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“Work is love made visible.”
Khalil Gibran
Hello artist friend
I'm getting on my soapbox this week. You've been warned!
If you've followed my work for a while, you may have heard me use a phrase I think is one of the most important we can use as artists.
Make it for you, first.
We are largely acculturated to be outwardly referencing - to look outside ourselves for our value, for answers to questions about ourselves and our lives {and our art}, for whether we're doing things ‘right’, for whether it's ok to feel worthy. 
That's normal. Unfortunately. 
But then I'm inclined to think it's also part of the human journey - to accept the invitation to grow into ourselves by recognising and undoing those things we've taken on that don't serve us; to rebuild and fortify ourselves in truth.
I spent about twenty years of my life being so outwardly referential that I basically became an outline of a person. I didn't know - or perhaps more accurately, couldn't connect with - who I really was, and the pain of that is, I think, one of the deepest pains we can endure as human beings.
When I started learning that there was another way to live, and began living that way consciously and intentionally, both I and my life {and my art} transformed, and continue to. 
It's a process, not a neat hero{ine}'s journey with a beginning, middle, and end. 
It's not that I never look outside myself for validation any more - that training creates a deep groove! I do ask for help and feedback, and I'm not immune to feeling insecure and self doubtful about my work. And occasionally I wish someone would just tell me what to do! 
But I've shifted so that I always ask myself about anything that concerns my work FIRST. And last, too. I trust my own decisions, and my ability to know and act on what's right for me and my art.
So when I talk about making your art for you first, I mean that in two ways; both in terms of putting yourself first by giving it a place in your life, and in trusting your process and your decisions around it.
We get so much messaging {women especially} about how selfish it is to want things for ourselves, to put ourselves first in any way, that sacrifice is good, that love means giving and giving until you don't know who you are any more. 
And we go along with it either because we're too afraid to challenge the status quo in our lives {completely understandable, and such a painful way to live}, or we don't even think to question those ‘truths’ about how life is.
We need the people who dare to say, wait a minute - why do we do that? Is that really true? Does it actually benefit anyone, really? Might there be a way that serves everyone, ourselves included?
If you've ever tried putting everyone before yourself as your MO, you know first hand the exhaustion, the resentment, and the depletion of your inner resources and mental health it can cause after a sustained period. 
We are not meant to pour and pour and pour without ever refilling. And I think we're meant to refill a LOT more than we're taught is ‘reasonable’. Like, every day.
So making your art - doing the thing that fills you up, that challenges and grows you, that gives you joy, that is your means of parsing the experiences of your life and expressing what feels true to you - is something, I believe, you must do for yourself first.
Because it's not just ‘a fun little hobby’. It's not even just your career, if it's how you earn a living. It's a mental health tool.
If you feel the call to make art - and if you're reading this you definitely do {unless you're my mum, who just likes to keep up with what I'm up to, hi Mum!🙋🏼‍♀️} - then art is not a selfish waste of time and materials, it's part of your mental health, because ⭐️it's part of how you be you.⭐️
We need to be in alignment with ourselves for everyone to benefit, and to make our truest art. 
We need to be in integrity, to know ourselves - what we think and feel and believe - and to trust ourselves to make the right choices, where ‘right’ is neither selfish nor at our own expense.
That's why I say make it for you, first. 
If you're always asking what others think - whether they like what you've made, what they think you should do, whether a piece is finished, whether you're allowed to be an artist - and don't also check in with yourself to see if that lines up with what YOU think and feel, you're giving away your power and not giving yourself a chance to be the artist you can be.
It's not just ok to create space in our lives to make our art, and to decide for ourselves what it will be and how we will do it, it's essential. And it will change everything.
*Steps down off soap box and brushes hands together.*

Wishing you creative joy in abundance


PS. If art and self care/mental health is on your mind, this month is the last opportunity to get Into Nature, my course about making art in, with, and inspired by the natural world before it goes to live inside the Happy Artist Studio forever!
It's a fabulously rich and immersive adventure into nature {hence the title!}, full of art projects, videos, tips and ideas for cultivating your own practice of making art in collaboration with nature, both indoors and outdoors. 
You don't need to live in the wilds to experience the restorative and creative benefits - just curiosity, a plant or two, and your art supplies!
"I'm really enjoying the course so far, gained so much and only done one lesson!"
Rachel G


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