When You Change Your Art Changes

A topic discussed briefly over coffee at a local gamer stop: painting in colors you hate. It happens. That’s why judging an artist by their art is challenging, the art could reflecting a rare part of them. The science of what is happening behind the scenes when an artist creates is still outside our understanding, but it doesn’t stop me from studying it in myself and others.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve experienced outrageous changes (love to my friends and family sticking with me through it). I found myself doing things without knowing why. The changes have caught up to my artwork. I’ve been trying to paint on my numerous acrylic canvases but hating the results. I’ve gone through two buckets of gesso covering things and starting over. Only, I kept hating it.

I’m painting with colors I do not like. Half way through a large piece I asked myself: if I had unlimited resources, what would I make art with and what would I make? That’s when my answer revealed the changes in me.

I wouldn’t grab the tubes of acrylics I’ve grown to know so well. I wouldn’t paint bright colors and messages of joy. I want to bleed watercolor into paper, I want to cut into lino blocks and press ink into thick paper. I want to etch weird, curving, disturbing lines with a pen onto a faded color background. I want to draw pictures about things that haunt my mind. I’ve experienced trauma. I’ve witnessed pain. I know suffering. I want to make art about that. I want to share my insides, not a fake outside. Sure, I wish I could make colorful, pastel, happy flowers on an inspirational quote, but I’d be forcing it. That is not me. Sure, I make “happy” art sometimes, but it’s when the mood strikes me and still with a hint of darkness. Even when I do use bright or pastel colors, they represent a rebellion in me. Using pink is my feminine side pushing back at the irony of binary gender-obsessed society. The first time I read “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” I wanted to stab my own eyes out. (FYI the differences between men and women are so minute they only really matter to scientists and medical professionals.)

It wasn’t until World War I that pink was associated with girls, and after that, the aesthetic become hard fast to the point that many modern men will refuse to wear pink. Pink is for girls. In my early “fuck the patriarchy” years I refused to wear pink because I thought showing any so-called feminine traits would make me appear weak. I wanted to appear strong, something that society had decided was a masculine trait. My brain operates from a completely different space now. I use pink as defiance. “Look, I’m wearing bows and delicate pink and glitter and STILL being strong!” Of course, I’ve also learned the true meanings of strength and power as well; they have nothing to do with physical strength, dominance, or assertiveness. The Buddhists and Pagans helped me learn that part. I digress. The point is pink is just a color and I’ve been using pink along with other colors I didn’t like growing up in giant art paintings.

Still, I want to explore the other changes inside my mind that I do not understand yet. I’ve been drawing weird, ugly, or alien people. I’ve been wanting to make some weird ass art. I love memento mori art, vanitas, Celtic and Norse, mythology inspired, fairy stories, and all things strange. I’ve spent so long hiding those parts of myself, showing them only to certain people in ideal scenarios.

Then I asked, why not? What stops me from doing what I want? Fear. Fear of rejection. Fear of how people will react. Fear that people will judge me, unfriend or unfollow me, fear that people will think I’m a sick, twisted, or disturbed person inside. It will happen, I’m sure, though I wish people were more understanding. I’ve accepted my own darkness and my own weirdness, but other people have not. It’s trying to force it’s way out. My soul wants to be authentic and I’m trying to water it down with pastels and some sunshine. Light needs a dark backdrop and shadows to be fully real. I’m that shadow. I want to explore my ancestry tree and the art that ancient Europeans made that inspires me so much. I need to wrestle with my people’s demons and the hell we’ve created. I want to make art from nature and dwell in it.

On the cusp of accepting this part of myself, my art will change. My body will change. My voice, language, movement, music, and what I wear. That’s one thing that art does: it empowers people. Empowerment manifests in different ways, but as I form my new life and live authenticly I will look and feel different. I will change because I have power over my own choices. I’m living my life, not someone else’s…for that reason my art will be mine, not some else’s.

To avoid being wasteful, I will fill what canvases I have felt with paint, but I’m moving on to new territories.

Have you ever found yourself suddenly not liking something you used to like? Has your taste in art, music, or even food changed over the last 5 years? Do you make art that is authentic to you, or do you make art that you’re told to make?

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