One year ago today, I did something that, at the time, felt very risky. In fact, y’all, I was scared to death.

On October, 11, 2016, I announced that I wanted to become a full-time artist.

That may not sound like a big deal to you, but to me, it was a huge deal. Part of the reason I felt intimidated was that I wasn’t sure I was a “good enough” artist to pursue art full-time. Looking back on it now, that seems ridiculous but I’ve struggled with worthiness issues all my life, so this was just another aspect of my worthiness that seemed inadequate to me at the time.

A lot has changed in the year since I stepped out and declared that I wanted to be a full-time artist. On this anniversary, I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned.

Many people think “full-time” means trying to make a living as an artist.

One of the first things I encountered was the translation that seems to go on in other people’s heads. When I told friends about my decision, they immediately started querying me about how I was going to make money from my art. Honestly, though, that wasn’t my intention.

My intention in going full-time was to see how far I could take my development. Put another way, I wanted to see if I could get really, really good. I felt, and still feel, if I became really skilled and developed a strong artistic voice, then I could consider how to make money from my skills.

I didn’t know what being a full-time artist actually meant.

It took me several months to figure out what daily life looks like for me as a full-time artist. For the record, I don’t work on making art for forty hours a week.

As of today, “full-time” means that I am in my studio three or four days a week. What I am doing when I’m in my studio varies. Some days, I’m taking online classes to learn Adobe Illustrator and Lightroom. Other days, I’m drawing and painting. I’m also trying to figure out how to shoot video so I can start sharing my skills.

I am thinking more about how to make income from my art. I just bought a large-format printer and I’ve started selling prints of my work on Etsy. I love to teach and I’m in the process of designing my first online course.

Working at the speed of Instagram can be beneficial to my growth.

One of the things I’ve learned is that daily art challenges bring on incredible growth artistically. For example, last month, I did a “bird a day” and shared my work on Instagram. The improvement in my skills in drawing and painting was phenomenal. I developed more of a recognizable voice. And I learned how to produce work rapidly. But…

Working at the speed of Instagram can stymie my development.

When I’m trying to produce art to make daily posts on Instagram, everything feels “precious.” I can’t afford to experiment or make mistakes or do anything to time consuming. But to grow and develop, I need to experiment, make mistakes, and do bigger, more time consuming pieces.

To get where I think I want to go, I need to build a body of work and that kind of endeavor moves more slowly than the pace of social media. But I believe I need social media in order to be visible. And…

I’m still trying to figure out how to be visible.

I mentioned worthiness issues earlier. I still struggle with those and that’s affected how I put myself out into the world. I’m over the part about not being a “good enough” artist to work at it full-time. I have plenty of skills and I’m really proud of the progress I’ve made.

And yet, I still struggle with putting myself out there and sharing myself and my work. Yesterday, I spent the afternoon trying to figure out how to record process videos and then wondered, “Why am I doing this? Will anyone watch these videos? Will anyone care?”

Honestly, I have no idea if I’ll ever be “discovered” as an artist. I want to be discovered. I believe my work is worthy of being discovered. But there’s still something inside of me that gets all squirmy when I consider my own worthiness to be seen and heard. I had a conversation about this with a friend a couple of weeks ago and we talked about shame.

Without getting too psychobabble on y’all, let’s just say that I felt invisible as a kid: unseen and unheard. And at some point, I internalized that invisibility to mean that I wasn’t worthy of being seen or heard. And I when I try to be seen or heard, I feel shame—I even feel ashamed of wanting to be seen and heard.

I’ve hidden under my stinky shame like a filthy blanket.

I am really good at hiding under my shame blanket. It feels safe under there. In the past, when I’ve ventured out from under the blanket, I soon got scared and either started armoring up (by trying to look like an intellectual) or I scurried back under the blanket and disappeared from public view.

Just look at the dates on my blog posts—it took me nearly a year to start posting after I made my “full time artist” declaration. That wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t that I didn’t have time to post or didn’t have something to say. It was because I was consumed with shame.

Having been a Brené Brown devotee for many years, I know that shame hates being spoken aloud. Shame doesn’t like light. However…

I was created to be light, to bring the God-colors out in the world.

One thing I can affirm about myself is that I was not created to squirm and hide under the filthy shame blanket: I was created to be light. I am God’s beloved daughter in whom He is well pleased—I know that with absolute certainty.

So every day, I pray that I’ll grow a little and heal a little and get a little braver. And then I go into my studio and try to make a little beauty that I can share with someone. I think that’s important especially when the world seems like such a wounded, messy place as it does so often these days.

This has been the happiest year of my life so far.

I have felt more joy in the past 365 days than I’ve ever felt in my whole life. I get so gobsmacked with happiness that at times, I’m delirious.

A few days ago, Douglas and I went hiking on Marys Peak and afterward I spent some time doing a sketch of the view. As we were driving home, I felt exquisitely alive. It was as if the veil had been pulled aside and I could see how sacred and divine and holy and beautiful everything was. Making art does that: it opens my heart profoundly to the beauty that is all around me.

Being a full time artist means that I have the opportunity to transcribe some of my experience of beauty into artwork. I don’t know how I got so lucky that I have this life. I am so, so grateful.

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