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The “Holy Grail”

I would like to think of myself bravely standing on top of a carved stone lion’s head. The updraft emanating from below causes my hat to flutter. I dust off my jacket and extend my leg into the air. As I lean forward into the limitless abyss I think to myself, “There’s no turning back now…”

Well you know, not all of us have a cheat sheet with step-by-step instructions to the Holy Grail. Sean Connery is not bleeding to death back in the musty temple and you know what? That leap is scary! So I ask you, “What’s the dream? The pie in the sky? The ultimate goal?” I think the un-asked question that accompanies this is “What’s the hesitation?” As an artist, you might be able to guess what my Holy Grail is. Let me give you a snapshot of my leaf of faith…

I am a 34 year old artist. I also work at an art store. This year will be my 15 year anniversary. I have also been professionally painting for a little over 10 years. Do the math. I know – I just know – that if I devoted 100% of my time to my craft I would be unstoppable. Don’t get me wrong – working at the art store has been an amazing journey. We’re a family at the store. I’ve gained confidence and work experience. Where else can I be surrounded by art supplies, work with my best friend, AND have health insurance? I am also afforded time off to paint, show and teach. Pretty cozy.

About a year ago I taught a watercolor workshop for the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society called “Kickstart Your Creativity”. This workshop was incredibly introspective and I posed questions to the group to help them recognize and break through creative blocks. One exercise was called “Dream Big”. In one or two sentences they described their ideal artistic dream. I wanted them to be very clear about their goal so I wrote my dream on the white board as an example.

“My dream is to create art full time and in doing so – support myself financially ABOVE AND BEYOND my means and with complete confidence.”

I gave them a whole evening to mull it over, word it just right, and share with the group the following morning. This turned out to be one of the most difficult assignments. Why? Why is it so hard to simply define a dream? We put so much crap in front of our dreams that we forget why we, as individuals, were put on this planet. We also become comfortable with where we are in life and the dream remains just that – a dream. This discussion led into what I call “Comfort Zones”. Comfort zones are what? Comfortable! Why on earth would you want to leave? The tricky thing about comfort zones is they are also a safety blanket. My biggest comfort zone? Working at the art store.

So here I am, standing behind the registers, with an inspirational-sayings magnet rack across from me. Most of the magnets are pretty sappy. They would pair well with my “Hang in There” poster of a kitten hanging from a branch. One magnet stares back at me: “LEAP AND THE NET WILL APPEAR”. In all capital letters no less. Yeah, yeah I know. I get it. JUST DO IT. For Pete’s sake I taught a workshop on this! I stare back at the magnet from behind the registers, silently judging myself. Oh good, a customer! I wave to the next person in line, “Hi, I can help you over here.”

I know why I am on planet Earth and what my purpose is. I wholeheartedly believe in my creative abilities. But do I? I can’t help but think that the large percentage of my time in front of a register means that I am not in front of my easel. I haven’t taken the leap yet. I have not cannonballed off the lion’s head. So what do I do? I bought the magnet and now it’s on my fridge, silently reminding me that I can do it. It’s a start, but before I take that “LEAP AND THE NET WILL APPEAR” attitude you might just see me leaning over the lion’s head and shouting into the abyss “Does the net have health insurance?!”

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