(This post contains affiliate links. Please see the disclosure policy for further info)
How has Tara Leaver helped me become a happier artist? Let me count the ways.
I first heard of Tara absolutely donkey's years ago.
If I remember correctly it was via a fantastic artist called Amy Hooton on Deviant Art (is that still even a thing???) and even back then, before the iPhone even existed, Tara was already sharing valuable insights into the creative process and all it's mysteries in the most authentic way possible... through her own personal experience.
This woman knows what she's talking about.
As well as being a talented abstract artist (who's artwork hangs on my very walls) she always has something wise or helpful to contribute to almost any creative dilemma. Afraid to start? Afraid you're not original enough? Tara's website and newsletter (Artnotes) have been a consistent companion to my creative journey over the years and one that's brought me great peace and clarity.
So. Imagine my delight when Tara launched her course Touchstone.
Touchstone was something I really needed in my life at the exact time she launched it. It was one of those 'Take my money' moments. I believe I may have said that to her...
So with Tara's guidance I embarked on a journey with the goal to create a life that enabled me to make art.
Not perfect art.
Not art that made me stinking rich.
Not art that made me famous (although I'm not shunning that).
What I wanted to do was make authentic art. Art that told my story. Art that flowed from me naturally, that wasn't forced, that wasn't strategically planned to optimise maximum returns from social media. Art that healed me and didn't bore me. I wanted to quit people pleasing. I wanted to quit procrastinating. I wanted to quit fear. I wanted to get back to making art for me, on my terms, setting my own rules.
Over 4 weeks Touchstone gave me more power back to my creative process then anything I've tried so far. It worked beautifully alongside other popular creative guides like The Artist's Way and Big Magic but this time, it was personal. I was talking to the person behind it almost every day and getting tailored advice that took into consideration who I really was and my own situation.
I remember the excitement of picking up my watercolours after years of avoiding them and painting these rubbish flowers that I really wanted to paint. I had denied myself the opportunity to paint with them for so long because 'I was a portrait artist' and I didn't want to 'damage my brand'. The sheer pleasure I got from painting those things opened up a whole world of creativity and skill which then went on to influence my portrait work, and continues to inspire me even now.
Touchstone ended up becoming the starting point of a very new direction in my creative life. It's STILL building. It's still affecting me.
There was this wonderful moment where Tara said that when answering questions we didn't need to give the first answer that popped into our minds, we could take a moment to think and consider. In fact, we had permission to do whatever we felt was right regardless of what she thought. For me, this was a revelation!
For years I've felt deeply let down whenever I've had to give my first impulsive answer to a question because I knew, deep down, I had an amazing ability to give robotic auto-answers which never really represented my beliefs and needs.
'How are you?'
I could have chopped my arm off and I would still be saying 'I'm fine'.
This auto response mechanism I'd perfected meant in other course structures most of my deep dreams and needs were being completely overlooked. For instance someone could ask me what my goal was and my first auto response would be 'I'd be happier if I earned more' when actually with some consideration my actual answer would have been 'I feel lonely and want validation- I'd like to meet more creatives like me'.
So Touchstone taught me I'm the type of person who needs to make their own rules. Tara gave me back that power to do that.
Recently, after announcing that I just wanted to write what makes me happy on my blog an 'expert' came up to me and asked me with genuine concern 'but what if people don't want to read your blog posts?' The idea that I could be doing all this for me, and my own vision of success, was completely lost on them. But rather then feel worried I felt great peace because I knew I had connected with myself, with my own touchstones, and I was doing what was right for ME. That's what Touchstone gives you. Your own answers.
For me, a successful creative life, on my terms. means living a life where I have:
- Freedom to express my story, however I like, whenever I like. No censorship. No fear of sharing the truth. No fear of offending people or my artwork being too 'this' or too 'that'. I just want to be me. I want to make what intrigues me. It doesn't matter if it's seen or not. In fact being able to spout off into the void and knowing nobody can hear it is actually quite a relief! If others can relate, so be it. If others want to buy it or celebrate it, great. But ultimately I just want to freedom to make it.
- Self respect and being able to defend my own boundaries and rights. Appearing professional doesn't interest me that much anymore. It feels fake. I am myself. I swear. I joke. I get angry. I get excited about pasta. But I also send invoices on time and pay my tax every year. It's fine if you don't take my art seriously because i'm not a walking LinkedIn advert. It doesn't bother me. The art is still getting made and you will still have to pay for it. Acknowledging this was a HUGE relief for me creatively and has only gone on to serve me better and better.
- Serenity... not apathy. I am an extroverted introvert (INFJ here! Hi!) On the outside I appear calm and muted, maybe even SHY (hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha). Inside I am vibrant, loud and chucking glitter everywhere. Put me on stage and it doesn't bother me at all- I THRIVE. Put me at a bus stop and make me gossip with strangers about the weather and I want to die. For many years I've suffered with anxiety and I've struggled to heal that because for me, the opposite to anxiety is not sedation. I didn't want to be calm and mindful and slow all the time. It bored me to tears and didn't connect with my personality at all. I wanted to sing and dance and laugh and feel SAFE and WELCOME doing that. I wanted serenity. Success for me is having the balance in my life where I can rest when I need and be excited when I need. That reflects in my art.
- Curiosity. To live a life of constant learning and development and asking questions. Is this not the best thing ever about being human? Is this not the meaning of life? To have our basic needs taken care of and then to be giving the permission to go explore the world with a thousand questions and to actually have some of them answered by the universe? Why the HELL would I swap that kind of success for 'a bounce rate under 70%'. No way. Not in a million years.
So does all this intrigue you? Rile you? Are you thinking I'm crazy? Are you thinking actually, I need to find my own answers to these questions? What can I do to lead a more creative life? Do I know what my touchstones are?
I hope so, because I'm thrilled to announce that Tara has recently relaunched Touchstone and as a previous student (and fan girl) I have been invited to share it with you today.
Tara will be leading a new group of creatives through Touchstone very shortly, so if any of this rings a bell with you, if anything I've said piques your curiosity PLEASE check out the course details and consider signing up below.
Otherwise why not head over to her website and take a look at all the wonderful free resources and courses she has over there, which can give you a taster of how Tara works and how she might be able to connect you with your creativity better? Her website is a gold mine, really, and I'd be surprised if you haven't stumbled across it already.
So, thank you Tara for all you taught me and good luck with your new intake! I absolutely loved Touchstone and I stand behind it 100%. More people need to discover this course. It was fantastic.