follow your art


Painting by Stephanie Ong

Once upon a time there was a young lady that loved to paint. She spent her days experimenting with color and form. She felt as if her paintings communicated big things, important messages hard to convey with words.

As she grew up and went to school, people told her studying art was probably not the wisest or most profitable endeavor. Being an intelligent young lady, she considered the advice from others and weighed all of her options before deciding on her chosen course of study. She understood the impracticality of dedicating her life to art and was very well acquainted with the what ifs inherit in making a living as an artist. Questions like, What if no one buys my paintings and How will I support myself came to her mind.

So she put away her paint, canvases, and paintbrushes, deciding instead to focus on a different career path. Her studies and future career provided an important service to children. She found this profession fulfilling, made decent money, and was able to tie in her creative leanings with her work. It all made sense for a long time until…it didn’t.

Because as good and normal as everything appeared on the surface, inside something felt awry…a sensation, a yearning, a longing, call it what you will, but something deep within begged for her attention.

She brushed it off until the uneasiness got louder and could no longer be ignored. She was stifled and felt stuck. She reminisced about painting and how freeing it felt to express the ways of her heart and soul through paint. She thought if she didn’t get back to making art that she might shrivel up and stop growing, much like a flower wilts without the necessary nourishment from the sun and water.

She desperately missed the colors and the jubilant feeling of connecting with people through art. She was being called to the paint, to dancing with color, symbols, and images once again. And finally, she answered the call, wondering if this too could be helpful to others.

So Stephanie, the artist, now paints daily. She also has her own studio, has had her first show, and is teaching art to young women in transition. She is now in the business of bringing her dreams, imaginings, and visions to life. And by living her truth, sharing her passion and purpose, she is also bringing herself back to life as well as breathing fresh air into the lives of others.

Because this is what art does, it makes us feel alive. It takes us out of our shells and begs us to feel something…anything. Art connects us to beauty, to romance and the realm of possibility and magic. It reminds us that we, too, are here to create in whatever miraculous medium we choose.

Art is not extracurricular nor is it indulgent. Art is expression, and it is prayer. It is transformative, and by giving voice to our suffering, curiosities, fears, and joys, it is also hugely therapeutic. It is essential to our survival because art helps people face insurmountable odds and transcend them.

And now when Stephanie hears a whisper that her paining needs some room to breath from somewhere both within and beyond her, she most likely leaves a blank nothingness smack dab in the middle or in the corner of the canvas. Although, this is not what her teachers have advised her to do, and even though a voice inside her still may say, What will others think of this negative space, she does it anyway. She knows the answer always resides in the center of her very own being.

And one of Stephanie's paintings now hangs in my home where we admire it daily for its dreamy colors, enigmatic images, and most notably for the big white space in the corner of the canvas. It brings me happiness every day and reminds me that anything is possible when we trust the wisdom of the heart.

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