What do you feel is your purpose? If someone asked me that a couple of years ago my answer would not have been honest. I would have said what I thought someone else wanted me to say. I would have had to stop myself from rolling my eyes because I thought those kinds of questions were vague and cliche. That version of me doesn’t exist anymore. I don’t have the same need-to-please drive or that cynical knee jerk reaction. So, as I began thinking about what it means to have a purpose, I realized that it’s possible many people have never stopped to consider what purpose truly means. I hadn’t. I mean, I did know the literal meaning, but not the applied meaning, the way I understand it now. It was just a few months ago, the end of 2018, when I had a yearning sense that I was overlooking a common theme in my work. So, I began looking under every rock and stone hunting for what I did not even know how to describe. I now know, I was on a quest for a purpose.
I keep attaching the same words to all different topics. Just as I was beginning to think I should find a new batch of words to describe how I approach, well, everything, I had another realization; validation. It was validating to know that I’m becoming grounded in my perspective in such a way that I can use the same words to describe and explain almost everything in my life. My inclination to apply heartfelt authenticity and uncensored truth to all I do, say and create, is no longer discrete, it has become loud, proud and even predictable.
So, what even is “purpose”? What does that actually refer to? It’s kinda like how I never really understood the meaning of boundaries until I was around 30 and struggling, but I just didn’t know that what I was wrestling with had a name: “boundaries”. A therapist taught me that I didn’t have to apologize for my life choices, and boundaries are not just healthy, they are necessary. Purpose gets tossed around similarly with a loose understanding that lacks full comprehension. They are broad topics and strong words that we may not fully grasp until we need to store a feeling under it’s category. I wasn’t interested in what either of those words would fully represent for my life until I needed the word to describe what I was experiencing. Those labels delivered clarity and resolution.
Purpose is the recognition that your life on Earth comes with an objective. Nothing about who you are and what you experience is random. One way or another, I believe it all leads back to our purpose, God’s intent, His most basic reason for allowing each of us to exist. Purpose is not relative to our choices like our career, our wants and our aspirations. And, while our purpose can be tied to our career choice, a job is different. A job serves a paycheck, a means to survive and thrive, but purpose delivers more than income and not just for personal advantage. Purpose serves more than one individual. Purpose justifies your reason for existing in the first place. We were each created with a purpose as unique and distinct as each of our fingerprints, and there is a reason everyone is different. If 7 billion people on this freaking huge globe are all intended to follow the same path with the same goals with the same values and same opinions, then why so many people? If we aren’t each bringing unique pieces to this great big puzzle of life, then, what’s the point?
I’m a continual work in progress, and I am finding the objective of my career continues to transform. At the end of last year, when I was hunting down a way to link all of my heart driven passions, I asked myself some basic but bold questions starting with: why do I do what I do? Why do I paint? Why do I write? Are they related to one another? How can I put it to use to bring good things to others? Why does it feel like God is putting me to work on something significant? And what is it exactly? Why can’t I stop asking “why”? I was going in circles trying to understand where and how I was suppose to put my energy and focus.
To answer all these questions I had to start at the most basic bottom level. Why do I paint? I paint because I love to. I sell my art to make a living. But, I began writing for a different reason. Why do I feel compelled to write, and what does it satisfy? For years writing my blog has directly brought my business zero income. It has however, come to provide a personal release. Writing gives me a different kind of buzz than painting does. I use writing as a paper weight. It holds down those thoughts that might otherwise be lost in the absentminded breeze of creative work. I concluded that if writing had to have an objective, it would be to interact with others allowing me to more literally translate the message that my art carries and an opportunity to share what I learn from painting when I feel most connected to my heart. I also like the opportunity to explain myself because being a working artist is a little bit like making a day job of standing butt-ass-naked in the center of an arena while a ton of people sit around sipping their beer, eating their nachos….staring…. judging ….discussing amongst themselves.
Asking myself those fundamental questions was upheaving. It forced out some brutally honest answers and introduced me to what could potentially be my God given purpose. I came to realize I’m not exposing my most personal emotions through writing in order to put myself in the limelight or to share what I have accomplished in my career or with my family. It’s so far from that actually. I write to share the source of my work as an artist; the raw, honest, heartfelt understandings; the struggles and frustrations; the epiphanies and joys and how they came to be. I am exposed, not because I have anything to show off, but because I have something for you to relate to. Even if you want to judge me first, you know you can relate to at least some of the stuff I write. I know you can relate because I know that neither you or I are perfect people. Although, I may be specifically flawed in ways that you are not, at the end of the day no one is flawless and that gives us a means to connect.
