In the beginning there was Green Eggs & Ham
Updated: Nov 22, 2020
I have never made a secret of how often I have found myself kicking and screaming about God's call for me to be an artist. For my new readers, who might find it odd that a career artist has spent the entire length of her career having ab-solute-ly no interest in being an artist, let me catch you up to speed.
I can rightfully say, I was bamboozled into this career. When I decided to become a professional photographer and major in photography, it hadn't occurred to me that photography was an art form. I say I was bamboozled because my college counselor actually called me, while I was still in high school, to read me my schedule, and God blocked my ability to process that she was reading me a list of art classes. It wasn't until I was sitting in my art class, on the other end of an 8 hour assignment that required me to paint a series of 2 inch squares, did it finally dawn on me that I wasn't just a photography major, I was an art major.
Nightmare is not quite a strong enough word to describe my first few years as an artist. My first art professor was a bully who called me out in front of class for not having the personality type he thought I should have as an artist. This, mind you, would be the second time I had experienced bias from an art teacher, my first being in middle school. Not to mention, I managed to bump heads with quite a few of my art teachers because I refused to be boxed into their idea of art. Their ideas didn't match who I was as a person, much less a budding artist still trying to get a feel for the world she just got dropped into.
Looking back, I can see that the problem was everyone else was an intentional artist. They were used to a certain lifestyle, interest, standard and knowledge of the craft. Where as me, who might as well have been the stray of the group, was an anomaly who just wanted to find what worked for her, instead of being told what should be working for her. Add this to the fact that I personally didn't think I was creative enough to even be in these art classes, next to all of the seasoned artists around me, and you've got a deep seeded insecurity feeding a serious resentment toward God for forcing me into this life to begin with. Eventually things got so bad, I decided to change my major to business management. You'll notice I don't have a business management degree. That's because I didn't make it 30 feet outside the building, before God sent a friend to intercept me and march me back inside to change my major back to art.
Now of course, my experience wasn't all bad. My classes were a nightmare, but one class in particular inspired me to experiment with spray paint outside of class. I had no idea what I was doing or how to use it and I loved it! It was the first time that I couldn't control something and yet the end result was still beautiful. Eventually, I realized the source of my freedom from perfectionism was the decision to stop thinking and just go with the flow. That, by itself, gave God access to flow through me and lead my choices through my eyes. Overtime, God started to use my spray paintings to communicate with me through the process of their creation. So while, I still had no interest in being a career artist, I was perfectly happy painting as a hobby. *Insert the flipping of my thoroughly planned script, three weeks before I graduated college, here.*
A friend of mine invited me to show my work on campus and I agreed for reasons still oblivious to me. While I was there, several people asked me if I was selling my work and I said no. I said no so much it started to bother me into realizing that I had an audience for my work. So after I graduated, I figured I'd become a career artist as a side hustle while I finished my novel and worked on my career as a photographer. This ladies and gents was the beginning of the end of everything I had planned for my life.
Within six months of becoming a career artist, God made it clear that my art was my ministry. This wasn't about sales. This was about reaching people and sharing the wisdom God had showed me through my art. My response? Okay God. I'm with you on that. I love talking to people, especially about you, but can we get to the entrepreneurial success so I don't have to fill the burdens of adulting?... Yes?...God: "Not yet smurff.."
Two years later, after several "not yets" and even more failures in my various attempts to try every avenue of creativity I could think of trying with my art and photography, I could concretely say...sir...I'm over it. Between rants and emotional breakdowns, I made it very clear to God that I resented him for forcing me down a path I never wanted. The onslaught of back to back heartbreaks of 2019, facing eviction, losing friends and family with barely enough to eat, was enough to finally break 25 years worth of defiant confidence in the fact that I would eventually be a successful entrepreneur. For the first time in my entire life, I was hopeless and questioning whether or not God was even real. I found myself wondering if I had made the right decision in choosing to believe in God and whether or not I had been foolish to take the many leaps of faith I had over those last two years.
The beginning of 2020 came with a truth and a challenge. I told God, flat out angry and heartbroken, that I was tired. I didn't have it in me to believe his promises anymore. He had been talking so big and bad for years without the fruit of what he had promised. All I had ever seen was failure, closed doors and dead ends. I was done listening to him talk. I needed tangible evidence of what he'd been saying. I refused to accept anything else or move on anything else until I had clear, detailed instructions on how to go about it. Welp! God ain't ever been one to back down from a challenge.
Within four months, God and I entered into a Clean Slate Season, where we basically hit the reset button on what it was I was supposed to be doing with my life. Those detailed instructions I asked for came in full force. I had a vision to move my studio from one of the smaller rooms to one of the bigger rooms in my apartment. Seeing all of my work together on one wall made me realize how convoluted and outdated my style was. Then came the instructions to shave down my work and sell or give away any piece that didn't fit the current direction my work was going in, which was nearly 90% of my work. By the end of the purge, I felt better about the direction of my artistry. Yet and still I didn't have the slightest clue about what direction my business was supposed to be going in. To be completely honest, I was still very clear on the fact that I still wasn't interested in being a career artist.
