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An Artist's Way

I don’t do a lot of artwork during the summer because it’s the growing season. My gardens and work outdoors becomes my focus. Certainly this year is no exception. We’re close to completing the third bunkie; we’re working hard to get it done before it snows! As fall comes to an end and over the winter, I am in the studio more. By this point in the year, I start to miss art making. I’m excited about what this winter will be like since the Studio Bunkie will be available. It snowed the other day so we really got a sneak peek at how magical it will be! Learning all of the quirks of this new shared space is going to be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to sharing my reflections with you!

I realized recently that it’s been 10 years since I decided to take a step toward my creative self. In the beginning I received some criticism because of that decision. To some people it appeared I was indecisive, restless and lacked commitment, irresponsible even.

I had just completed my BA in Law and Justice - my short cut to seminary… it wasn’t really a short cut, but that’s another story. My degree was also my solution to getting myself and my family out of the crisis we were in. Getting an education and a good job was the remedy, or so I’ve heard. Bad things don’t happen to well educated, affluent people, right? For a few reasons (again another story) after I graduated I abandoned the thought of seminary. I got a good job, actually a great job. I was earning a “respectable” amount of money, I could work from home and I had some “status” as a working professional. It was perfect for a mom of two small kids and a husband who worked shift work. I had solved the problem.

Except I didn’t really and I’m sure you already knew that. The crisis we experienced made me question everything I had known and believed up to that point. I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t understand where God was and how He could let such a horrible thing happen. I’m a take charge kind of person, so if something needs to change, I change it. I was actively taking control and making some changes. Nothing bad was ever going to happen to me or my kids again, so help me God. You already know that’s not how it works. And so did I, but a girl can try!

I was already well on my way down the road of deconstruction at this point. For many good reasons I was questioning the way I had been raised, what I believed about life, work, family and Christianity. I was introduced to a man named Erwin McManus, a preacher at a church called Mosaic. This church is right in the middle of Hollywood, the centre of the universe for all things creative, or at least they think so. Erwin talked about creativity and God in ways that inspired and gave me hope. I started to look at myself differently. I have always been creative, I have made drawings and paintings since I was a child. I took lessons from time to time, but it was a hobby. There was no place for art as a career and since the goal in life is to get a good education and a well paying job, art simply was not a priority or a career choice.

I have always struggled with the monotony of a 9-5 job. For a long while, I thought there was something wrong with me because of that. I mean, people have to work, including me. I took that “great” job because I gave into the idea that the job was the solution. I think underneath some of this was the belief I was responsible for what happened to my kids and the mess of things that happened after that and it could have all been prevented if I had gone back to school and got the job sooner. If I had just been a normal person and done things “the right way”. The thing is, I had just come through a crisis, through several crises actually, that exposed many of the lies I had believed up to that point. I already knew that a lot of those so called guarantees in life are nothing but BS.

I was beginning to learn that not only did I have choices but I could actively decide how to live my life, rather than letting life happen to me. I learned that God highly values creativity, so much so that in the bible, the first thing we’re told is that God created! And part of the world and everything in it that He created and called very good, was us. Me. You. In His image. Purposefully, intentionally, created out of Love.

I started painting again. Then I found this book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. So many things about myself that frustrated me and made me question my own sanity over the years started to make some sense. But I was also frustrated. I wasn’t able to produce artwork in the quality I desired and I didn’t know how to change that. When I read in the book many artists who start reading The Artist’s Way think they need to drop everything and go back to school to become artists, the author is quick to explain that isn’t necessary at all. I agree, your skill level doesn’t determine whether you are an artist or not. There is so much more to being an artist than simply what you produce. Machines produce and we’re not machines. I wanted to improve my skills and learn new things. I also knew if I didn’t go all in, I would get sucked back into the 9-5 life and part of me would die.

Some well-meaning friends were very concerned about my decision. They pointed out I wasn’t really in a position to take such a risk when I had just begun to climb the corporate ladder. That’s precisely why the timing was so important. It wasn’t career suicide like some people thought, it was a divine appointment. I quit my job and went back to art school, two years after I made the decision. It took a lot of courage to make it happen but I did and it changed my life.

I learned so much about myself as I learned new skills and immersed myself in all things art. I experienced a tremendous amount of healing. Being challenged to create new things and imagine new concepts using materials I might not naturally choose wildly expanded my world. The work I created over those two years was a physical and outward manifestation of my internal world, although I didn’t recognize it at the time. I don’t think any amount of talk therapy would have uncovered and healed the deep wounds I carried.

I did think in the beginning that maybe I was running away from God since I abandoned seminary and chose art school instead. It might be a little true, I mean, the process of deconstruction is messy and difficult. There were more than a few times I let God have it. I wasn’t sure if what I believed was true or if it was just another lie I had been told. It’s ok, God has big shoulders and invites us to be completely honest with Him so He can show us what is true.

I see it all differently now. Ten years later, sitting here in the Studio Bunkie writing this blog and thinking about that time, I wasn’t running away, I was responding to a voice I didn’t quite recognize but felt in my soul I could trust. I was being called to a pilgrimage as an artist and day after day, was becoming herself a work of art shaped and molded into the likeness of her Creator. Made intentionally, for a purpose, out of Love.

I know making art can be healing and is an important part of Butterfly Way. Only a year ago I wrote a blog where I talked about not quite knowing what role art making would have in the Butterfly Project - you can read it here if you’re interested. I have known from the beginning that anything I pursue must have space for art but what I’ve been discovering this summer is that my training and experience as an artist has been a vital ingredient to what is being created here! From landscaping to building bunkies, imagining how people will interact with the environment and how we can facilitate respite, whether our guests are here over night or just for the day. We too are being intentional, creating for a purpose, out of Love.

I’m looking forward to hosting guests in the Studio Bunkie, hopefully this winter for a few brave souls. To fully embrace how God has equipped me for this, I’m changing the name on my art blog on Instagram from @christina.m.macbean to @butterflywaystudio. Butterfly Way Studio is a place but it's more than that too. Changing the name takes some focus off of me as an individual artist in order to emphasize a broader purpose, to love and support others but also to share more completely the community I belong to! The studio space will be available for the overnight guests of Butterfly Way Muskoka, exclusively. But the studio will also be available to rent for the day or as part of an artist retreat serving as a way to financially support our desire to provide respite to people who have experienced crisis/trauma.

One more thing! I will be making more cards in the coming days - the first to be made out of the Studio Bunkie!! These cards have been a great fundraiser over the past couple of years. Please consider ordering a pack of 10 cards for $30. That’s only $3 a card. Not only are they a beautiful hand printed card, they stand as a small work of art that can be framed. You will be contributing to the daily and monthly expenses of the studio and helping us to be ready for our guests next summer. Full details can be found in my newsletter and if you haven’t subscribed yet, please do!

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