How One Painting Helped Me Move On With My Life

Posted: October 1, 2014 in Art and Creativity
Tags: , , , , ,
Wield a powerful brush

Wield a powerful brush

Several years ago (in 2010 to be exact) I went through a very rough time in my life. Over Christmas 2009, my marriage fell apart for good. I started the new year, not as a partying, resolution-making fool (which I never was anyway), but as a scared, sad single mother starting over. As one radio personality put it just this morning, I was mourning the fact that the dream I had for my life was over. I had to really grieve for the loss of that dream before I could realize that moving on meant not giving up on my dreams, but finding new dreams to replace the ones that were never going to be.

It’s been four years since that painful time in my life and today, things couldn’t be more different. I am part of a strong and secure relationship, something I never thought would happen again in my life. I was able to work towards supporting myself by myself (with a little bit of help to get going), and now I have the ability to go for what I really want to do instead of what I have to do to get by. I started to figure out who the heck I was, rather than who I thought the rest of the world wanted me to be. It has never been easy and it has taken a long time to let go of certain things, but I would never take any of it back.

Once I got past the constant worrying about finances, the frustration with my inability to be true to what I really wanted, and the constant doubt I had in my ability to handle life in general, I was also able to go back to doing things that I really loved to do, like reading, art, and writing fiction. One thing I did do, when I was in my early stages of panic and grief, was to try to get it all out in whatever ways I could.

One of those ways was to start painting again.

I found out that one piece of advice you often hear is more true than you realize. It’s the advice that it helps to have a creative outlet to work through tough things in life.

Some people do it through exercise. They run or go to the gym, do yoga or dance.

Some people draw, make music, paint, or bake.

I have always loved art and especially painting, so one of the first things I did when I was on my own was pull out my paints and start a painting. I didn’t know at the time that it would it help me deal with all the nasty stuff I had bottled up inside. I definitely didn’t know that even now, four years later, I can look at that painting and understand where I was at, what I was trying to say, and how far I’ve come.

The first painting I did started simply enough. I just blended some black, gray, white and silver paints onto my canvas, without any plan or care for where I was headed after that. Around that time, I was also into learning Photoshop Elements and digital art, and I took two self portraits that I played around with on the computer. Then I printed each one out. I laid them across my canvas I had been working on, but it didn’t feel right to just stick two photos on there. I wasn’t putting together a 10th grade magazine collage, after all.

That’s when my real expressive side came out, the part of me that had been pushed down for fear that someone would see how angry and scared it really was. That person took those two photos, cut them up and pieced them into one photo. It was still me, but it was a real representation of me: broken apart, shattered, and then stitched back together. In real life, just like on that canvas, I still looked like me, and acted like me for the most part, but like a heart that’s been broken, I would never be quite the same again.

After putting my fractured self on that canvas, I printed out a sentence to paste on it, one that is true today, but at the time only a desperate wish. I really wanted to believe it was true. For a while I was embarrassed to let people even see the words I’d printed because I was sure they’d read them, look at me, and say “Yeah, right. I don’t believe you.” But there was a strong part of me that knew someday, the words would be true.

“I am not broken without you.”

I felt broken, but I was too proud to let anyone know just how broken, so having that bold statement to hang on to let me know that someday, that could be me. Someday, I wouldn’t feel broken anymore.

I finished the painting by adding some other touches that were really personal: a broken heart with a whole heart charm inside it, a little cross hanging from a naked tree – a tree that was just barely hanging on to the edge of a fiery chasm by its roots. When it was done, I entered it in an art show, where all the world could see how I really felt at last. After that, I took it home, and it has been on display in my bedroom ever since.

When I see it now, sometimes it’s just a piece of art. Sometimes, I say those words softly to myself, and have to laugh a little as I remember the time in my life when I was broken and hoped that by repeating those words it would make me less so. Still other times, I am stopped in my tracks when I see that face and realize that I don’t know her anymore. It’s like an old friend who I rarely see or speak to, but who holds a fond place in my heart because we went through something huge together.

Making that painting changed something for me, both as a person and as an artist. It allowed me to pour out my hurt and betrayed feelings into a stark and haunting scene that perfectly represented my damaged insides. And it also showed me that art means more than just dabbling, or painting a flower, or realistically drawing a kitten (although those things are fine, too).

Tweet: Art can take the very real and sometimes scary things you experience and bring them to light. Art can take the very real and sometimes scary things you experience and bring them to light.

Once they’re out there for you to look at, it can take many times of seeing them before you realize that it hurts a little less to look. And then one day, you can look at something you created during a difficult time in your life and say, “Oh, yeah, I remember that!” instead of, “Oh my God, am I ever going to get through this?”

Art, in any form, is powerful. It can move and inspire the viewer or the listener, and it can also heal the artist.

This painting, in part, helped me heal and move on from something that I really thought would break me, but in the end, just like it says, I wasn’t broken. I was stronger.

Jaime L. Hebert, 2010

Jaime L. Hebert, 2011

 Have you ever used a creative pursuit to help you get through a rough patch? What was it, and did it work?

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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