Permission to Play

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Recently I have allowed myself to make some abstract paintings for the first time in my life.

Do I need permission, you might wonder? Yes, because most of my life I thought it is too easy and superficial and thus not becoming for a ‘serious and deep’ artist like me. So I just did not allow myself to go down that route.

I had so much fun playing with my new colours and I loved the results! I posted some of these abstract paintings on Facebook and got a lot of positive response and my heart just warmed up and I felt happy and satisfied.

Those of you, who follow my musings here regularly, know that I have had my struggles with fitting into the art world and making sense of it all. I had serious doubts about just about everything. Always questioning if what I am doing is purposeful, important, serious enough, good enough, likeable and sellable and so much more.

This used to drive me crazy and kind of paralyse my creative flow for most of the time. It took so much effort to do things anyway. To get up and paint or draw or create despite all my doubts and insecurities… To make art, even though I have already so much art piling up, that will probably never find a way out into a gallery or somebody else’s home.

To deal with depression and try to not to loose hope…

Somewhere along the way things turned so bad, that I decided to take a break, even though that thought seriously freaked me out. But I knew I had no real choice. Being depressed and creatively paralysed was anyway not really supportive of producing any good art or make me feel happy and excited.

Sea Turtle by Imke Rust (Water-colour pencils, Acrylic and gel pens on acid-free 170m/g2 paper, 29 x 21cm

Sea Turtle by Imke Rust
(Water-colour pencils, Acrylic and gel pens on acid-free 170m/g2 paper, 29 x 21cm)

So I quit going to the studio. I quit pressurising myself to produce any serious art. I stopped writing proposals for stipends, grants or exhibitions. I even stopped going to see other art exhibitions, as I realised that every time I see other art, I start comparing myself: either thinking that everything great has already been done by people who are much better or feeling I have so much more to offer than the artist I see, yet they have a show and sales in a fancy gallery and I don’t.

It took a lot of courage, but I decided to start doing only things I really want to do, things that are fun or make me happy. Even if that meant sleeping most of the day – if I felt like it, I did it. Yes, my mind was racing and blaming and I was feeling so guilty and lazy, but on the other hand, my body gratefully accepted and turned around for just another few minutes of rest.

The struggle between my critical mind and my soul’s desires was huge. Mostly I could not even remember what my soul wanted and my mind was loud and full with ‘should’s and should not’s and trying to know and understand it all from a rational perspective. And very often I ended up wasting time in front of the computer, because that at least felt like I was doing something productive.

Ever since I can remember, I was very aware of other people’s needs, expectations and emotions. My survival instinct as a child quickly realised this could be a valuable gift that I hoped would help me to fit in perfectly and make everybody around me happy. I was good at that – always being thoughtful, kind and pleasing.

I am sure in many ways this unconscious strategy really ensured my sanity and survival. But it was not always successful. The more people I had around me that needed pleasing at the same time and the more complicated things became, the more I felt like failing and was failing. And the more confused I got and ultimately depressed. Especially because there was this deep, throbbing feeling that there was more to my life, than pleasing others and being socially acceptable. Just how could I ensure my survival if it depends so much on others? On a more practical level: people have to like my art in order to buy it, so that I can pay my rent.

Rhino Angels, Pencil on  grey paper 110g/m2 29,7 x21cm, © Imke Rust

Rhino Angels, Pencil on grey paper 110g/m2 29,7 x21cm, © Imke Rust

 

Anyway, I promised myself to follow my heart and listen to my soul and was adamant to push through on that. Until I figured out that I have absolutely no clue who I really am and what my own desires are – I was so good at soaking up other people’s desires, that I never gave much attention to my own. So, I tried to remember. I just could not. And every time my heart or soul nudged me with a little idea or urged me to just draw a cute little picture, my mind was racing and shouting again, finding hundreds of reasons why I should not.

I tried to compromise. I told my mind, that it is ok to play, I have a few more savings and one small alternative source of income and for right now, my survival will not be jeopardised (one of my greatest fears). I told my mind, that I will spend ‘just a tiny little snipped of time’ playing with paint or resting or enjoying watching the clouds pass by –surely that would be ok? This little time will make me happy and give me more energy to one day show up for the big work with all new enthusiasm and creativity.

The negotiations were tough and endless, but somehow, I guess out of pure desperation I nudged out more and more time and space to just be, to play, to muse and to not worry.

And I decided to ignore the inner critic as best I can and give myself permission to at least try to follow up on some crazy or fun ideas I have. To try out different things, so that I can finally figure out my own true inner desires again and express them.

 

Neon Butterfly, Acrylic on acidfree paper 170g/m2 29,7 x21cm, © Imke Rust

Neon Butterfly, Acrylic on acidfree paper 170g/m2 29,7 x21cm, © Imke Rust

The struggle has not ended, but I have a feeling I have come a far way. Being brutally honest with myself has helped a lot. And being kind and understanding with myself – wow, I did not realise how difficult that is!

It has also helped me to share my experiences and thoughts in this blog. Even though I have only allowed small glimpses every now and then, I feel that I have so many thoughts and experiences swirling around in my mind, that it would help me to just express them. And I hope it might help others reading it, to find some inspiration, help or just a feeling of not being alone with your troubles.

Much of the time I spent on the computer, trying to be busy and avoid looking deep into my own soul, has been spend on the Internet. I have read a gazillion motivational, self-help, inspiring blog posts. And yes, many of them were helpful and inspiring and I am so grateful for the access to all this information we have.

It struck me how so many people who can be viewed as successful and happy from the outside, are or have been struggling with many of the same issues that I struggle with. When such people are willing to share and expose their most vulnerable parts, their fears or mistakes, it gives me hope, as I realise we are not alone, nobody is born ‘perfect’ and if they can find answers and solutions, so can I. And I can learn from such a great pool of wonderful teachers, who probably never even see themselves as teachers.

That is the reason, why I feel that I want to share more of my inner world and thoughts in this blog, even if they are not directly related to my art. And I hope in some small way it might be an inspiration or helpful to some of you too.

Please click on the images below to see a larger version.

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7 thoughts on “Permission to Play

  1. Indigo Spider

    Every once in a while you write a post that makes me wonder if you are real or some character from my mind posting my own thoughts! 🙂

    Almost every line you wrote could be from my own struggles. I think we are walking the same path even if we are in two different countries (and continents)! You said, “And I can learn from such a great pool of wonderful teachers, who probably never even see themselves as teachers.” Well, you are among that pool of teachers even as you learn yourself.

    I’m always grateful for your sharing as I learn something each time 🙂

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    1. Imke Rust Post author

      Your comment has brought tears to my eyes, especially because I feel the same about you and your writing. I am so grateful for your regular visits and comments over such a long time. It is good to know that there are kindred souls out there.

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  2. afrikafrau

    do not worry, be strong, you will find your way to express
    your deepest feelings. Of course it is natural to ask questions
    about your intension and creativity. the answer will be visible in your
    paintings or other actions.go on and follow your way.
    greetings -artist with an african soul

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    Reply
    1. Imke Rust Post author

      Thank you, Afrikafrau, for your encouraging words. I could write this, because I started to worry less and just go on, finding and creating my own path. And somehow I know that as long as I express myself as honestly as possible, in my own personal way, it will be good, no matter what others think. It was not an easy lesson to learn, and I still sometimes forget, but I am making progress 🙂

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