An experiment with art and happiness.

Plastered all over the internet are motivational posters preaching “Do what you love.” We’ve all seen them. Especially those of us on Pinterest, you know what I’m talking about.

Do what you love. I’ve been thinking long and hard about this topic lately in large part due to the fact that I am currently reading (and loving, if I might say so) The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. She dedicated an entire year to this project of finding happiness for herself. She wasn’t unhappy to start with, but she felt that her life could be even happier. Reading this book is sparking all sorts of ideas I’ve never fathomed before. I am happy in my life, but I too think I could be happier. One thing in particular that has been bothering me lately is this constant, overwhelming anxiety. I’ve had it my whole life, but it really flares up in times of stress. Well, its been flaring up lately. I keep having this feeling that I don’t have time to do things that I actually want to do. Like I spend all of my time doing grown-up, adult things that I have to do and never have any true fun.

Do what you love. What do I love though.. truly love? It sure sounds like a simple question when you say it, but can you answer it? I struggled. I know what I say I love. I know what I should love. I know what other people love. I contemplated over this question for quite a while before I realized that I had to go back to the basics to find my answer. And now that I have the answer it seems so obvious. I can say that now that I’ve figured it out, of course.

I love art, drawing in particular. I went to art school. I have a BFA. And I think that is precisely what the problem was. In art school I spent 6 hours a day standing in front of an easel, for a grade. It was critiqued and my status on the Dean’s List depended on those drawings. I had to be there. I had to draw set-up compositions of plastic fruit and wrinkly naked people. I don’t like being told what to do or how to do it. This is not a secret. You tell me that I have to sit there for 6 hours and draw fruit and it immediately becomes the very last thing I want to do. Do you see my point here? In school I was forced to draw, forced to create, and while that is all fine and good and what you should be doing in art school, once I graduated, well drawing remained an assignment. It was a chore. It was a task on my to do list that no one was forcing me to do anymore. So I stopped. I forgot that I actually love to draw. Fancy that.

On a late night raid of my office closet I discovered a box of old sketch books. I was amazed by the books and books full of old drawings. I was enamored with what I used to create. Why am I not still drawing? Ding. The light bulbs in my head started blazing brighter than the sun. I pulled the bins of drawing supplies out and it was like I just won the lotto. I couldn’t remember what half of these things are even used for anymore, but that didn’t matter. I was going to use them. I was sure that it would all come back to me as I put my pencil to the paper. And it did.

So as part of my happiness effort, which is what I am currently calling it since it’s not a full blown project yet, I have been setting aside time each day to do what I love. It’s genius. I don’t know why I haven’t been doing this all along.

This is one of my recent sketches. The other side of this experiment, beyond happiness was taking my hand drawn sketch from paper to computer art. I am still working on the perfect process and the coloring isn’t final but I thought I’d share what I have been up to thus far. I have a whole stack of new sketches that I am swooning over.

I am an artist.

Do what you love.


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