Blossoms of an Artist

I Started an Etsy Shop!

art drawerThe idea to sell my artwork and some of my other creative projects through Etsy has been in my head for over a year. But I immediately faced discouragement when I first began vocalizing it, so I mostly shoved the thought away.

In November, however, I was given an opportunity that I so wanted to take hold of. It was going to cost more money than I had (or would have any time in the near future), but I had such a desire for it that I was ready to start taking the idea of an Etsy shop seriously and see if I could raise funds that way. I began to research, ask friends who had experience, and work on what I was going to be selling.

But because my situation is unique (living with my family and working on creative pursuits from home, with no income to speak of), I faced a lot of setbacks during the process. Starting a business was intimidating. Okay: it was terrifying. I was determined to push through the fear, but running into roadblock after roadblock was becoming more spirit-crushing with every instance. And when the opportunity that had spurred me to start working on this in the first place fell through… I just kind of left everything alone. I didn’t intend to give up. But I did give up.

When I had been working to build the business and began facing discouragement, the Lord had been so clearly and openly supportive of me. He pointed me to the story of the Eiffel Tower; when it was being built, the art community in Paris was circulating a petition to stop the work, claiming it would be an ugly mark on a beautiful area in the city. The builders continued anyway, and created a piece of artwork so widely loved that it has become an icon. He told me this story, and encouraged me to keep building. I wanted to listen. For a while, I did. But eventually I let the discouragement get to me.

Lately I have been revisiting some of our conversations from that season, and seeing what He said and didn’t say… and what I did and didn’t do. Etsy was something He said was good. And something I have ignored. I don’t want that to be the case anymore.

Last week– I opened my Etsy shop. Tessa Maye Makes Things is alive.

logo

I know I will face challenges. But I will face them, as they come, instead of letting them cripple me or keep me from something that could be good. I am nervous. But when I put the final piece of information in and saw my shop go live for the first time? I took a deep breath. I felt relieved, and I felt hopeful. I’m not going to ignore that.

If you want to check out my artwork/projects, feel free to visit the shop! I am brainstorming more ideas for it already. But, if nothing else, I want to urge you: that thing that still invades your mind sometimes? That He placed a desire for in you? That maybe He’s even told you He’d support you in?

Keep building.

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Blossoms of an Artist

On Making Art I Hate

The longer I’m alive and the more I create, I am beginning to see that I’ll never make art I like unless I keep making art I hate.DSC01456

I don’t know if I’ve ever hated something I’ve made, but it has sometimes been difficult to have a glorious image of what it will look or sound like in my mind, only to fall short in being able to make that with my own limited hands. I think that’s the hardest part. The piece might not be terrible, but it isn’t what I wanted it to be. So, to me, it is terrible, because it’s a tangible reminder that I fall short.

For a long time, I let that feeling discourage me from making anything.

I would cut up magazine pages to make flowers because I had unused creative passion in me, but I didn’t want to paint, and I definitely didn’t want to try penning any lyrics. There are so many gifted artists in this world, in my own life, even, and it’s sometimes hard to believe that I have something worth listening to when there are a lot of people who could express it better than I can. Some already have. And I just don’t know where what I make fits into all these voices.

I’ve realized it’s okay if multiple voices speak the same thing.

A few unfinished paintings have been sitting around my easel for a while, shoved under a tablet of watercolor paper, me being completely uninspired to do anything more with them. But the past two days, two friends have visited my house. One painted with me as we watched a Spiderman movie, and told me as she looked around my nearly covered walls that she was getting inspired; the other asked about my art and what it meant, telling me she loved all of it. I didn’t know I needed to hear those things, but oh I needed to. Something in me just clicked into place, and I just keep making things. I just keep asking for inspiration, and finding it, because I’m looking. And because I say yes to using it.

I often fall into telling my soul, “Someone else will write a brilliant verse about that;” “Someone else would be able to portray that wondrously;” “I’m excited to see that when someone else makes it.” And over time, I’ve grown tired of hearing it. I’ve been choosing to just try, even if I won’t do as well as I think someone else might in making that thing the best it can be. If the inspiration happened inside me, who else can I ask to create it? Only the Lord and I get to see it when it stays walled up. And that is one of the biggest reasons I keep trying.

