I’ve had some time on my hands this past week and began to feel bouncy, unstructured and untethered. There are two long essays to work on and some photography skill classes I’m taking on-line, but I needed something tactile and new.

When I was a little girl, all I wanted to be was an artist. I wanted to spend my days in creative expression. I always loved to draw and paint and write. The one thing I lacked was positive reinforcement.

My luck with art classes was not encouraging, and until a few years ago I thought, “well I’m just not that good.” So, I turned all my attention to writing and though I didn’t consider myself a ‘real’ writer for years, nothing has ever been able to keep me away from words. The reason I found it hard to call myself a writer was because I was writing columns and for some reason didn’t acknowledge journalism as writing.

Now, I believe that if you write, you are a writer. You don’t have to be published or work in a particular genre.

The years provided me with confidence in writing out my experiences and emotions because I learned that while becoming more skilled in the craft of writing was critical, how I chose to explore that was up to me. Readers would either find it resonated or not.

When I picked up a camera years ago, at first it was to document trade shows and other work-related images. I wrote articles on visual merchandising and was often asked to provide accompanying photographs. Eventually I took pictures of friends and the outdoors until finally, I found portrait photography. My hands itch to grab a camera whenever people are near. Ironically, I see this work as a sister to writing because both are meant to document and share stories.

I’ve had some time on my hands this past week and began to feel bouncy, unstructured and untethered. There are two long essays to work on and some photography skill classes I’m taking on-line, but I needed something tactile and new.

So I picked up my mixed media journal and had at it. I made a few trips to Michaels for more paint and other materials and I began to paint. For me, this journal is just another way of visually telling a story. I don’t believe there are too many accidents in my artistic endeavors and am always curious to see what would come out.

My first few journal pages were just awful, but I felt connected to them. How could I not? They are my expressions.

Here are two:

These two were done using watercolor, gesso, acrylic paint and a fine paint tip applicator. I had no freaking idea what I was going for beyond enjoying the colors. And they were just for me, so it didn’t really matter.

After that, I decided I wanted to experiment with blue. Blue happens to be one of my favorite colors. I don’t usually paint on paper (I usually paint on canvas) so this is all new to me. I just had to keep giving myself permission to not know how to do something. Permission to have lots of moments when I messed up. For me, those mess-ups are often full of learning.

Eventually I wondered how to paint abstract trees, mountains and snow filled fields and so I began searching for videos, which is what I do when I am working with a new type of photoshop edit as well. I spent the day learning some cool techniques and my brain became excited. and as I finish up today, the portrait in blue has developed into this:

This is still incomplete, but I have had so much fun creating these small paintings and learning techniques to accomplish what I might want to. Painting is for me, brain therapy. My emotions almost always calm down and the rest of the world disappears. What I learn about myself is powerful.

When I was a younger woman, roughly 50, I loved to take on new physical challenges; cycling, mountain biking (yuck), longer hikes, ice skating and hockey, and so on. I enjoyed the adrenaline rush when I was just this side of fear.

But now, I get that rush from a photography session and a determination to find a way to learn how to do what I want to do. This does not come from a physical endeavor, but believe me, the effect on my brain feels the same.

Creative expression has the potential to guide us through the inevitable rough waters as we age. It doesn’t matter what the outlet is whether it is writing, painting, photography, cooking, gardening, sewing, candle making. The key is to have one. When I am in the midst of trying something new or solidifying a new skill, my brain is transported out of worry and anxiety. I am transported. My head has some time to get out of the game and take a rest. In addition, new neurons begin to fire and my intellect gets a work out. All are good things for the aging process.

I want to be around to watch my granddaughter grow up. It is important to me that she knows from where I came and the experiences that shaped me, like I wish I knew about so many of my female ancestors, most of whom are no longer here.

Being perfect or even ‘good’ is not the goal for me. The goal is to live vibrantly, remain open to learning, love deeply and sing and dance until it’s time for my last breath.