ART SAVES Stories
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06/13/2010


Art: A Protector in Dark Times • by Sarah Whitmire


Art saves me every day. It has saved me many times over in the past. It will save me in the future. I know this now, though I only realized it a few years ago. I realized that although I have always — throughout my childhood and young adulthood — considered myself something of an artist, or “a creative person,” or “artsy,” I have never given the creative process the credit it deserves. Though I often sought painting, or journaling, or other creative outlets during times of sadness or despair, and came out the other side happier and stronger, I suppose I never consciously put two and two together.

It was more of a revelation than a realization. This is what I needed to do with my life, this is what I had to do, what I had to allow myself to do. It was as if I had to give over and let happen what needed to happen, as it had needed to happen at so many points in my life. I could not have anticipated that my art would protect me from one of the darkest periods in my life. And I would never have dared to dream how much it would mean for so many others.

Common Threads Through Art
Though every life is undeniably different, I believe we all share common threads: hardship, loss, endurance, new beginnings. Loved ones die or become ill. Others are born, fall in love, marry. Hospitalizations and surgeries redefine us, reminding us of our mortality and make us feel helpless. Some lives seem harder, some easier, but all struggle. My life is no exception. In 2007 I began to pursue art full-time. I was only beginning to realize that it was what I needed to do with my life. I made gifts for relatives, mostly paintings, and I sold my work (very little) at a local outdoor fair. In 2008 I began journaling, and got up the guts to start interacting with the online community of artists I was so happy to discover. I started a blog, and began Soul Journaling. It was supposed to be a way for me to conquer the blank pages in my journal — all that white has so much stopping power — and to share the journey with anyone reading my blog. Journal prompts. Just enough to get you started. A safe place to make art and to share without outside critics. Everyone was invited to join in, and the response was immediate and overwhelming. Then the world exploded.

Sharing Struggles with Friends
It all happened so fast. Soul Journaling was fun, and everyone was enjoying it. My now husband proposed and we were engaged. I found my breast cancer. I was at the doctor’s office. I was planning a wedding. More doctors. I was having surgery. I was submitting my work to Somerset Studio. More surgery. Soul Journaling was growing into something bigger. I was saying “I do” in front of an altar. The joy, the fear, the panic, the relief, the sheer volume and scope of the emotions I encountered was impossible to express, except in my art. My most common question for my doctors was, “When will I be able to hold a pen again, a paintbrush, when can I journal?” My art, and the rapidly growing Soul Journaling community, became my safe place. I could share as much or as little as I needed, both with my journal and with my new friends. And it was happening for others as well. Though I had not shared my own troubles with everyone, I received letters every day about the journeys others were experiencing. They too had experienced illness, or lost loved ones. Many had always wanted to make art but had been afraid. Still others had put art away as something they had done as a child, and had only found the courage to try it again through my blog. All thanked me for making the first step so easy, for making a safe place to share. And I thanked them right back for doing the same for me. We were helping each other.

The letters still come in. Women (and a few men) participating in Soul Journaling on almost every continent have written me their stories and their thanks. One member wrote of their ill father, and was astounded when her mailbox was inundated with letters, artwork, and handmade gifts from other members, hundreds of pieces of goodwill and love organized and sent in secret by the rest of the Soul Journaling family. Others have found outlets for their depression. Still others have jumpstarted careers in art. My own mother was inspired, and began using journaling prompts as therapy with her clients, abused women in a state prison and children in a psychiatric ward. She describes the hope they experience at simply looking through a Dick Blick catalog with tears in her eyes. And the work they have created is amazing.

An Unfinished ART SAVES Story
I’m not sure how to end my ART SAVES story, because art is still saving me. It saves me every day. It has saved me in the past. It will save me in the future. Every day I have a reason to get up out of bed, to face the world. Art gives me access to friendships that I would never have had or even imagined otherwise. Art gives me purpose and fulfills me in ways that I can’t even begin to explain. The world is more textured, more complex, and more beautiful than words can express because of the art in my life. I make art because I am simply unable to express myself in any other way. The feelings I feel, the way I see the world — my art is all that I am and all that I have to give. And in return, art continues to comfort, surprise, and hold my hand through every day. Rain or shine.

I am fortunate enough to be working as a full-time artist, to have a community of artists young and old, new and experienced, to work with and to share with. I am fortunate enough to know that I have touched (in some small way) the lives of others. And more people write me almost every day. I am fortunate enough to have had my life touched by those participating in Soul Journaling, as well as by many of the artists now participating in CRESCENDOh, and I am honored to participate myself. Thank you for reading my story, I can’t wait to hear yours.

To learn more about Sarah Whitmire, visit her Web site at caspiana.com.

Comments

Sarah,
I had no idea you had been through so much. All I know is you have touched me and so many others with your art and your heart. I'm not at all surprised at your reaction to all of this. It is who you are. Thank you for sharing and for being there for so many of us.
Rita

You have a very encouraging story. Thank you for sharing and for putting yourself out there for others.

bless your heart!
and thank you for sharing your story with us
i am so proud to be part of your soul journaling community

Sarah, Your story surprised me as I knew of you getting engaged, married, and honeymoon but not this with all the
other things going on in your life. You fooled me and it was
sure sorry for all that you have gone threw and hope things are better and taken care of now and you can relax and enjoy
time, life, family and friends. God Bless you as you are so so special a one in a million to give so much to others - you gave me a good lift in the journaling books you taught it opened my eyes to things and feelings I did not know I kept inside of me and aided in getting me throught those times and healing. I owe you so very much. Thanks for all your kindness, wisdom, and help. God Keep you safe.

Sounds like you are still finding ways to bloom with your art!
I love how it drove you and helped you heal. It is fascinating and mind melding what we can create, with passion, hope and fear! I am happy you are okay and are giving back. It is
great your Mom was inspired enough to use this in her work. Seeing the world's view change is amazing; I am happy you shared your story. Art creates more heART, as we open the secret of our souls. We then can allow ourselves to play, perform, practice, photography, publish, produce, and plan,etc.

Thank you everyone for your wonderfully kind comments and loving wishes. It was indeed a little daunting sharing my story but I am so glad I did. Thank you, thank you, thank you for making this a safe place to share and connect as artists and as women at a deeper level.

*SOUL HUGS* to you all my friends,

Sarah

Dear Sarah,
Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is so moving and touches the heart...I am still thinking "What an amazing woman," "How did she continue her art through all this?" and further, "I know she had to because it kept her spirit open and alive!"

You are such an inspiration and I thank you for reaching out to others with not only your beautiful art, but also with your words.

Oh, Sarah! Never EVER doubt that you have touched people's lives! I cannot tell you HOW MUCH your original Soul Journaling prompts did for me. They so opened me up to art, art-making, what it means to me and what it can do for me. Oh so much! I have not stopped! (well, at least in theory. Literally, I have, very much so - working on other non-art but creative projects taking ALL of my time.) Goodness, I too, recall you getting married but I'm sorry to say, I have not followed much over the past 1-2 yrs - again for the same reason I mentioned. I am so sorry to hear about your difficulties - but hold on to all that art can do for you, and all of those whom you have met through your own artful journey. I just this weekend picked up the Art Saves book - have not even read it - but the two pages I read in teh store made me say FINALLY - *THIS* IS THE ART BOOK I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR!!! Thank you for this post! Best wishes!

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