That’s a bold statement, isn’t it? I’m not sure I can say that art saved my life precisely, but it certainly saved my sanity. Ten years ago my life was in upheaval, and my physical and mental wellbeing were on very shaky ground. What happened? I had a baby.
It’s true, that nothing can completely prepare you for having a baby. You can talk to friends and family members who have kids, read books, watch videos, whatever; but having a child is an entirely personal experience because of our own individuality and that, mixed with hormones, lack of sleep, and anxiety that you aren’t doing things correctly, creates a self you are likely not familiar with. At least, that’s how it was with me–I became a different person. My focus was entirely on my child, naturally, and over the months I felt like I lost my mental and physical self more and more.
The need for a hobby
What kind of hobby could I do at home? I needed something that could occupy my thoughts beyond baby. Something that could help me find myself again. I started with sewing. I’d always wanted to learn. My mother and grandmother were proficient sewers. I bought a machine and took lessons, and after a few months I realized I hated it. Why should I spend all that time and effort making a piece of clothing when I could go to my local department store and find something nice for $20? Nope. Sewing wasn’t for me.
I started looking at pictures of altered books online. The idea of altered books was a revelation to me. My whole life I had been taught never to write or mark in a book, to treat books with respect, and to take care of them for someone else to eventually enjoy. The initial idea of drawing or creating something on a book page was sacrilege and I think part of it must have been the shock value that really made me sit up and notice altered art as something I’d like to try.
As a bonus, I loved the idea of opening a book, creating art on printed pages, and then closing the book and putting it away when I was done.
What kind of art could I do?
I’ve always fantasized about being an artist. I could imagine standing in front of a canvas on an easel and painting something, or opening a blank sketchbook and drawing something. I’ve even tried, but I feel like I’m not good – at all. I know things come with practice, but often I had no patience to wait for the reward of lessons paying off. Did I have the time to take painting lessons? Did I have the space for an easel and canvases? Not really. Maybe one day I’ll take painting lessons. I’d still like to try.
I wanted to do something with art, but hadn’t tried any kind of art since high school. Here are the questions I was asking myself while looking for an art-related hobby.
At a practical level:
- What could I do at home?
- What doesn’t take up too much space?
- What could I clean up and put away relatively quickly?
- What doesn’t require a lot of prep to get started?
- What doesn’t require me to buy lots of art supplies?
- What doesn’t require me to take lessons?
- What kind of art could I do in the few free moments I had sprinkled through my day?
At a holistic level:
- What’s going to bring me peace?
- What’s going to bring me joy?
- What’s going to help me find my inner voice again?
- What’s going to help me express myself?
For practicality, collage art fits these parameters pretty well. Time was my biggest constraint with taking care of small children, and with collage art, it’s not necessary to complete a collage in a single sitting. Even if you can’t do the physical part of collaging papers, I found I could be thinking about how and where to gather pieces, or what kind of substrate would I use, and that was how I used my art time–in mental preparation.
I could also leave a collage half done and come back to it later. It was so liberating to realize that. I didn’t have to worry about paint drying unused or wasting product because I had to stop to go feed a child. With collage art, the only thing I needed to do was to remember to put the cap back on the glue stick.
Holistically, collage art did bring me peace once I started to improve and gain confidence. I like the feeling of having completed a project, even a tiny collage on a playing card. I feel joy when I take random, bits and composing them into something that’s interesting–even pretty or beautiful–to look at. My inner voice? Yes, I definitely have found it. I listen to it when it guides me through the creating process.
Simply creating doesn’t help me express myself. Finding joy in the process of creating enables me express myself. The result is not what makes me happy (though that is a part of it), it’s the process of doing that brings the greatest joy. Actually, I’m not even sure what I am self-expressing when I’m creating a collage, but maybe that doesn’t matter. Finding a way to take something from within and turn it outward is amazing, and that’s what collage art has enabled me to do. So yes, art has changed my life. It saved my sanity when needed it, and it has enabled me to find myself–an even better self than I was before.
But now what? I feel like I’ve been bestowed this knowledge, as if I have discovered first-hand how creativity can change mental well-being, and I want to share it with others to help them find that joy in creating. By sharing some of the processes and techniques I’ve learned, I’d like to help people find ways to express themselves through making collages.
So I will start with sharing my art through my website and through my book. If my enthusiasm is not coming across in the posts that I write and the photos that I share, then I’m not doing it right. I hope you can clearly see that I love what I do and see that I want to inspire others to create too.