Art Helps Me Become the Person That I Am • by Nathalie Kalbach
Surviving my Childhood
When I was a kid, my art was surviving my childhood. I survived by just being pleasing, bringing home good grades, and vanishing into the background as much as I could in order to prevent outbursts of fury, which would lead to incidents too hurtful to recall them in public.
This being said, when I was “old enough” all I knew about me was that I wanted to get far away from my childhood home, and to be independent. I moved out, I became a paralegal to make enough money to live on my own, I attended evening school for year, then I attended the university to study law and become a lawyer. I didn’t want to become a lawyer because I was really interested in law in the beginning or thought I would love it … although interestingly enough I did like it a lot once I started it. I simply wanted to become a lawyer because I thought I was worth something if I had such a degree, if I was successful with my job, and if I could be financially independent.
Learning There Was a Me
I was lucky and happy to meet people that would love and care for me in ways that I never would have thought I was worth. I wasn’t resented when I voiced my opinion, I wasn’t laughed at when I did something wrong, I wasn’t fought down when I was me; I was treated like a person should be treated. But still I felt at odds with myself and I didn’t know who I really was or wanted to be. When I first realized that being a lawyer wasn’t really the path that I wanted to go down, I knew I was doing right by quitting, but it was a long process. I never regret this step, never once! I continued working in my job as a paralegal. I was good in my job, I liked my job, and I started to feel that I was doing okay in my life, although it felt still stiff as the passion was missing. Then one year I was introduced to paper crafting—funny enough through my husband—very quickly followed by mixed media art.
I started creating every day and I started learning techniques and about media through the Internet since the possibility to attend workshops in Germany was very low 10 years ago. I couldn’t stop thinking about creating something and I enjoyed doing something just for me, just for the sake of doing it and without a goal or the bigger picture in mind.
I loved the process of doing art almost more then the outcome itself. I learned that black was not my favorite “color,” and I started wearing colors like green because I noticed that I loved green and teal. I started to focus on the now and enjoy the moment and not on things past or far in the future. I learned to let my thoughts and feelings out, acknowledge that I have feelings, and be then ready to move on. I learned to let it go if expectations weren’t met. I learned that you cannot please everyone and that this shouldn’t be a goal anyway. I learned that I was creative. I started to learn that there was a ME.
Making the Best Decision
I was very fortunate that I was asked very early in my creative journey to teach workshops in mixed media. I loved and I still love it. I want to free creativity; I want my students to enjoy the process as much as I do. Two years ago I came to a point where I had to take almost all my vacation in the law office (don’t forget: Germany—where I got 6 weeks of vacation) just to be able to teach. Time to create something was getting low too, as I was traveling to teach everywhere in Europe, the U.S., Israel, and even Australia.
This is when the idea started to form to be a full-time mixed media artist. When I told my husband and my friends and my bosses at the law office about this, I thought they would think I was crazy and tell me to not even consider this. They think I am crazy for other reasons I am sure, but becoming a full-time artist is not one! They knew how much art had become part of me, how art saved me, and they knew I would be able to do this. They all supported and still support me in my passion, making this the cherry on top of the art cake.
So, I quit my well-paid job and I have been a full-time mixed media artist for two years now. It was the best decision ever … besides marrying my husband of course! I feel good … I feel that through living art I finally become the person that I am … and that is the best thing that could ever happen to me. Art saved me.
To learn more about Nathalie Kalbach, visit nathaliesstudio.com.