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This Thing Called "Creativity"

Happy belated Halloween, everyone! I started writing this blog post yesterday because I thought it would be interesting to write about CREATIVITY. It was also the end of October -- now known as the "Pink Month" bringing awareness to breast cancer. But alas, I ran out of time yesterday to finish this and post it. The Halloween season seems to be a time when many people are at their most creative. I myself love to dress up in costumes, decorate my house and front porch, and I delight in seeing children in creative costumes grabbing candy from my big bowl at the front door. My decor is never too scary … I prefer the “cute” Halloween decor, a la Walt Disney, etc. I can’t even watch horror movies. The frightening, often bloody imagery stays in my head too long. Those images are like a scene we drove past years ago on a major Oklahoma highway, where a car-crash had taken a woman’s life. She had been thrown through the car’s windshield where her lifeless body remained for quite a while as gawking traffic passed slowly by. Of course, we tried not to look but alas, it’s human nature. Scary movies put me back in that same shocked and petrified mental state so it’s just not worth it to me to inflict that kind of injury to my mind. I lose too much sleep over disturbing "imagery."

One of my greatest difficulties in life is: SLEEP. (I have had a serious lack of it for a very long time.) My mind is a bit too creative for sleep so I wonder why God gave me eye-lids since they are rarely shut for very long. If I wrote a screenplay for the movie of my life, I might borrow part of the plot from “The Sixth Sense,” but instead of having the main character say, “I see dead people,” mine would say, “I see future paintings, future book illustrations, and future “art projects.” I literally do see them — all the time, but especially in the middle of the night, when my brain should be at rest. (I’m also often very tired. And yes, I DO take sleep-aids, every night.) In my Blog post #1, I stated that many of the subjects I ended up drawing at my childhood easel, were images I saw in dreams. I believe many artists are like this, drawing inspiration from their visits to “Dreamland.”

I have often heard frustrated writers refer to “writer’s block,” a time-period in which they feel they cannot summon thoughts worthy of their pen, typewriter, or laptop. I have great sympathy for them, as it must be horrible. However, when it comes to my own “streak of creativity,” it seems to be like a constant stream from a garden-hose. On any given day, there are about a million “images” I could recall from memories, dreams, or actual photographs of people and places I’ve “recorded.” From these, I can create a work of art and there are few objects/scenes I “won’t” paint, other than a landscape comprised primarily of rocks. (I can’t emphasize this enough: I hate painting rocks.) If I lack an image I deem inspirational enough to paint, I grab my camera, a fun piece of cloth, some fruit, or eggs … and I’ll find a place in my house where high-contrast light is “happening” at that moment near a sunny window, and take some brand new photos. Voila! A new idea for a painting is born and I feel the need to instantly begin sketching it out. (Have I mentioned I’m a little OCD as well?)


Speaking of inspiration — in April 2010, I endured the most emotionally and physically painful saga of my life. I was diagnosed with breast cancer 3 months after my 50th birthday, and underwent a complete bilateral mastectomy, with reconstruction taking place slowly over the next eight months. While much of the experience was a nightmare from which I longed to awaken, much of it became an unexpected blessing convincing me I was deeply loved by more people than I could have ever imagined possible. Loved, supported, uplifted, prayed-for, adored, encouraged, celebrated: all words I could have used as adjectives for myself during that horrendous trial. No wonder I came out of it smiling, joyous about life, and anxious to get back to my artistic pursuits. By the Summer of 2011, I was mostly healed, though the breast-cancer “chemo-drugs” held me in the grip of constant bone-pain along with many other wicked side-effects. It was during this time I woke up at 3 a.m. one morning, with the vision in my head of a beautiful watercolor. The painting focused on the nude torso of a woman who’s head was cropped out of the scene. Her arms were crossed over her chest in the “sign-language” symbol of “Love.” Her right arm was crossed over the left, and on the right wrist, the woman wore my own breast-cancer bracelet (a gift from my beautiful friend Miriam). Underneath the left hand, barely visible, was a lightly-faded surgical scar on her chest, where the breasts had been amputated. I sensed that the painting’s “empty space” in front of the woman seemed to symbolize her unknown future. Every woman who is diagnosed with breast cancer wonders — frequently — whether or not cancer will mean the end of her life. In my own case, my husband’s only sister had passed away at the young age of 35 with extremely aggressive breast-cancer. Was that going to be my lot? Was I going to die at the age of 50, before I had a chance to see my grandchildren grow up? This indefinite future made me know I had to include a sense of uncertainty in the painting, provided by that empty space.

I asked my sweet “niece” Brittney to pose for me for this painting, as she is very slender and it was easy to “flatten” her female shape. She was honored to oblige me, and had tears in her eyes during the photo-shoot. I began the painting at once, although I had only been painting in watercolor for a bit over a year, and still lacked confidence in my skills.

I give credit to God for this painting. I believe He does indeed gift us with much inspiration which we often receive in dreams and visions. Without that divine inspiration, I don’t believe I could have come up with such a cohesive visual-interpretation of the breast-cancer journey, with all of its emotion and angst. So I thank God for the gift of this particular “visionary image” which I already know has touched many people. I also thank Him daily for my “extra years of life,” and for the gift of creativity He gave me at birth. It’s amazing to be a “lesser creator” knowing the Great Creator is behind it all, molding and shaping the landscapes, painting the sunsets and sunrises minute by minute, and forming the infinite sea of beautiful faces, each one telling a unique story. Inspiration for creative people is truly endless, thanks to God.

There won’t be enough days in my life to paint all that I want to paint … so I hope there are a few paintbrushes lying around waiting for me in Heaven. I’m pretty sure “Inspiration” is intrinsic to that place.


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