Updated: Aug 29, 2020
The first time I stepped foot on a plane, I was headed to South Africa. When we landed on the other side, I was in awe of how different the sky looked. Still blue, still big, still full of white clouds, but it was almost as if someone had used the “adjustment option” on a photo app and shifted the sky closer, zooming in and spinning it so it seemed as if Atlas had tripped and let a piece of the sky slide down towards earth. I began to relate to God differently; I began thinking and praying like I never had before. The world felt different and God felt different, when it was me who had changed lenses and saw the world tinged in a new light.
The next summer I boarded a plane to India and Thailand. The silence of the streets of Thailand startled me: a busy street looked as if someone had hit mute. The sounds, smells and colors of India shocked me. Everything moved at a sped-up pace, the swirling of hundreds and thousands of people migrating to and from trains, navigating streets, and hopping from rickshaw to bus. My experience led me to form ideas in thick, chunky, greasy oil pastels. The colors colliding on paper thick like clay from the earth. Lumps of color lined each stroke and the vibrant shades meshed and blended in a striking way. I needed to create in a way I could see and feel. The texture felt raw and ragged, the colors shocking and bright.
That fall I moved to LA. It would be my first time living on the West Coast, but I had not envisioned how again the world would show itself in a new way. LA was everything my small East Coast suburban upbringing was not. Where LA was dripping with culture and life, my hometown suburbia was beautiful and tree-lined, but having lived there so long I was numb to its charms and experiences. The West made me feel like a child all over again enamored with the world. Suddenly the sky was for gazing again, the colors so rich and new, every glimpse sent my senses on overdrive.
Large skyscrapers in the city, skaters on the boardwalk, mouthwatering smells wafting at each turn, the collision of sand, cement and brilliant colors and designs was overwhelmingly stimulating. I suddenly felt paralyzed by it all, unable to capture this incredible world on paper or even with my own two eyes. It was too much, too loud. Like the craziest circus that never ended, each corridor revealed a more brilliant act.
And then all at once I began to process. Finally able to put out a fraction of all that I was taking in. I found myself opening my camera app and hitting the shutter button. It was so intuitive: my imposter syndrome had no time to respond with its usual quip. I felt like I was in a trance the way I fixated on snapping photos left and right. With a roaring ocean of unshakable desire tolling in my ears, I began to record every second. From that moment on, my cell phone became my visual journal and every moment of my life became documented through images and shown on my digital art gallery, my Instagram account. I took pictures of everything in an attempt to capture the fullness I was experiencing. To freeze time and remember. To create memories through stills.
Several photographs later--finally able to handle the stimulus of LA, the shock now out of my system--I began to draw again. It started slowly with a few doodles in my journal, and then eventually stark black line drawings on white paper poured out of me like sand shaken out of shoes. Black line drawings became my LA medium as well. Eventually I found my way back to watercolor, writing, and even beginning a blog. Picking up my phone became the catalyst to this creative renaissance.
These new mediums of art were foreign to me and yet had been at hand for the entirety of my art experience. I had stepped into a new world, but nothing had necessarily changed about my confidence in art, my skill, or the art supplies I had available. Yet, somehow changing my surroundings led me down this yellow brick road where inspiration met opportunity in a way they never had before. My creative eyesight was refreshed and everything was possible, all from the simple yet brave act of stepping outside my comfort zone, boarding a plane, and allowing myself to be open to the world in front of me. I had my Dorothy walk down the yellow brick road, my fall into Wonderland like Alice, and like both of them, I too left this dreamy world forever changed.