Travel Journal

The Artist’s Studio

When creativity is flowing it tends to pull us inside a womb. I had to desert the blog for a bit as some things have been gestating and being born. I’ll tell you what I have been up to in a moment. First, I want to share some thoughts with you. My hope is that this blog entry will encourage and inspire you to tackle new or (especially!) old dreams in your own life.

I don’t know about you, but I have always had the tendency to pick up some hobbies that I am really interested in, but for some reason or other never have time to progress with. Things get laid aside; a dream gets dust covered. But the desire is still there… Sound familiar?

Experience has taught me that sometimes it just wasn’t the right time for those things to grow or happen earlier. They needed months or years of “sleeping” only to come out when the time was ripe. It is okay to let something sleep and more importantly, not to be afraid to wake it back up years later! Another important thing is being aware of and listening to that inner voice when it is prompting you to take action.

Several years ago, I took a writing course for children. It was a really fantastic experience that taught me a lot. My last assignment was to write an outline for a children’s novel. Life circumstances interrupted and I had to take a very long absence from the school before my assignment could be completed. When I did finally complete the outline, it flowed with ease from my mind. I could see it as if I was watching a film. Many life experiences had occurred in the interim, which allowed my book idea to blossom with a richness I hadn’t dreamed of. I simply couldn’t have come up with that book idea at an earlier time.

Over eight years ago, I started painting. I began with watercolors, but quickly moved to oils. Watercolors take a lot more careful planning and are much more unforgiving than oils. I didn’t even touch watercolor paints for about 6 years. But when packing for India, I knew I couldn’t bring my oil painting supplies. The water color supplies accompanied me.

This spring, one morning after meditation, I felt a guiding voice tell me I needed to make a painting for someone’s birthday that was quickly approaching. Uh oh, I thought, those watercolor supplies are pretty dusty. I could see in my mind that it was a painting of Guru Gobind Singh I was supposed to make. I felt a lot of doubt. I only had a few weeks to create it and watercolors were never easy for me. But I could see the finished picture in my mind, so knew I had to try.

Exercise One, 1st Attempt

I took out my supplies and a watercolor instruction book I brought with me to help brush up on technique. My feel for working with watercolors was asleep. I began going through the exercises in the book to get me started.

The first exercise was about layering colors for a transparent, overlapping effect. I was really discouraged with the muddy results of my first attempt.

Exercise One, 2nd Attempt

A few days later, I tried again. I had better success at mixing the paints and was happier with the results – especially the upper right corner ovals that appear like transparent glass.

I waited another day and I gave that same exercise one last go. I finished the small painting and was happy. This composition had life and beauty.

Exercise One, 3rd Attempt

I moved on to the next exercise focusing on working with repeating patterns.

Exercise 2
Guru Gobind Singh Sketch

In the meantime, I began a pencil drawing for the Guru Gobind Singh painting. I hadn’t been drawing much lately either, but the sketch came through quickly.

Then a strong fear set in. It was time to paint. I was so worried I would ruin the drawing in my attempt to add paint. I was doubting if I should even make the gift. I decided to take a Hukamnama about it. Shortly into reading the Hukamnama, were the words, “Give gifts to all”. I knew I was being told to make the gift. Okay, I thought, here we go!

I let the drawing sit for a few days. I felt like the vibration of the sacred image would settle into the paper and perhaps aid my attempts at painting. The morning I sat down to paint, I began by praying, “Please help me not ruin this!” 😂

I began to paint. What I noticed right away was that I was much more sensitive to using a light touch and letting the white of the paper work for me. It felt like my brush was moving on it’s own. I concentrated, mixing the colors I saw in my mind, testing them on a scrap of paper as I continued. The painting slowly came to life. Gobind Singh’s face took on an expression of warmth and compassion as the pigments flowed onto the paper.

Finished Painting

I was humbled looking at the finished image before me. If I hadn’t listened to the inner prompting and overcome my fear of failure, the beautiful painting would have never been born. I found a frame for the picture and (after three interesting attempts with the Indian postal service) shipped it off to America. The person even received it in time for their birthday.

Now, back to my children’s book writing situation. I hadn’t even touched the outline since completing it for my assignment a few years ago. I brought it with me to India, but it was just sitting in a dark cupboard. I had avoided looking at it thinking it was too vast a project to add to my already busy days. I thought perhaps next year I would tackle it.

A few weeks ago, I was feeling very depressed. Suddenly, I thought of my book outline. It was something unfinished that deserved a little attention and would give me something different to focus on. I took out the packet with the outline and sat on my bed reading it.

My children’s book is a fantasy adventure story for middle grade / young adult readers. The main character is taken on a sweeping journey across continents, as she searches for her kidnapped friend, who is in danger of being killed by captors. Along the way, she is exposed to Eastern philosophies and technologies as she is taken on a powerful inner journey that transforms her.

While reading my outline, I felt the story shifting my own depression. Wow, I thought, if what I wrote is shifting my state of mind, it may have a positive effect on others as well… Maybe people are waiting for this book?

I realized a vast amount of detailed work on the book was already completed. There were only a few sections to be written from scratch. Most of it just needed to be brought to life with dialog, descriptions, structured into chapters and then knit together to form the complete book. This realization made me look at the complexity of the project in a new light.

I decided to “go to work” with it. Every morning after my Sadhana of yoga and meditation, I set a timer and sat down to work on my book for at least an hour. As I wrote the chapters set in India, I realized how my eight months here have allowed me to flesh out details that would have been impossible at an earlier stage.

This last week, I finished the first draft of my book. I have since completed the first revisions and have set it aside for a bit while I work on planning the illustrations. It has been all consuming to me, along with my musical practice time, the four new Shabads I was given to learn and my continuing language studies.

Of course I still have a lot of work ahead of me. The illustrations will take some time. I am now using my “morning hour” as study time for reading this really helpful book. Once the illustrations are complete, I will face the challenge of trying to find a publisher, or perhaps needing to self-publish. But a huge part of the endeavor is completed and it feels really great.

So remember, it is never too late to take action with that thing or things that inspire you. They may have just needed a little time to sleep and grow in that pregnant silent space. Listen to that inner voice that nags at you, telling you to act. Be brave, give it a shot, even if it takes many tries, and see what comes forth.

Exercise 6, Three-Color Pepper

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