A common stumbling block for artists is “not knowing what to draw, paint, write or sew etc…”.  I have heard students or artist friends lament about this and I have been stuck here too.  This goes for life in general, sometimes it’s hard to figure out the best place to direct your energies.

In this case you may need to go through a period of exploration to discover what to focus on.  Your true interests may be hard to separate from “what you think you should be doing” or “what you think others will expect or like”.  For visual artists, for example, is it portraits, day to day life, animals, abstract design, flowers, painting, sculpture?  What excites you, or in the words of professional organizer, Marie Kondo, “what brings you joy?”  These interests may change over time or seem strange at first.

The process of searching may be as creative as actually doing it.  For example, for artists, it might look like; going to an art show or museum, taking out art books from the library, following artists online (so many now document their process), visiting a garden store or going to the local film festival.   It might also be to try a different subject matter everyday (like a drawing challenge), find a sketching buddy (most people are more motivated if they are accountable to others), join a writing group or take a class.  You can also collect images or ideas in a computer file, file folder or on Pinterest, so that when you do have time to create or look deeper, they are at hand.   The search may look different depending on what it is you’re looking for; such as a new job, a new hobby, etc.…  Try things you haven’t before.  Be curious.  Set time aside for the search, it might be your most valuable use of time.

This reminds me of a group of about five people I saw at Cox Bay in Tofino engaged in an unusual beach activity – walking slowly in the gray mist, while swaying metal detectors in front of them.  One of these individuals, a woman with large round blue eyes, had stopped to sit on a log.  As I was walking by, I asked her what they were looking for and she replied, “treasures”.  Turns out this group meets regularly to comb beaches for hours, all over Vancouver Island with their metal detectors, with the vague hope of finding valuable.  This woman told me they have found some very old coins that were used in trading at the turn of the 20th century, and she once found an emerald ring (and looked for the owner).  Actually, a silver shilling minted in England in the 1500s was found on a Vancouver Island beach with a metal detector, which suggests an English explorer reached our coast a couple hundred years before Captain Cook.  Imagine finding that, that would keep you looking for more!

Life itself is kind of like a search.  You just must keep slowly moving forward, equipped with your own awareness, motivated by the chance that you will stumble across a treasure.  This treasure might look like: finding a subject that inspires you, experiencing a clearer state of mind, figuring out how to finish or start an art piece, exploring a new career path, improving your power of observation, meeting a new friend or increasing your skill level.  The rewards may not always be what we expect, maybe sometimes better, or just different.  The more you keep looking, the better your chances that something amazing, or rare, will cross your path.

If I cease searching, then, woe is me, I am lost. That is how I look at it – keep going, keep going come what may. Vincent van Gogh

Image above:  New Years Day, 2020