Dreams are ideas waiting for us to start doing stuff that will eventually look like a plan. -“I want to travel and paint around the world”. Some years ago I decided to experiment and moved abroad, 20.000 km away from all I knew. So much to do, and so little idea how. I had already detached so I’d better give it a chance. That is a strong motivation. I painted as much as I could, went out to meet new people, spent countless hours in the computer doing research. Working to figure out how to work. After 5 years in Europe, when I was starting to get the hang of it, I moved to North America, a new corner of the world.
I get a lot of questions about these matters, and my answer is usually messy, that’s why I say “just start doing stuff”. I don’t think there’s formula, or a single inflection point. When I started moving around making progress I realized what a wrong perception I had about big organizations, or big media features. None of that was going to change my art life overnight. The only thing that was going to be significant, was changing my way of thinking. So here are some thoughts:
I used to dream of having free time to do art, back when I was in my office job. When I quit and had all that time, I realized the amount of it I could dedicate to painting/drawing was so tiny compared to the time oppressive stuff takes, specially since most of the time I don’t even know how or what to do. I learned to accept feeling lost most the time. Whenever I hit bottom, I try to remember this was my choice -and if I can’t deal with it, I can go back-.
On your own
Travelling sounds great, yet you also leave behind your dear ones and the environment you know. You have to adapt to the idea of being “gone”. Feeling alienated, dealing with the unpredictable, vulnerable. But by this, you get to know yourself better, which is priceless. Being comfortable with yourself makes you a bit less demanding and more able to enjoy simple moments.
If you are in a foreign country -or any different community-, assuming you know how things work will probably lead you to disappointment. You can yearn for the familiar flavour, or keep quiet, watch and learn: everything can be done in a different way. You’ll probably discover some you like better, and wonder how you did without it all these years.
Now whenever I travel to paint a project, all this comes together –street artist with a weird job alone in the street of a foreign country far away from her known culture– . It’s a very particular state of mind: A fresh head, ready to act because so many things will go wrong. At the same, an exposed heart, curious and confident in strangers. An irrational certainty that the big picture is great, but not essential to focus on right now. Celebrating the tiniest findings as they come up. Keeping in mind that everything -good or bad- is temporary, so better enjoy and take it all in.
I’ve lived so many oddly satisfying situations by quickly dismissing the original plan. From joining a circle of chinese old ladies embroidering in silence, all because I asked a stranger for help finding soymilk; to awkwardly learning ballroom twists and turns, dancing bachata with a russian neighbour, all because he had 2 parrots and that’s a conversation starter.
It’s the kind of things you wouldn’t normally walk into. But I guess to unlock secret levels, you gotta get lost first.
It never gets easy. Sometimes I feel like someone pulled off the floor I’m standing on. Other times I’m not sure if I’m happy, sad, or both. Behind the colorful artwork, life is not quiet. But doubts and questions are good. Seeing the world as an “newbie”, means that everything is yet to be discovered.