Stepping into the Gap
I’ve been thinking a lot about one of the scariest words in life; transition. Transitions aren’t just about change; they are the process of bridging the gap between where you are and where you are going.
Last year I found the need to make a transition in my business; from working alone on a small scale to discover a way to adjust to the growth that had happened without experiencing burn out. It was a challenging and intimidating task, and I’m so thankful for the people who support me and have helped through the process, but at the beginning of 2018, all I knew was that I had to find a way to grow without sacrificing my life, and the plan was unknown.
One of my friends was talking about her own family’s transitional place; living with an incurable disease. She said, “I don’t know what the future holds; there’s just this gap of not knowing how it will go.” Wondering if and when and how to live in a place of uncertainty.
In a place of transition, you need a measure of strength to endure through the unknowing. You need grace to accept the curves and switchbacks when you can’t see the path. You need courage to step into the void, away from the things you have known, into the new and unknown.
In 2013 I realized that my paintings didn’t reflect my heart’s desire. I yearned for a looser style, but until then I didn’t even know what that was. I knew that I needed my paintings to look more like me, but I had no idea how to get there.
In stepping away from the familiar, I stepped into a place of not knowing. I had a vague idea that my paintings needed to be “looser” but I had no idea how to get there. I remember feeling frustrated; why wasn’t there anyone who could show me how to do this? I felt a lot like I was working blindfolded; there was a destination, but I wasn’t even sure which direction to take to get there. Truthfully, I felt a little angry about it, too. Shouldn’t there be a manual, or a map or something? How could I know if I was going in the right direction? What if I was completely off target? Surely there was someone who could tell me what to do! (In writing this I am reminded of parenting; how often I would like to consult the manual, especially as my kids enter their teens!)
And even as much as I work to teach self-expression in watercolour, even then there is no manual. Whenever an artist starts to yearn for truly heart-led painting, they have to step into a gap. Learning to hear your heart and put it into your paintings doesn’t come from a formula; you have to give it time. You have to be willing to dangle in the unknown for an unspecified length of time. It’s uncomfortable, it’s lonely, it’s infuriating at times.
I can’t tell you how to get to the other side, but I can tell you that you’re not really alone. The gap is full of other brave people, people who are unwilling to settle and are reaching so that they can make their art more true and authentic. We reach and trust that the next handhold will be there when we need it.
Stepping into the gap is the only way to get to the other side. And I can tell you, your art is worth the risk.