire my finished work. An avid art journaler, my forays onto the canvas have been limited to a few illustrations that -- and I freely admit this -- weren't very good or real or held any sort of technique and a couple of journal-pages-on-canvas experiments. Disheartened by any lack of interest in my paintings (that is, only two were bought on Etsy, the rest have be left to expire), I abandoned the notion and ran back into the relative safety of my journals. There, I could make a mess, make mistakes, and it didn't matter. My journals are safe. I don't "waste" a canvas with a journal page, don't feel the pressure to create something "better" than usual.

Last week, I made one of those little steps of courage and joined the local art league. While I'd known about it for the past year, I never felt like I was an "artist." In my mind, I'd created this group of people and given them attributes -- first, they were all "real" artists, second, they probably went to art school or something like that. The website posted about shows and installations and galleries, and here I was, playing with paint in a journal. Yes, art journals and folk art are rampant on the internet and in magazines, but is it really all that popular outside our safe little circles? So, I was afraid and didn't join. Every few months, I'd think about attending a meeting, of joining, but then that little voice would come back on and I'd go back to my journals.

But this year, I joined. I marched in clutching my check and membership form and handed it over. Wrote my name in big black letters -- Samie. Mingled. Looked at books. One of the monthly events is the art competition, where members are invited to bring pieces and display them; I'd known about this but was way too shy to bring anything. Plus, I didn't really HAVE anything to bring.

Looking over these pieces, I groaned to myself. "Oh, GOD," I said internally, "these people are good." The paintings were beautiful. Done with oils or watercolors. Portraits and still-life's and one abstract. Amazing. No bright colors or funky collages. No sparkles or illustrations. Nadda. No messes or flowing prose. Nothing, that is, anything like anything I'd ever create.

Chatting with the girl next to me, I discovered it was her first meeting, too. She was the creator of the single abstract, a graduate of the Art Institute (that is, the Art Institute of Chicago's art school), and soon-to-be mom. We gabbed over supplies and life and the demonstration. But I felt like a fake. When she asked me where I went to school, I shyly said, "Columbia Collage [Chicago], but not for art. I have a television degree and plan on moving back to California soon."

"So you're going to be leaving us," she remarked.

Looking back on it now, I guess I wasn't so much of an outsider as I thought. I was, however, the youngest person in the room.

This gave me a great idea: maybe I was there to teach these people something.

I ran home with new inspiration and a lofty goal -- do four paintings by the next meeting and bring one in for the little competition. No, I won't win. It won't even be close. But I will be bringing something new, something fresh, bright, colorful, and different. And even if they don't like it, at least that's a reaction. Because maybe one person WILL (such as my new acquaintance, who told me she felt lonely being the only abstract -- it was beautiful and expressive, though!).

Back to my painting. Sitting back in the harsh overhead light of my ceiling fan, my only source of illumination this late at night, I found myself frowning. I'd labored long and hard over the shading of the face and hair, and was proud of myself for all I'd done without an ounce of instruction. But in my glee to finish, I'd inadvertently shaded the girl's shirt royal blue, pulling the natural focus of the painting from the girl's face to the bland and poorly-shaded shirt (as I have no idea how to do that!). The background was lovely. Fun. Bright. With sparkles.

Abigale is sitting on my shelves in my recently-finished-work place of honor. If Amelia is any indication, she'll be on my floor buried in supplies and paper scraps in a week (poor Amelia is still available on Etsy, but I have little hope she'll sell despite how much I like her). At least I finished it, right? Don't I have to make paintings in order to make better ones?

I'm working on a new one -- Victoria -- based on a drawing in my journal. I love how my journal has been evolving...I've stuck with it longer than I've stayed in any single journal for two years....and love paging through it, looking at the other pages. I can see an evolution, from the beginning pages to where I am now, and I can see all these changes, this growth, these new material uses and experiments. I'm even considering creating a new art journal workshop based on what I've learned so far.

Looking over the painting-in-progress, I'm scared. What am I doing? I'm no painter! I can do journals, sure, but paintings? Who am I kidding? Why am I even trying? I've never taken a painting class, I have no idea what I'm doing. All those people at the art league will laugh at me. Look at that amateur painting! Ha ha ha! What a joke!

I love my journals. I love working in them, teaching others, experimenting, learning, creating. But you can't hang those on a wall. I can't exhibit those in galleries. How do I work around this? There HAS to be a way!

I'm going to find it. I have to. My journals are my passion. I want to teach them SO BAD! How do you do this? How can I? I'd love to go to art retreats...like ArtFest and Art&Soul, but I have NO MONEY to go to anything. What is a girl to do?

Paint. Finish. Journal.

I had pictures, but I picked up the cord to connect my camera to the computer...and found that one of the dogs had chewed off the connector. Must figure something out!