Yesterday, I finished the unfinished things. One had to be cut small and pasted onto a journal page. One kept wanting more, so I continued to mix colors throughout the day, trying to appease it, until it said, “Hey… maybe now I’m enough.” One was a surprise, starting out as an “I-don’t-want-to-waste-paint-so-let’s-just-smear-it-all-on-this-paper” piece but becoming a garden that made my mouth curve slightly upwards. And one… one just needed to be looked at a while longer, until I decided it was okay. None of them made me particularly excited, but I was so grateful to finally be making something, to finally breathe the rest of the life into the half-made things. And then…

He gave me three song ideas. Three. And I started all of them, and I felt alive again.

Music is my heart’s desire, so much so that it terrifies me and I need the people around me to continuously remind me not to run from it. But I haven’t written lyrics in so long, because there are poets and writers and singers so much more eloquent and gifted than I am. I fear deep in my bones that I am not good enough.

When all I need to do is say yes.

I ran with the inspiration, not away from it. I believed that maybe I can express at least some piece of what I see. And even if nothing became a glorious work, I worked gloriously because I said yes to doing it.

Those finished paintings from yesterday didn’t end up like my hopes for them; they weren’t wonderful. But because I had enough in me to say yes to making them, I said yes to the next inspiration, too. I spent hours on it today.

And I really, really like it.

I didn’t know if it would capture a bit of what I was seeing inside me. But I was willing to see, to give it a chance. And at the end, I backed away… and I caught a glimpse. My heart fluttered for a moment, and I just sat and stared.

I wouldn’t have this if I didn’t have the good-enoughs.

I wouldn’t be able to create what I love if I didn’t create what I hate sometimes, too.

Blossoms of an Artist

One of The Good Days

I am bursting. I have joy bubbling up inside me, joy that’s making me dance in circles around my room even though the song on my playlist right now is hard rock. It’s weird, and I know this isn’t going to make a lot of sense to you, maybe, but that’s okay.

Look what I did:life watercolor on easel

I painted. I painted on a full-sized piece of art paper. For the first time in such a long time.

For over a month now I’ve been in this place of complete open seas, not knowing where the Lord is leading me but knowing that He is leading. It’s a place that I’ve been grieving in, a place that I’ve been confused and hurt in, a place that I’ve wanted to leave. And I’m still here.

But today was the first time I saw a sign that I really am going somewhere.

I told you a few weeks ago that I feel so inadequate to make the art I want to make sometimes. And that having those insecurities comes from doubting that God is capable of using me in the ways I secretly dream He would use me. Knowing that I left college because the Lord wanted me to do some kind of creative work, the fear that I can’t make good enough art is crippling. But things are getting better. He’s teaching me to create again. He’s teaching me to go into creativity with the thought in the back of my mind, “There is a definite possibility that I could like this when I’m done with it.” And He’s teaching me to trust Him and what He says about me.

It’s been a long time since I’ve made something creative and been really excited about the way it turned out. But today broke that. I love this piece. And although I hope other people like it, too, it doesn’t matter to me a lot if they do. Because I think it’s lovely and it gets me excited every time I look at it. There are hard days, days that make me feel like I’m not going to be able to do what He wants me to do and what I want to do.

But there are also days like this.

I made blank space on my walls when the semester ended. I took down the pieces that didn’t carry deep meaning for me, but I also unintentionally made it so that I needed to fill those empty spots with new art. And I’m excited to start the refilling with this new piece, this piece that is ironic and kind.

Blossoms of an Artist

On Creative Drought & Faith

I baked cookies in the heat today.bowl of cookie cookies and bowl ovenready cookies

Why? Because I feel completely dry of creative juices.

I have written the same blog post nearly all day for two days now, and I don’t even know if I’ll end up posting it. I’m not passionate about it, I feel like I didn’t convey things the way I wanted to, and I don’t know if anyone else could even benefit from it.

“What’s the point?” my inner critic asks me bitterly.

I sketched out the beginnings of a painting I wanted to work on yesterday. The lines are there now, but I don’t want to fill them in. Because I can’t shut the thought out of my brain that it won’t end up looking the way I want it to look.

“Why would I waste so much time on something that I’ll end up finishing with the words ‘good enough’?” my inner cynic asks, a whisper of sadness in her tone.

