Sometimes life really does kick you in the butt. It can take weeks or months to get through it and for me what suffered most was my creativity. Gone. I tried everything, I kept my sketchbook with me, I went to all my usual sources, I bought supplies, I followed along with Year of Creative Habits, and we even moved states from the gloomy winters of Seattle to the sunshine of Southern California - but nothing. For 10-months, nothing.
Soon after moving to El Segundo we visited the El Segundo Museum of Art. It was family day and the museum was packed with families making art together and an amazing show of graffiti art on display. I chatted with one of the women volunteering and she told me that everything was free and that they always needed more volunteers. I knew this was a place I wanted to become involved and decided to apply. The volunteer organizer contacted me right away. We sat down and chatted. She outlined the types of opportunities for volunteers. I decided to become a docent, someone on hand during open hours to help visitors. From there I moved on to working family and school visit days and then I applied to be a guest artist. This involved putting together a proposal for a family-friendly art activity and hosting that activity. It included developing an activity that aligned with the current show, putting together a budget for materials and detailed instructions for the volunteers who would be helping, setting up requirements and a schedule of activities for the day. It was a great opportunity for me and the museum, to offer a fiber art activity. And I was paid an honorarium. Paid!
By volunteering on a weekly basis at the museum I surrounded myself both with art and artists. Many of the staff and volunteers are artists, art educators, or collectors. Through them I was introduced to local galleries, unique exhibits, and even more artists. These were my people, something I realized I'd been missing since my move. They all carry sketchbooks and cameras with them. They all wanted to talk about art. They called themselves artists and like me, many of them suffered from "imposter syndrome". It wasn’t everything, because I still wasn’t making my own art but I knew I was getting closer.
Then one day I met a creativity coach, who even knew there was such a person? Our children went to the same school and were friends, she reached out to me and we went for coffee. She explained what she did and the various ways that coaching could work. She offered me a spot in a small group of other artists that met each week. It was a generous offer and I couldn’t find a reason not to try it. She kicked my butt, but this time in a good way. When I explained my work she chastised me, “Be more confident! Your work is incredible, you’re incredible. People want this type of work! Don’t compromise!” She helped me to put together elevator pitches to describe my work. We put together vision maps for one thing that I wanted to do. We brainstormed local places to show my work. We talked about saying no and staying motivated. We talked about making time for art and for the business of art by setting business hours. She instilled in me the sense that no one does what I do.
Around the same time I found a small piece of orange organdy fabric on the ground. It reminded me of a goldfish. I dug out fabric, sequins and thread, worked on a little page in my sketchbook and the fish appeared. And another. Then a dragonfly and then a bird. Now I can look back through my sketchbook and chart my journey. There are sketches of works that I finished, that I never started, and lists of pieces I'd like to make.
Here we are a little more than a year later and I am a working artist again. I have my work in a gallery in Santa Monica. I have just finished a group show in El Segundo and I was a featured artist in the town’s annual Art Walk. Twice I have been a guest artist at ESMoA hosting family day. I have an online shop. I keep office hours in my little art space, sitting down at my desk every day at 9:00 am and working until 2:30 pm, sometimes longer. I work at my art and at the business of art. I’m happier than ever and that butt kicking 2 ½ years ago? I remind myself of it because by doing so, I remind myself that I can overcome anything.
This summer we are moving home to Canada. I have already reached out to galleries and other fiber artists. I will have a proper studio. I’m so ready for the next challenge. Like my coach says, “It’s all physics – once you get moving it’s easier to keep moving”.
Since January of 2008 Dawn has worked as a printmaker incorporating her background in needlework to make unique prints that are stitched, quilted and embellished by hand. Today Dawn continues to insist she is a printmaker although she works almost exclusively in the 3D realm of fiber art. Dawn recently moved back to her hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan after living in Washington and California for 15-years. She is also a mom to two teenagers and a wife to a very supportive husband. She prefers art to housework. Check out dawnrogal.com and follow Dawn on Facebook and/or Instagram.