When I complete one tarot card I usually find myself fueled to jump right into the next one. The last card I completed was the Magician and, eager to start my next piece, I did a survey on Facebook and Twitter to see what the general opinion would be with regards to the next card I should do.
The Devil was the inarguable winner and, if I'm honest, the one I really wanted to do anyway. I could picture it quite perfectly in my head and I couldn't wait to begin working on it.
Initially I was fueled with that continued inspiration from completing the Magician, as well as knowing so many people were eager to see my interpretation of this extremely dark card. However, I found my inspiration waining and after one particularly frustrating day of working on the horns, I took it down from my easel and left it facing a wall, tucked away where I wouldn't have to think about it.
I proceeded to spend the following weeks questioning my talent, my inspiration and my motivation. Was I suddenly painting to make a profit or because people expected me to produce something? I was being far too critical of my work, something very out of character for me. I began feeling trapped and almost like I was regressing. I didn't feel like anything I did was 'enough' and when I was creating something, whether it be writing, painting or drawing, it felt almost forced. It was more like checking off a to do list than letting creativity flow for the sake of it.
All of this was making me feel very shaky. Add to this being in a city four-thousand miles from my closest friends and my family and working a temp job that deals with a particularly fatal sort of cancer, it was no wonder I was coming unhinged.
As soon as I stopped fighting the general discomfort I was in and embraced it for the learning experience it was, things began to loosen up a bit. I ventured out to a few social events and decided that I needed to shift my focus for a little while. It was also about this time that I received a package in the mail from my aunt. In it, along with a lovely letter from her, (letters will always trump emails) was a photocopy of some of my Grandma's memoirs.
As a child we can have an incredible connection with our relatives purely for the wonderful unconditional way in which they love us. When we lose them as children we don't get the chance to know them as adults and I have often felt I missed out on this with my Nan. These memoirs, and the second round that arrived last week, have changed that. As I read them and began learning about the incredibly brave, curious and talented woman my Nan was, I began to realised that so much more than the colour of your hair or eyes can be passed down through your bloodline.
Her story gave me so much to reflect on. I returned to my sketchbook, leaving my brushes and acrylics to rest, my unfinished canvases all turned away so I wouldn't feel their incomplete surfaces reminding me I was stuck.
When I did that sketch of my Nan I don't think I actually knew what it was loosening up inside me. I suppose her story has reminded me that life is an adventure and we can either make something of it or just let it just happen to us.
This morning I woke up much later than I usually do. I was feeling a bit uncomfortable knowing I didn't have a bunch of stuff to do for the day and in the back of my mind I was thinking about that unfinished painting I started in May. I decided I could face it if I faced it one little bit at a time and rather than resume with the horns, I started in the corner with the cobweb. I finished that quite quickly and to my satisfaction before moving on to the chain. This was completed with the same ease and sense of self accomplishment. I touched up the horn, added the text and slowly peeled the tape away from the edge to reveal the stark white frame against the intense flames. And I breathed in that feeling of struggle and self depreciation we all experience and I breathed out bravery and a strong sense of self.
I am utterly pleased with this painting, and I think my Nan would be very proud.