Three years ago I came out of a coma. Not the kind that lands you in a nursing home, but the kind of self-imposed creative coma many of us inadvertently experience. After receiving my degree in Fine Arts, I put away my oil paints and pastels to pursue a career in fashion design. Although I continued to use my color and design skills, I did not touch a paint brush or canvas for decades.
When I finally left the fashion industry in my early thirties, I did not go back to art. Instead, I pursued a writing career. As creative as that turned out to be, it wasn’t until I was in my 60s that I impulsively enrolled in an Introduction to Watercolor Workshop at a local art center. It was an odd choice. I had always been intimidated by watercolor. At the time, I didn’t even own a set of paints. My first trip to an art supply store since college filled me with nostalgia. The name of the colors – Alizarin Crimson, Terre Vert, French Ochre – came back to me like the names of old lovers. Why did I ever leave them? Will they take me back?
No sooner had I started painting than I felt parts of my brain re-awakening. It was as unexpected and exciting as getting back the use of a paralyzed limb. To my shock, I not only rediscovered the artistic ability I had as a college student, but found that my skill level had advanced over the years in spite of my not exercising it. Friends said, “I didn’t know you could do this.” Neither did I!
Now, three years later, each watercolor painting is an adventure connecting me to my past and leading me into an unexplored future. Not all my efforts result in a masterpiece. Many go straight into the trash. But there is a moment at the start of each new painting when anything is possible. And isn’t that what creativity is about?
Stacia Friedman is a Philadelphia freelance writer and artist. She studied watercolor at Fleisher Art Memorial, Woodmere Museum and Ambler Art Center.