Our earthly definition of perfection does not actually exist. It is not real even when it seems like she is all that and a bag-o-chips, it’s still just an illusion or even an opinion. Nobody can relate to perfection. Looking at perfected images or reading about idealized people may provide entertainment, but does it benefit anyone? No. It just makes someone feel badly about the person they are, like they ought to change themselves to be worthy. Most of us are not especially proud of our dimpled and pale reality, but even our imperfections are a part of God’s perfect design. I came to realize, without my willingness to be real, vulnerable and exposed, what will my art represent? What will I represent? Without authenticity, I represent nothing more than a perfected mimic of someone else’s authenticity, someone else who stood butt-ass-naked in front of a crowd in order to reveal real and raw art. At the end of the day, art is not about creating something perfectly pretty. It’s about the act of expressing what we feel, and the result of that authentic expression is the product we call art. In art and life, without authenticity, what’s the point?
That notion is what made me establish a blog in the first place, roughly 6 or 7 years ago. At the time, I was feeling misunderstood. My reason for making art was not merely to create a visual product. Yes that is important too, but I wanted to explore with art, to push limits, to make people just a little perplexed and uncomfortable because that would mean I was creating something refreshing. I wanted everyone to know that I was capable of thinking for myself and brave enough to make art that was real expression, art that came from my guts, my soul, my experiences and emotions, but mostly…my heart, even if that left me naked and judged.
Ok to be totally honest (because clearly that’s what this is all about), my blog was born when I was experiencing copy cats for the first time. Now, all trained artists have learned to make art by recreating the accomplishments of the talented artists and masters that came first, and that is a very effective way to learn and grow as an artist, and additionally that is a critical phase of experimenting and establishing a personal style. However, to repeatedly take credit and claim for the work is very different, wrong and hurtful. Lots of artists and people in creative businesses can relate to feeling defeated after your work has been copied. But also, I was pissed, and I was heart broken, too. I started a blog called “Behind the Paint” because I wanted the people out there who were copying my work and even the people buying the knock offs, to know that there is content behind a well painted canvas. To me, copying my art was to mimic my deeply personal emotions. To me, they were signing their name to my personal life, and selling it as if they were the ones bold enough to show their bare ass to the arena of judgment. They were being cowards, not willing to put in the years of school and hard work, not willing to take the fails with the successes. It was deeply painful to experience that for the first time. Those strong fumes still lurk, obviously, but in time I learned to react differently. I have learned that it’s much more effective to keep pushing my art forward into a stronger, less replicable state rather than belittling myself by making copy-cat claims to those who are self-assured enough to copy in the first place. With that said, there have been some naive offenders who did not set out with ruthless intention, but then, there are those who are shameless, and those are the ones I am speaking of.
I think hurdles come our way as a part of our purpose, and I believe those intense reactions to copiers gave me a reason to dig deeper. Not only did it lead me to create stronger art, that experience led me to writing my blog. Those experiences taught me to be more bold in owning the originality that I was created to have. That one hurdle was one of the many I have and will experience in order to bring me closer to my purpose.
This year I will release my first book. Yes, my first! Because before my children’s book, To Be a Line, has even finished printing, I am beginning to write my next book, one that brings my distinct brand of words and art to the coffee table. Some of the words in this blog post were intended for the second book, but I plucked them out feeling they would be better suited on the blog as a leak of what is to come, a little glimpse at what I consider to be my purpose and how I am boldly fulfilling it. I wanted to bring you along the journey rather than just showing you the finished result. I want to share the process because this part is scary and nerve-racking. It is consuming. I am working on my laptop in bed on a Saturday morning, a little hungover I might add, and I’m so thirsty, but I just can’t stop, not even to fix a glass of water. This writing process is invigorating, but also anxiety inducing and overwhelming. Most of all it is requiring blind faith and bold trust that this task is in my heart for God’s intention because when I realize that I am writing about questioning why I am writing about questioning why I am painting…. let’s be honest, I don’t even know how to explain that. Trust. I just have to trust this need.
Like my paintings and my blog, both of my books are based on trusting God’s design and His voice in my heart. To Be a Line, is a whimsical and simple story that equates the many possibilities of a line to honoring God’s unique design for our lives. My coffee table book is in the earliest stages but will be a more thorough explanation of how art has taught me to have heartfelt trust and faith and what it has meant for my life. I hope that by exposing my humility, hurdles and humor I will inspire others to ask those resonating questions. These are the questions that force you to face the clutter of your life, and the answers might just change everything you thought you knew about yourself.
What makes my heart beat? What’s keeping me from doing it? How can I give it more focus? What needs to go? What needs to stay? How and when do I hear my heart? What is it asking for? Does it scare me? How can I face it? How will I grow? What will I learn? What makes me stand out from others? How can I use it for the good of others? Who am I? What do I represent? What’s the point of me? What’s my purpose?