I love my friends. I don’t get to see many as often as I used to and I’m trying to cope with that. I’ve been writing letters with a friend back and forth, but it’s been a while now since I’ve received her letter and I still haven’t written back. Because I feel like what I write her has to be uplifting, and I just don’t know if I have the right words.

“Why is it so hard to just make something heartfelt and be happy with that?” I whisper, hugging my legs in my desk chair.

That’s why I made cookies today. I want to– have to– create, but I am terrified that what I make isn’t good enough.

Cookies are easy. As long as they’re golden brown and taste like a cookie, they’re successful. There’s no pressure; I don’t view them as an expression of my soul. They don’t have to be unique, expressive, interesting. But what I write here, what I paint onto a canvas, what I say to someone else… it matters to me. A lot. I want it to be good.

I want to be able to create things that don’t get in the way of what I’m trying to express to you. I want to make something that captures what’s inside me and speaks into your life. And I’m being completely honest with you: I feel like I just can’t. I feel like I don’t have a voice to match my soul. My soul has so much in it, so much I wish I could share. I wish I had that ability. But, today, I don’t feel like I do. There are days like this that are just hard.

This is so hard for me to handle, because creating is what Jesus has asked me to do. I left college because He wanted me to create. I can’t express how weighed down I feel by the thought that I can’t do what He’s asked of me. If I can’t do it, what else can I do? Is anything left?

Phew. I’m sorry. Thank you for listening to my ugly.

I wrote a poem about a month ago when I was feeling like this.

Do you ever feel like you fail before you start?
Because it’s not what you do–
It’s you?
I am telling you, soul: this is your design!
You were created for this.
And the only person who can truly get in your way?
It’s you.
Believe in who you are;
Trust Him who made and is leading you.
There is so much beauty here, and–
It’s you.

And it makes me think maybe I should just keep creating, even in the slough. It’s not my best, but it’s not my worst, and I think I said what I wanted to say through it for the most part. If it helps no one else, it’s helping me.

After I wrote it, I realized that doubting my ability to create was a symptom of doubting the Lord. Knowing He asked me to take some intense risks in order to create, and knowing that all He’s been saying to me lately has been to express and create, what could make me think that I’m not able? This is His will for me. I am on the path I followed Him onto. Nothing is going to stop Him from accomplishing His good purposes, not even if I am lacking. This is His. He is in this. He has strength for my weakness. He has prepared these things in advance for me. I can create expressive, interesting, unique, meaningful art, because He wills it be so.

When I don’t trust that I can do it, it’s an indicator that I don’t fully trust Him. Creating great art seems impossible because I’ve been trying to trust myself for it, and put all my stock in my own abilities. And the truth is–

I don’t have what it takes. I can’t do this alone.

But Jesus?

He can take me there. And He’s told me He will. And when He does, it won’t be because I’m wonderful and talented; it will be because I am swimming in His grace. It is hard to sit back and wait, but it’s even harder when I find that I’m not trusting Him. When I don’t trust Him, I end up not even trusting what He says about me. And He says that I am chosen, royal, holy. He says that He does all He does for my good. He says that I share in suffering in order to become more like Him.

And He says that He loves me. He loves me enough to give up His life for me, to call me His friend, to walk with me every day.

I am growing in believing Him deep in my heart.

I haven’t believed You.
But it’s more than that.
I haven’t believed You because…
Because You believe in me.
And I don’t.

May we have so much faith in you, Lord, that we will have faith in your promises, too. May we seek to glorify you in what we do and may that be enough for us, because it is enough for you. May we feel deep in our souls that you are our reward, and that you understand our depths even when we can’t express them. And may we see an inkling of what you see in us. We love you.

Blossoms of an Artist

On Artistry & Breathing

I tried to write this post a few times, and I simply couldn’t. I planned to share poetry. I read through my poetry journal more than once and loved what I saw there; I wasn’t just seeing writing that wasn’t half bad, I was seeing God’s presence and His wisdom in every single day I’d lived. I hadn’t always seen Him in my day, but reading the poetry I wrote at the end of each day, from July to now. . .  He’s in all of it. Do you see Him in your life today? If you don’t, someday you will think of today, and you’ll see Him, and you’ll see how He loved and sheltered you. He is here with you and with me. Sometimes we simply have foggy days in our spirits. That’s what my daily poetry journal has been teaching me. I just completed my first, and I don’t know if I’ll ever have a last because doing this helps my soul so much.

