Updated: Nov 3, 2021
I feel like I am going through an important process with my life and work and want to make an account of the changes I’m going through to solidify what is happening during this special transitional period.
Last night I was at a friend’s for supper. I was the best man for his wedding and he is who I go to for counsel. Words cannot express what an incredibly valuable person he is to me. He helped me through an incredibly difficult period of my life and he has been there to witness my progress out from that spot. He has an intimate view of what I have been through, and is very attentive and considerate, so his insights are exceptionally valuable and highly trusted. Wow. What a mate! And how lucky I am to have been able to develop that relationship.
I hadn’t seen him for a while and a lot has been going on with me so it was an opportunity to reflect on what has been happening and take stock of the latest period of my life.
There were some stand-out observations that I would like to hold on to.
Perhaps at the top of the list in terms of significance to me is the idea that I might be talented. Matthew took a look at the latest painting I had done. It was a watercolour of a poodle called Monty. He was taken aback by the painting, saying that there is so much character in the portrait. Being able to portray character is something that is intangible and might even be something that ‘cannot be taught’. If I do have that ability, it feels like ‘a gift’. Thinking that I might have a gift is unusual territory for me as I have often fallen into the camp of people who see talent as something that is borne from practice and repetition. And although I believe that to be perhaps the most important key to improvement, I think it can unlock something which is less earthly and material. In my case, the practice of painting has unlocked my perception. The paintings are an expression of my ability to observe and comment on aspects of character which would be otherwise out of sight. A painting can make creative observations and comments through the style, delivery, composition, colours etc. It can capture character.
Matthew believes that my ability to capture character is thanks to my perspicacity; a exceptional level of perception of people and situations. This feels like a weighty ability which feels special and worth developing and nurturing. It also feels like something additional to the technical ability to paint what I see. It feels like I am finding ways of painting what I feel.
In light of potentially having a talent which is stand-out, my future looks brighter than it has done in recent times. When I look back on myself, I see someone who sees little value in themselves who felt condemned to a life of anonymity, struggling to make ends meet. I felt like I was falling short of something and disappointing myself. However, I am at a turning point in life regarding these themes. It is not a sudden flip where instantaneously all these doubts have disappeared, oh no, no. But something more hopeful is coming into view. Talking to Matthew, I felt as though perhaps the future holds something in store for me which was better than I expected. I am starting to believe that I do have a talent and that these talents can take me to places and provide me with things that will enrich my life and bring many positives.
One of the symptoms of my self-doubt was something that Matthew refers to as the ‘Jack Russell terrier’ part of my character. In the past, I have invested in projects energetically and when I didn’t see the results that I wanted, would suddenly drop it and chase a new project, investing in it heavily and then repeating the same process: it wouldn’t deliver what I anticipated, so I would drop it and rush to the next. I was unable to see what I was doing as I was so busy rushing around. It was like having my shoes tied, and trying to run, only to fall flat on my face and never realising that if I were to take the time to untie my shoes, I might be able to walk without falling on my face. This trait made it difficult to build on projects. I would become disheartened and drop the project, not giving it the time, space or energy to allow it to develop into what it could be.
I have been working at dog portraits for the last 8 months with varying degrees of focus and intensity, but it looks as if it is beginning to form into something substantial. Where in the past I might have dropped the project as it wasn’t developing at the speed I wanted, with this project, I am persisting. I am taking the smaller victories and seeing them as parts of a bigger picture. To paraphrase an idea my therapist came up with: ‘each painting is a tile in the mosaic of your career’.
Progress is slow but it’s not necessarily because I am not talented, hard-working or clever. I am only one person and businesses take a long time to grow. I am in my first year of this work and there are many positive signs. This project may well be my central professional focus for the next 3-5 years. Within that time, the success I may have could be the likes of which I have not yet experienced. It is a funny feeling to look out on my future and to imagine the possibilities. Matthew thinks that I could reasonably aim to be the ‘premier dog portrait artist in the UK’ within that time. To me that opens up ideas about expanding the project to creative areas that exceed the ‘send your photo, I’ll send you a painting’ format. I could find myself promoting my work in exciting and creative ways that would create a name for me.
I am moving into new, exciting territory emotionally in terms of how I perceive myself and what I believe is possible. The foundations of something which could take me far seem to be forming around me, but I am also aware that progress is slow and my persistence is key. Taking little victories are the bricks of a bigger construction. I need to keep taking the next step; ‘putting one foot in front of the other’, as Matthew says, and new possibilities will keep appearing. I cannot conceive of what it will look like at stage 5 when I haven’t taken step 2. Here’s to my future, my talents and reasonable time-frames of success!