“Don’t continue in art; you’ll never make a living at it”.

I was told this in ninth grade by an art teacher.  What I heard was, “you’re not good enough”; “you’ll fail if you try”; “making money is more important than exploring your creativity”; “do anything else so you will get ahead in life”; “other people are real artists and so much better than you”.

So my dream of being a painter was crushed but thankfully not dead.  I went on to major in English Literature because I love to read and I became a terrific bookkeeper because I love puzzles.  But I continued to draw and paint and create for myself…in private.  But that teacher’s voice was always influencing my lack of confidence.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love my life and have enjoyed a wonderful family while continuing to explore many avenues of art for my own enjoyment.

I have always been one to set goals but four years ago I was challenged to make “risky” goals.  So the riskiest thing I could think of was to paint six pictures and hang them in an art event without making excuses or apologies.  The whole time, the teacher’s voice was warning that my art wasn’t “good enough and the ‘real’ artists of the world would be laughing”.  Four of my paintings sold.  I was astounded!

One thoughtless criticism influenced my view of myself for 40 years.  But one decision to risk vulnerability opened me to accept who I am, follow what I long to do and not be stifled by outside approval.  Now when people ask what I do, I say (without shame) “I am an artist”.  Everyone may not like my art but I do.  My journey from pain to acceptance helps me relate to people who are living under the hurtful criticism of the past.  I try to encourage both students and adults who live under the fear of failure to just try their risky dream and possibly experience the freedom vulnerable creativity can bring.

When I hear that teacher’s voice whisper “you might fail”, I thank God for making me who I am, I paint another picture and I hang it for everyone to see.