This is strange. But I just spent a lot of time going through my journal and typing a few of the poems again, and I just felt like I shouldn’t share them. Not because I’m a secretive person (I’m a gaping-wide open book, acquaintances of mine will tell you that), but because I simply felt the Lord telling me I didn’t have to. My poems are my gift to me, and that’s okay.

This week at church we were singing our own songs. My church’s worship times are so diverse and I love it; people dance, create their own lyrics, and often the Lord will speak something to someone and have them share it with us. This week all of that existed, and that’s pretty normal. I don’t usually sing my own songs, I often hum different tones when we do that because it lets me express my soul’s wordlessness, but this time I sang a song as it came. Afterwards, I had two consecutive thoughts. The first was, “I wish I could remember that song.” But the second?

“. . . I don’t have to. That song was for us.”

taken 2014I’m honest by instinct, and I love being able to share in real things with people even if real is sometimes ugly and messy. I’m not sure why God made me this way, but I’m grateful He did, because He functions this way, too. But honest doesn’t have to mean emptied. Not everyone has to know your depths. There are people who do need to know your depths, and there are some people who are special enough that you want to entrust them with yourself. But not everyone needs everything. There are days when you can simply exist.

I painted today. And the first thing I did after finishing the painting? I took a picture of it for Facebook. My first thought wasn’t to breathe my art in and decide how I felt about it– it was to feel validated as an artist. Why?

I think this is something I need to grow in. I think we go from people-who-make-art to artists when we realize that we don’t need other people to tell us we’re creative, insightful, talented; when we just do it because we love it and it’s the way we breathe and it’s a joyous experience with Him. Because He’s an artist, and He doesn’t need to prove it. He doesn’t need to show someone His work in order for it to become art. He created not because He wanted a title or to be talented or to share it, but because He loved what He was creating. We aren’t something He made to show off– we are His breath. And He has art hidden everywhere: stars and planets we may never find, exotic animals deep in forests we haven’t yet explored, microscopic creatures that bring Him glory by existing, sunsets on completely uninhabited islands. No validation needed, because His art is not His work, it’s a reflection.

And if I am a reflection of His, I hope that I can learn to breathe just like He does.

Create some pieces only you know about. Write in a journal no one else will open; paint something and let it live on your bedroom wall; draw something that won’t leave your sketchbook; wear your favorite clothing items on a stay-home day; play your music and don’t feel the need to film a video of it; laugh by yourself about a funny story without feeling like you have to tell the story; spend a day with a friend and don’t take a photo; be in awe of your own insights and don’t feel like you have to voice them yet.

There are times when sharing is wondrous and even necessary. Honesty and genuinity and vulnerability are some of the most important things we can practice, and I live in them daily; I was made to and I honestly can’t function well any other way. But sometimes, I need balance. Sometimes the Lord just wants my sweet whispers, a special time with me and my depths no one else has seen.

When we create, when we experience joy, we don’t need to think about anyone else seeing or knowing about it. All we have to do is breathe.

Blossoms of an Artist · Ocean Stories

You make me brave, You call me out beyond the shore into the waves…

I hadn’t seen the ocean (aside from driving by it) in over a year. Last week we finally visited a ocean-side trail and snuck down to the tide pools. Although we didn’t get to go to the beach, I still felt refreshed to be there.taken July 9, 2014 (featuring my brother, Ty)

I didn’t really hear anything during my time at the tide pools about the ocean and what it could tell me about life. But on the drive up, as I looked out at the water, I grabbed my little notebook and instinctively wrote this:

The ocean may be countless colors–

Stoic gray today, vibrant turquoise the day before–

But it will always be the ocean.

And you will always be you.

