How Art Saved Me

I've been thinking about writing this post for the past week. In the spirit of trying not to do the annoying thing I seem to keep doing recently - namely, thinking about writing but not doing it - I'm going to just start writing this morning and we'll see where it takes us.

In a similar way to many other people, I've been through quite a lot during my time on this planet. We won't go into detail about all the incidents or situations I've dealt with because I'm really not into dwelling upon negative experiences these days, but through the ups and downs, the happiness and the sadness (and sometimes the utter despair), there has been one constant in my life: Art.

I was thinking about this the other day, and it occurred to me just how lucky I am to have art in my life. Through a lot of hard work and perseverance over many years, I managed to turn a passion into a career. But art is so much more to me than just a way of making a living; it's a way of living. It filters into everything I do, and governs the way I think about things and the way I approach life. The title of this blog post seems quite dramatic, so how exactly did art save me? Shall we start big and work backwards to small? I think we should.

Intermission 2 © Natasha Newton

Intermission 2 © Natasha Newton

Many of you will remember that two years ago I lost the man I loved; the amazing man I was planning my future with. Suddenly, when he died, not only did I lose someone who had been so influential in my life and who loved me (and all my flaws and quirks) wholeheartedly, but I lost our future together. Everything we had planned to do was just gone. I was heartbroken - and now, I literally understand the meaning of 'heartbroken'. To say this was destabilizing is a huge understatement. The rug had been pulled from underneath me, and I felt a horrible, stomach-churning sense of "anything can happen". That feeling exists to this day, and I'm not sure if it will ever go away after living through that experience. You know how sometimes you imagine the worst thing that could possibly happen in your life, and it scares you, but there's always a part of you that thinks, "It's ok, that's not going to happen", or at the very least, "It's unlikely to happen", and you put it to the back of your mind, along with all of the other upsetting scenarios you don't want to think about? Well, my nightmare scenario came true. The worst thing I could possibly imagine actually happened, and when it does it changes your perspective forever.

When I lost Leon, I was in a bad way. Everyone thought I was coping very well, but they weren't in my head, and there's no way they could possibly know the loss and despair I felt each and every day. When something like that happens to you, there are two ways of dealing with it; either you give in to the grief and hide yourself away, feeling as though your life has ended too, or you can throw yourself into something as a distraction, in the process managing to give your days some focus and purpose. I honestly think - no, I know - that had I chosen the first option, I would possibly not be here today. Along with wonderful friends and loved ones, art saved me. And bizarrely art probably played a larger part in saving me than anything because, if I choose it, art is always there for me. People, for many and varied reasons, can't always be there for you when you need them the most. And this is not to denigrate the help and support I received - please don't take it that way. It's just that the importance of having something you can choose to focus on, and put all of your effort into, something that gives you a sense of purpose and satisfaction, and helps you to forget (or at least not entirely focus on) your sadness for a while, shouldn't be underestimated.

The more effort I put into my art in those dark weeks and months after Leon died, the more I received in return. Probably because of my prolific output, my career reached new heights, and in doing so I felt I was honouring Leon's memory in the most fitting way. He was such an incredible supporter of my art and he had such faith in me that it gave me a sense of comfort knowing he'd be happy about how things were going, and hopefully proud of how I was coping. Amazing opportunities came my way because of the focus I gave my work (some of which I haven't even been able to talk about because I had to sign a NDA or I'm under contract), and I met new people who have become lovely friends. So I can't emphasise enough the importance of actually doing something, even when you're in a very dark place in your life. The act of doing and absorbing yourself in something is essential, even when you don't feel like it, because it will bring you back into the light.

To finish, because I am aware that this is becoming very long, I've also realised over the past few weeks just how much art has shaped the life I have now. Some of the best friends I have (and certainly the people who are most 'on my wavelength') are people I've met through my art, whether they were buyers of my work initially, other artists I've exhibited with or met through galleries, or artists and art lovers I've met online. Two of the most important relationships in my life started through my art.

I used to suffer terribly from shyness, anxiety, and a lack of confidence. Art changed all of that, and maybe that's an idea for another blog post. If I hadn't followed my love and passion for art, my life would be very different to the life I have today. This is the life that art built. Art saved me, and that's a lesson I won't ever forget.

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