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  • Writer's pictureLeslie McCrea, artist

Loss & Moving Forward

No doubt you, like me, had a hard year in 2020. A global pandemic forced so many changes on us, hard changes. I have taught classes for the past twenty-five years, but in-person classes were shut down everywhere. I had an overseas trip planned that had to be cancelled. I had more adults living in my house than ever before, so I lost some privacy and much

needed solitude. The social and political climate were such that I lost my sense of connection to my community, and I lost a lot of sleep (until I turned off all those who stood to benefit from my unease and found my peace again.) I gained a son-in-law, but I had to send off my youngest daughter to her new life with him. A few weeks later, the pandemic claimed the life of my father-in-law, Bill. I thought to myself that ninety-one years isn’t really very long after all. So much loss this year, but there was more.

When my own father died in 2016, I was reminded that life is short. I signed up for that watercolor class that I’d always wanted to take. I was terrible. I couldn’t draw to save my life, and I had no idea what I was doing, but I didn’t really care. I contented myself with watching paint flow across the page, and my wise instructor (pictured below) was gentle and stopped me if I became critical of my results. She reminded me that my frustration was merely the result of my taste getting ahead of my skill. The more I practiced, the narrower that gap would become, but it would never go away because my taste will always outpace my skill.

That’s good news because it gave me a challenge to tackle every day. I’ve let go of an expectation of perfect results. If I learn something new, if I enjoy myself in the process and stay present, if I end the day knowing I did my best, that’s enough. If I make a mistake, I put it in the pile of “meh…” paintings. I'm learning to see beyond the imperfections to find the beautiful. Some mornings, I find nothing fresh but the backs of old paintings. I've learned, however, that is the best place to try something really risky, where the stakes are low if it doesn’t work!

Loss forced me into new ways of thinking four years ago, and it did the same this past year. I’m not the same person I was, but I think I’m more myself and I’m probably more useful now. When we create, in the practice of art, we are always problem-solving, always dealing with loss and renewal, with disappointment and delight, creating from broken bits new things that enchant the senses. But I’ve also learned that we’re all creatives in some way.

The big well-known and oft-repeated "secret" is that nobody has “talent” when they start. You don’t need a “gift” to learn something new; the gift is the desire to try. If you’ve been putting off some kind of creative outlet for yourself because you just don’t have time, energy, money, or "talent", I want to encourage you to let this be the year you do it. Next year, you’ll wish you'd started this year; next year, you’ll be a year older and achier, too. And let’s face it, you always find the money for the things you really want.

Right now, this year, take that class online, invest in yourself, and lose your fear that you just don’t have the “talent”. It will be hard at first--all new things are--but I can guarantee that you’ll be amazed at the changes in yourself. You'll be even more amazed at the way your creative-self flows out into other parts of your life.

If you’re unsure where to start painting, take a look at the Classes page of my website, or send me a note. I’m happy to suggest other places to start.

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