When I was 50, my last child of three set off for university and I wrapped up my 12-year business life in Beijing. I too set off. I downsized my work load so that I only needed to work a long morning online; the rest of the day I was free. For the first six months, I lived in a fantastic shared flat in Medellin, Colombia with architects, curators and artists – professions I had long admired.
And something wonderful happened. With their support, I got up the courage to start sketching. I looked out the window and drew what I saw in my new sketchbook. Then I sat on my balcony and drew the view from there. Eventually, I had to go outside to sketch as I’d run out of fresh views. I drew a tree in the park, the buildings on the hillside, the market stalls, I drew and drew and drew.
As the months turned into years, I committed to fitting some drawing into every day. Often I sketched the view while drinking my morning coffee or over a beer in the evening. I drew at airports, on boats, waiting for the bus, whatever I was doing I fitted in a daily drawing session. Slowly and steadily I improved.
There were many obstacles along the way, ‘myself’ being the biggest obstacle of all. Initially I struggled with people coming up to watch me sketch or paint outdoors. I felt vulnerable and scared of being judged. Then I realised, an open sketchbook is a bit like having a dog or a child with you, it’s a talking point. And so I talked to people and learnt to talk about art and the artist that lived within me.
I even agreed to give a talk in Buenos Aires about my work at an art exchange group. I think presenting my work in Spanish was more stressful than seeing my work projected in front of a huge audience of artists. I did love talking to people afterwards though. Ultimately, sharing your work brings you supporters and we all need supporters.
Eventually my travels and work took me back to Asia. I spent the fourth and final year of my travels focussing on yoga and breath work in Thailand & Indonesia. As my daily life became filled with yoga, often up to four hours of practice a day, my artwork started to reflect that. I was the only person on my yoga teacher training course to draw out my exam sequence and I haven’t stopped drawing yoga sequences since.
Sometimes, when I produce something that excites me, I wonder what would have happened if all those years ago in Medellin I had abandoned learning to sketch. I’m glad I didn’t let my underlying fear derail my third and final attempt at expressing myself through art.
I’m still learning and it’s so much fun.
If you have something that you’ve wanted to do but feel too scared to start – a blog, a book, a new business – then I encourage you to have a go:
- Find people who are already doing it and tap into their creative vibe,
- Get yourself a mentor and supporters who can encourage you,
- Practise as much as you can, and
- Share your progress because there will be people who love what you’re doing.
But most of all START!
The future is yours for the taking …