A small personal victory to announce: I have started painting again. Three days out of the last six, so it can be considered a trend rather than a fluke. When pressed as to what I do, I have always responded that I was an artist. There have been times where it didn’t feel very truthful, and there have been other times where I cheekily said that I would be an artist when I grew up. I’ve felt all grown up for a while now, but my brushes have mostly sat idle.
Why? Well, it’s complicated. There are several reasonable excuses, but I am of the mind that we usually find a way to do the things we really consider important.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time since my diagnosis reordering my priorities and getting my personal ducks in order. When I first learned that I had lung cancer, I was overwhelmed by the thought of all the things I had intended to do in my lifetime that might now go undone. Being a parent had really taken precedence, and though I had no regrets, I suddenly felt a sense of urgency regarding my creative pursuits. The first year post diagnosis was pretty much a wash as I recovered from surgery and chemo, but within a short time I threw myself back into painting with a vengeance. This cycle was soon disrupted first by the time consuming realities of a move (as well as the loss of my studio space) and then again by my deteriorating health.
I think that expressing myself through words, as I have done with this blog, has helped lead me back to painting. Writing is easier for me, as the means of communication is simply a hard copy of what is already happening in my brain. Painting requires a bit of translation as well as invention, as each artist’s vision is very much a personal language. It is a rigorous process and not easy to achieve a product that resembles the pictures that are so alive within your imagination.
Procrastination is, in contrast, ridiculously easy from conception onward, but ultimately makes everything so much harder.
I really want to paint, and to express myself that way again as well, but it has been difficult for me to get started. Last week I happened upon some beautiful paintings by an artist named Julie Unruh. I found her contact info on her web site, and sent her a fan email as well as the link to my blog. Much to my surprise, she responded and even graciously offered encouragement. Magically, some little painterly spark was ignited, and I jumped back into it.
It is a good thing, and what I want, but it is still complicated. Yesterday was my monthly appointment at the hospital, and I had some questions for Dr. Shaw about causal factors for lung cancer. I am still of the mind that my long-term exposure to secondhand smoke played a large role in the development of my own lung cancer. However, many other never smokers with lung cancer have no documented exposure to that particular carcinogen, clearly suggesting that other factors are at play as well.
Painting is one of those avocations that potentially involves exposure to known carcinogens. I take precautions, including avoidance of solvents as well as a good ventilation system. In the end, it is a question of risks versus benefits and perhaps love over reason. I have decided to follow my heart.