Sure, I'm good at it. Yes, some people like my work and it does help some people, but I could never understand why God was so adamant that I reach people through my art. To me, my novel of three years was just as powerful, if not more powerful than my art. Plus it had the added bonus of being a medium I actually wanted to work on since writing had always been my first love.
Eventually the question of "Why my art?" started gnawing at me. The beginning of his answer, hit me in the kitchen. While I was cutting up the chicken for my meal, it suddenly started to look like ham. After awhile, I finally asked why my chicken looked like ham and he said "Green Eggs and Ham." Green eggs and...what? Really?! Dr. Seuss? I literally started laughing at the medium of God's dramatics? Turns out I couldn't remember what the story was about, so I watched a reading of it on youtube.
For those who don't know or remember, Green Eggs and ham is about a little guy who wanted his friend to try his green eggs and ham, but his friend refused to try it because he didn't think he would like it. The little guy presented him 90 different options of how and where his friend could eat the green eggs and ham, but his friend was insistent that he wouldn't like it and didn't want it. Mind you, the friend had never actually tasted the green eggs and ham. He really had no real basis for his insistence that he wouldn't like it. Finally the little guy wears his friend down and the friend agrees to try it just to shut the little guy up. Sure. E. Nough! The friend loves the green eggs and ham and exclaims he wants to eat them how and where his little friend previously suggested.
By the time I finished listening to the story, I didn't know whether I should pick my face up off the floor or call for emergency oxygen the way I could not stop laughing at the way I had just gotten snatched by God. If this wasn't the most, "what you got to say now?" moment, I don't know what is because he was right. I had never, not once, short of a few dripping moments of clarity...ever fully wanted or embraced this life as an artist. The only reason I had made it this far is because I express faith through obedience. As far as I was concerned, obedience was ALL God was ever going to get out of me on this one. What I hadn't realized, before this conversation, was that by rejecting the idea of being an artist, I had also blocked God's ability to show me the rest of a much bigger picture. Ironically, a few more conversations with God revealed that my art was never supposed to be the heart, or focal point, of my purpose. Art was only ever meant to be a piece of the big picture. Why don't you take a wild guess as to what the focal point of my purpose was supposed to be. That's right...Writing.
God had me take a hard look at my last three years, most of which was spent trying to, unsuccessfully, find momentum vending at art shows. He highlighted the fact that my favorite part of vending wasn't the sales. It was always talking to people. While at a show, I might have started off talking about the art piece, but the conversation almost always ventured into their personal lives or a deeper conversation about God. Any show where I didn't get to talk to people was seen as a drag or fail for me, even if I did manage to sell a good bit that night. That's when I realized that my artwork wasn't about the art itself or the subsequent sales. My art was simply a conversation starter. It was an open door for me to minister to that person about whatever it was they were going through whether it was God related or not. People only ever bought my art because it often served as a reminder or a representation of the conversation we'd had.
Not only that, God spent a great amount of time showing me that I'd spent the last three years running myself ragged by trying to operate in my weaknesses. Art shows require me to be part saleswoman. There isn't a bargaining bone in my body, even if its something I'm buying. I won't even do research to find the cheaper price because I don't care enough to try. If you're going to run an online store, naturally you would need to market. Only problem is, I suck at marketing and the research required to keep up with the trends. Creatives, especially, often struggle with business because they have hard time understanding, let alone mastering, the business side to their creativity. It took God a month to show me that it was okay that I couldn't master business because that wasn't my strength. My strength is content creation.
More specifically, my strength is taking my experiences with the creative aspects of my life, such as art, movies, tv shows, books and the process of creation, and finding God's wisdom in it, to then turn around and share it with my followers. Add my first love of writing, my second love of psychology and my third love of holding therapy with whoever about whatever and you have: I am Philosophy.
The art that I was running so hard from? Now that I understand its purpose was only ever supposed to be content for my writing, as well as a conversation starter, I've fully embraced it for the first time since I started painting my freshman year in college. Sure, I'll still be selling prints and taking commissions, but that is no longer my focus and I love that! Focusing on the money sucked all the joy out of my creative process. By keeping myself focused on my writing, I was opened back up to the joy I had been craving for years. I've never had more peace about a decision in my entire life.
What's crazy is the story I just shared with you is only the prologue to the rest of my life. I've been writing since I was at least 8 years old. I started my entrepreneurial journey when I was 18. I've spent the last 9 years trying every version of what I thought I was supposed to be doing. I can't even begin to count how many times I've started over, looking for a better path to success. But this year, in this moment, this is my final beginning and I'm looking forward to sharing my journey with all of you.
Now! Let the conversations begin!! What is something you feel like you've always wanted to do, but haven't been able to? Or what's something you know God is calling you to but you keep telling him no or never? Why is that? Comment below! I'd love to talk about it with you!