Making Bad Art Is Good for You!

Tomorrow I leave for Lucky Star Art Camp! I’m so excited to be giving myself this gift for the second year in a row. Last year, I was nervous—I didn’t know anyone else and wasn’t sure what to expect. But I quickly discovered a wonderful group of kindred spirits—women of all ages coming together to feast on creativity (and some really excellent food)! And the setting was magical—a working girls’ summer camp on the banks of the Guadaloupe River, complete with campfires and horseback riding! I left camp last year rejuvenated, with a new awareness of just how much joy making art gives me.

Last year, before I found out about Lucky Star, I kept feeling a pull to paint. I was tired of working with words all the time and wanted to make something with my hands. I wanted a creative experience that allowed my mind to relax, to find that feeling of flow. I began messing around with acrylics and watercolors, and had fun even as I cringed at my lack of ability.

When I found out about Lucky Star and signed up for it, I thought I’d get some guidance there on how to make better art so I could stop feeling embarrassed about my creations. But what I actually learned was infinitely more powerful and useful.  I learned how to give myself permission to make bad art—to just create for the sake of creating, regardless of the results. We were shown how to do the crafts in the various classes, but the emphasis was on enjoying ourselves while we were learning, as opposed to trying to “get it right.” The point was to feel that thrill of making something, not to judge what we made.

While I was initially intimidated because of my lack of art experience, this relaxed approach helped me open up and begin playing around.  I discovered that the process of creating was what really made me happy: process, not product. And isn’t that what life is really about? How many times have we heard, “it’s the journey, not the destination”?  When I finally let go of self-judgment and anxiety about how I was doing, it was amazing. While I was making art, I felt full of joy. I was calm and centered. It was pure pleasure for pleasure’s sake, which feels decadent when you’re a goals-driven adult!

It was exhilarating to not worry about being productive. In regular life, I tend to pack as much as possible into each day, and I feel like I’m slacking if I relax or do something just for fun during the “work” day. But I know that it’s actually essential to take that time for myself. All work and no play makes me not only dull, but also impatient, resentful, and tired. After I came back from camp last year, I made the commitment to spend some time creating each week—and I actually managed to do it for most of the year!

But the past few months have been incredibly busy, and I haven’t done any art in a long time. I miss it, and I’m craving that bliss again. I’m also craving the freedom of four days away from responsibility, with all meals provided! That will be sweet indeed. I’m so grateful to Lisa Hamlyn Field for dreaming up this amazing camp. After I return, I’m sure I will have a whole fresh set of insights to share!