Recently I’ve discovered the work of present-day poet Tyler Knott Gregson, and although many of his pieces are not my cup of tea, some make me pause in wonder for a few moments after I read them (my favorite here). The thing that strikes me most about him is that he writes a poem every day, on any scrap of paper he can find. I usually feel like I need to prepare myself and be in an artistic state in order to do something creative, and I’m learning I need to rid myself of that mindset. When we create out of what we think and feel in the moment, that’s worship. And some of the truest, loveliest art comes from unplanned and unexpected worship. That’s why I’ve begun writing daily poems, too, just in a little notebook for myself. Some of the best writing advice I’ve heard is from Henry David Thoreau: “Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with.” I need to stop trying so hard to be a great artist and start trusting that it’ll come out when I’m being authentic, because God has already made me an artist.

That four-line poem came out of me in an instant. And no, it’s not my best work. But I actually really like it. It told me something I needed to be reminded of– no matter what changes, Jesus doesn’t. Even if I see things about Him I haven’t before, He will always be who He always has been. I don’t think I would have gotten that message from just looking out at the sea and noting that it was different colors in different spots. But when I gave in to the impulse to write, I found it. I found something hidden there.

I think this is just my encouragement to you to put trust into who you were created to be. You have the ability to find the little treasures God has placed in front of you. Don’t try so hard to be an expert or a deep thinker; just be you. God made you, the way He wanted you, and there are some things you can only find when you are being that person. Trust Him as your creator. Maybe you’ll find those treasures when you write; when you paint; when you tell someone else about what you’ve seen; when you toss a Frisbee; when you make a meal for your family. Wherever you are, you are right where you need to be, and there are some incredible gems yet to discovered. You can find them. Will you believe in the treasure hunt? Will you believe in who you are? And will you believe in what you find? Have trust, and begin.

“It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.”  -Proverbs 25:2

Blossoms of an Artist

Being a Creator

My best friend, Sierra, visited yesterday. We laughed, talked, made food, sang Les Mis songs, walked, took photos like this. . .taken July 2, 2014. . . and painted.

I’m an artist, not by profession but by heart. But lately I just haven’t been able to create anything. No poetry, no paintings, not even many journal entries. It feels like I’m clogged up with inspirations that just won’t come out, and to be honest I haven’t even had the drive to try forcing them out. Something is making me hold back. It hurts that this has been happening. Jesus has been telling me every single day that He wants me to start singing Him a new song, and I desperately want to do that for Him. But nothing will come out.

When me and Sierra painted together yesterday, I sat and stared at my empty paper for a while. Without thinking about it, I began to sketch myself, staring at an easel. I didn’t think I would actually settle for that as my piece, but I kept right along, adding details to the sketch and soon dipping my brush into the water to fill in some color. Once the sketch was filled in, I put some deep pink paint on my palette and began creating swirls on the paper. Many more colorful swirls and splotches followed. I ended up with this:Stuck in InspirationIt’s not my best, at all, but when I looked at the final piece I couldn’t keep back a small smile.

Jesus knows me.

He knows what’s going on inside me, because He’s there, too. When I can’t express myself, and when it hurts so much to be an artist who’s not creating, He still knows what I wish I could say. He doesn’t expect me to word everything perfectly, or expertly convey what I feel, or even know what’s happening inside. I often want to hold onto happiness so tightly that I subconsciously push away anything that bothers me, only to wake up one day in sadness and not know what caused it; and He knows that, too. But when I pull out my brushes anyway and start making marks on the page in front of me. . . He simply helps me see. He gives me expression anyway. It’s when I’m not trying so hard to be meaningful that He shows me the meaning already here.

How is your artwork coming? Your writing, your paintings, your interactions with people, your “little” everyday adventures? You’re an artist, too. And when you feel like your creativity is gone and secretly believe that attempting to create beauty isn’t worth it– He’s asking you to simply try. Just start creating, even if you don’t know what you’re making. Even if it’s completely new to you. In the midst of all the messy, jumbled ideas inside you, Jesus is there, too. He’s going to guide your hand. When you look at your finished product, you might not be in love with it. But you will be able to take a deep breath for the first time in a while, and a smile will sneak out despite your efforts to keep it in. He wants you to create, because He’s a creator, too, and imitating that glorifies Him; it’s a way for you to be close.

I’ve been aching to write some lyrics and just haven’t been able to. But maybe I’ll grab my pencil and notebook anyway and see what comes out. Jesus, please create with me.

I’m lost without your creative spark in me; recreate me. I’m dead inside unless your resurrection saves.     -Rend Collective Experiment, “Desert Soul”