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challenge Yourself to grow

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

As artists, we are perpetual students. What I have come to understand is that learning often comes with discomfort. It sounds funny to say, but discomfort is a good thing. That means you are growing and unlocking your full potential.

Adopting a Perpetual Student Mindset

I have always been of the belief that whether in a career or your personal life, if something isn't working you need to move on. Life is too short. I have seen way too many people crippled by fear and not exploring their full potential.

As I have gotten older that desire to be all that I can be hasn't waned and in fact has grown stronger. I don't ever want to live with regrets or die with my story untold.

"Consult not your fears but your hopes and dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfilfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do." - Pope John XXIII

I left my public relations career in November of 2021 mainly because it was obvious I had gone as far as I could go. I came to the stark realization that my career no longer "fit." I wanted to explore areas related to marketing, social media, and online education. I knew none of this would be available to me there. I felt pigeonholed. If I wanted new opportunities then I had to be the one to create them.

There is a certain freedom that comes with being your own boss, not the least of which is you get to make your own rules. But the trick is not biting off more than you can chew, which is easy to do when you are multi-passionate. I have learned that it is easier to stick with something if it gives you joy. I started writing my own newsletter two years ago and I am still publishing every Friday. It has chronicled my creative entrepreneurship journey, both the highs and the lows and of course I share some of the artwork I have created.

Discomfort as a Sign of Growth

Stepping out of the familiar is not just about trying new techniques but also about pushing past self-limiting thoughts. I had a lot of self-limiting thoughts surrounding technology and did my best to steer clear of it, though that became exceedingly difficult. You definitely can't escape that as an online creative entrepreneur.

If you had asked me what my thoughts were on creating digital art I would have told you that there was no replacing traditional media. That is partly true. There is nothing like sweeping a paintbrush loaded with thick paint across a primed canvas or watching watercolor suddenly explode across a page that had been dampened with water. For me, it is not an either or thing. Every medium has its own magic. Its important to challenge yourself to grow.

In the past few months I have been exploring digital art in surface pattern design using Adobe Illustrator and Affinity Designer. I have also revisited my Procreate app and started to create pet portraits with it as well. Has it been a walk in the park? Not at all. Was I left questioning why I was doing it? Maybe. But I trusted the creators that were extolling the virtues of this medium. I am so glad I pushed through, because I absolutely love it!

The first image are the marks left behind on a piece of watercolor paper from a pine needle painted with black ink. These were turned into Procreate brushes. The second image is Milo, a minature Aussie, that I created using my Procreate app. The last image is a floral surface pattern design I made in Affinity Designer.

Navigating Uncharted Waters

Challenging oneself often involves exploring uncharted waters. Not sure why I am using the water analogy because I am terrified of swimming, but I digress. Did you ever notice though that when you do something that at first feels scary you feel emboldened afterward. Let's see if that holds true when I finally learn how to swim.

It can be less scary if you don't do it alone. In the case of art, you can grow your skills faster if you learn from others who have come before you. For me I have leaned in to a variety of artistic communities over the past few years. I have learned more than just a new artistic skill, I have found a community of other creators who believe in collaboration over competition.

Among the groups I am in or have been in are:

  1. Bonnie Christine's Flourish membership

  2. Stacie Bloomfield's The Creative Powerhouse membership

  3. Peggy Dean's Flock membership

  4. Liz Kohler Brown's The Studio membership.

All of them have taught me so much and have accelerated my learning. They have meant a significant dollar investment but have been worth every penny. Investing in yourself is absolutely critical to grow as an artist, creative entrepreneur and a person.

Learning from Failure

I used to be in the corporate jungle where making mistakes was a big no-no. But, guess what? In the art world there is no such thing as failure, but instead a way to gain valuable feedback so you can pivot and readjust. I did this with my digital course about color pencil pet portraiture. There was so much valuable feedback I got from my students in the first version that I was able to carry it over into the updated one. I am so grateful for this. We tend to operate with blinders on and don't appreciate everyone has a different way of learning.

The same goes with learning any new artistic skill. This was definitely the case learning surface pattern design using Affinity Designer. It is from the mistakes or goof ups that I have learned the most.

"I've failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." - Michael Jordan.

Reframing Your Thoughts is a Mindset - This is possibly the most important quality to have as a creative entrepreneur. Many of us often suffer from imposter syndrome. It is easy to feel this way when we are constantly bombarded with all the incredible artwork we see from other artists on our social media feeds. We often compare where we are at in our art journey to someone who has been working at their craft for years.

Instead, we need to adopt the mindset of we are a work in progress and that we are further ahead in our journey than we were even a few short months ago. Most times it requires discipline to reset negative thoughts that come rushing in and instead just look at them for what they are, thoughts. It takes just as much effort to think more postively than it does to immediately default to negative thoughts.

The Ripple Effect in Your Art and Life: It shouldn't surprise you that challenging yourself in one part of your life will have an impact on other areas. For me art was the gateway to so many opportunities. I started out just creating with color pencil for the simple reason that I needed a creative outlet. I knew that when I was creating I felt at peace and my mind quieted.

Then I started to post some of my color pencil pet portrait work on Instagram where to my surprise my account started getting a lot of attention. I started getting commissions and then people inquiring as to when I would one day create a class all about color pencil pet portraiture.

From this very first small step I opened up so many new opportunities and learnings. I have recorded and edited all my own videos for my digital course about color pencil pet portraiture which I have on Skillshare. If you sign up using my referral link you will get one month free. Did I mention I have at the time of writing this blog watched about 485.2 hours of Skillshare classes.

Sorry, I got sidetracked for a hot minute. As I said, I created my first ever digital course on Skillshare, but to do it I had to learn a new editing program called Camtasia. I absolutely love it. The program is one that is taught by a gentlemen I know from a group called the Grey Wave. His name is Gord Isman and he has a YouTube Channel dedicated to Camtasia.

So what first started out as a way to find peace ended up bringing me closer to finally tackling an insecurity I had surrounding technology. Since that time I have dived into digital art, surface pattern design using Adobe Illustrator and Affinity Designer and surprisingly have been able to manage all the technology associated to my business without tech support.

I felt compelled to write this blog because had I just accepted the opinions of others I would still be sitting in my office cubicle. Just thinking of that makes me shudder. I know there are others like me who don't believe they are a "one hit wonder." If this sounds like you, then I hope this article motivates you to go after the thing you've had on your heart for awhile. If you are questioning what that thing is, one way is to ask yourself, is there something you saw someone do that stirred up feelings of jealousy? That my friend is what we call a clue. Start there. I want to hear from you, tell me what big dream you are going to go after?

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