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The Road to Creative Freedom is One of Confrontation Or How I Found My Creative Joy

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The Road to Creative Freedom is One of Confrontation Or How I Found My Creative Joy

Originally posted on substack in September, 2023.

To find my joy (true creative expression), I had to unearth and express my rage. I am writing this deeply personal story for anyone who may be struggling creatively and perhaps doesn't know what to do with that struggle.

I’m currently undertaking an art course with a difference. The course focuses on freeing up creativity and finding your joy as an artist rather than technical skills. Yesterday, I was struggling with the course. I hadn’t completed assignment two, I was feeling exhausted and angry. And I couldn’t figure out why, when I had enjoyed the process, I was feeling so bloody angry. Angry about the mess I had created - the paint I had managed to get all over the backs of my legs, dress and subsequently, my expensive desk chair, and the soggy mess of paper towel, tracing paper, and paint in my makeshift pallet. I could not face doing the second part of the assignment, I felt so out of sorts.

Listening to the recording of yesterday's course Q&A session late last night, I had a eureka moment with something the tutor had said. It triggered a clear memory of a time when my natural childhood exuberance and creativity resulted in a saucepan being thrown at me in anger by my manic-depressive mother when I was five years old. From that moment on, as the eldest of three kids, it was my job to keep us quiet and prevent any mess - anything that would set my mother off into a rage. I had been conditioned into being constrained, quiet and tidy - small, tight and confined.

As I journaled about this memory and how it had affected me, my sense of sadness for the five-year-old me was taken over by my own rage, a rage that grew into a need to act. A pure act of rebellion with a feeling of “I am free to do what the f**k I please.” With a sense of urgency, I grabbed one of my dinner plates (anything is now allowed, and I was in a hurry, no time to prep a palette) oil paints – red, orange, black and a shade of blue. And the sharpest, meanest looking palate knife I possessed – a long, thin rectangular affair. This was all carried out with speed and almost a total lack of thought; it was purely instinctive and focused on expressing my feelings – very in the moment and flow. A kind of flow I had never experienced before - intense and purposeful – I knew what I had to do and why, the how would sort itself out.

And sort itself out it did. Slap, scrape, slap, scrape, drag, slap, scrape. In under two minutes, it was done. And while the chances of it winning the Turner or sitting in the Tate Modern are remoter than the planet Pluto, this painting has given me more satisfaction and, surprisingly, hope than anything else I have ever done artistically. Cathartic doesn’t even begin to express how this process has been for me. This morning, I awoke full of hope and, yes, joy!

The road to creative freedom, for me, was about confronting, expressing, and thereby releasing the emotional blocks and conditioning that had stifled it.