When Art is Your Love Language

When I’m so happy and satisfied and moved and full of love about something or someone, I make art about it.

I write poetry or love letters. I paint. I create little cartoon portraits on internet apps.

As children and still as adults, long afternoons and evenings were spent with my brother and sister, reaching over each other to get a tube of the next color we needed, trading brushes, just creating together. It led to a lifelong love of creativity and art as an expression of love, affection, and closeness.

When I love someone, I show it in art.

In April, coping with the early days of socially isolating due to the COVID pandemic, my partner and I sent letters to each other to get through the long stretches without seeing each other. I sent him six small watercolor paintings with my letters, and the last letter was a poem.

When my friend lost two pets over the summer, I thought “I should paint them a portrait of those pets.” I haven’t done it yet, but I’ll get there. Sometimes the art has to percolate.

My partner and his roommate love Skyrim, so I painted them a scene of a dragon flying among snowy mountains and a forest. I plan to paint my sister a similar one for her new home when she moves in with her fiancé.

An ex partner loved mermaids, and I painted her a scene of a mermaid looking out to sea at sunset. The mermaid had a back tattoo and a fin mohawk, and the sunset and water were the colors of the bisexual pride flag.

If I love you, I show it in art. In colors. In words.

I’ve tried selling art before, and it doesn’t always feel the same. It’s hard for me to get the art moving without that love behind it.

It’s okay to just enjoy your artistic hobbies and not try to monetize them — it’s a capitalist pressure to think we need to only do things that can bring in income.

Creating for the sake of creation is a radical act, and we should do it more often.

I’ve also made art for people who it turned out weren’t safe for me.

This art feels like a betrayal. Short stories I wrote for an abuser. A painting. A story recited in public about how real and true love and friendship could be.

That lost art was part of me, and undeserved by them. If I had a time machine I would write a different story. But I told that story — even if the story isn’t the truth anymore.

It hurts to know that I put that part of myself on paper or in words, when I later wish I never had.

I can’t take it back, but it hurts to feel like I wasted it.

When I’m feeling blocked creatively, is it because I don’t want to “waste” art on people?

In “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Marie Kondo says that it’s okay to discard (throw away, donate, or otherwise re-home) gifts from others, because sometimes the joy of the item was in the moment of giving. If it no longer gives you joy, it’s okay to discard.

Can the same be true of art?

In the moment, the creation of that art was joyous and full of love. In the moment, the art was pure. The words, the brushstrokes, the art, the love — it was all real.

And the love being real doesn’t mean that the pain wasn’t real. The love being real doesn’t mean that the abuse wasn’t real. The love being real doesn’t mean that the betrayal wasn’t real.

I can be at peace with the fact that those people received my art, and my love.

The authenticity of my love, and my art as an extension of it, is about me. Not them.

And I will keep making art.

And I will keep loving.

Social Isolation Doesn’t Have to Be Monotonous

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Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash

It’s a scary time in the world right now. The experts advise us to stay inside, self-isolate, in order to protect others from the spread of COVID-19. But we are social creatures, and even as someone who loves to stay home, I am feeling like I’m in the early scenes of a movie where shit is about to get very real. 

There’s a line between panic and caution, and I want you to be cautious. Wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face, and disinfect frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs, phones, and your steering wheel and gearshift in your car. Stay inside as much as you can, and if you do go out, stay away from crowded places. 

There’s also a line between social distancing and solitary confinement.

Now is the time to recover and rest from the constant to-do list of your life. If you can work from home, do it. Use the time you used to commute to get extra sleep. Make sure you turn off your work email after quitting time. Honor that boundary between your personal time and work time.

Water and wipe down all of your houseplants. Pour care into yourself too. Remember to hydrate. 

Break out your stash of “for a rainy day” spa items and do a face mask or have a bubble bath. Paint your nails. Experiment with bold, fun makeup looks. 

Grab your yarn and needles and finally learn to master a knitting stitch. Teach your kids how to crochet. Paint something. Write poetry. Journal. You may be stuck at home, but it doesn’t mean you’re stuck doing nothing. 

Get online and video chat your friends while you watch a movie together. 

Remember that you are not alone. 

Looking for something to read while you’re home? “The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation” is available on Kindle, Audible, and Google Books!