I can’t remember when I decided I was a bad artist but I know it was before high school. Sitting in ASB at 17, painting footballs with the players' names on them, I loudly proclaimed that I was not a good artist and I never had been. I recently realized that was a lie.
As a child I loved to create. While I knew I was no Pablo Picasso, with my little kid optimism I was able to pretend I was just as talented as the greats. My passion for painting was encouraged by those around me, especially my Grandma Susie. Grandma Susie was an avid artist with an affinity for water colors. Every time we visited her seaside home in the beach town of Benicia she set me up with my own art studio—on the floor in the kitchen. I loved this corner for creativity. It was a space of my own where I could put whatever I wanted on the page. It was sitting there on the floor painting sunset after sunset, cat after cat, and flowers upon flowers that I found a state of flow.
Flow is defined as the state of being where one is fully engaged, immersed and relaxed into what they are doing. Usually when I hear about flow its in regards to yoga, meditation, dance, or the arts. It's that feeling when you are so immersed in a book or writing that you forget anything outside of the moment exists. For me, I access flow easiest while dancing, reading, or practicing yoga. Sounds amazing, right? Flow thinks so too, which is why it likes to make it harder for us to access it. The more focus being put on accessing flow the harder it is to achieve.
Since our friend flow is so hard to access I was absolutely shocked that I was able to fall into a state of flow everytime I worked on my newest hobby—acrylic painting. I started painting again a couple months ago after watching multiple Jenna Marbles videos where she tried different styles of art. For an at home date night I asked Brenton to wine and paint with me and we made “northern lights with trees over water” paintings. While we aren’t quite ready for the MOMA we both thought it was fun to follow the tutorial and throw colors on the canvas. After our initial painting success I decided I was going to attempt another painting, and then another, and then another. Within a couple weeks I had cranked out four paintings and was itching for me. I realized what kept pulling me back was this state of flow.
Flow is addicting—it feels good to tap into that meditative state. It also allows us to approach problems and our thought patterns differently. Because I allowed myself to practice beginner’s mind and gave myself permission to be terrible at painting I tapped into a relaxed approach to trying new things. Permission to try and see what happens removed the fear associated with embarrassment because if my art truly sucked, no one had to see it. I removed the fear of scarcity because I could always buy more paint and canvases. Kicking these limiting beliefs allowed me to relax, focus, and tap into flow. Removing these beliefs also allowed me to make some pretty good art.
I’ve decided flow is a meditative state for people who are restless as well as a key indicator that I’m doing something I wholeheartedly enjoy. Flow allowed me to access the eternal child in me and have fun with paints. So what are you waiting for—are you all in on flow? Make a mess, try some new art, read something totally out of your comfort zone, just try something new and let yourself suck at it. I think you will be thoroughly surprised at what happens when you access flow—I know I was.