Why I stepped away from my public art making-and-sharing life, and why I am now ready to come back
Writing this post is going to be tough because as I type these words I’m not yet through the most difficult challenge life has presented me with thus far, and who wants to read a story that’s only about a third of the way over AND has yet to resolve itself as either a heart warming or heart wrenching tale?
Honestly, I like stories that dare to walk the line between those two emotional states the best, but that is neither here nor there. I’m simply stalling because even after three months of living this new reality of mine I’m still not use to saying or typing the words that I know I have to share in order to move back into my public art making-and-sharing life.
So…here goes: my beautiful, amazing, talented, creative, passionate, hardworking, driven, intelligent, stylish, dedicated, funny, caring (and not necessarily in that order) child, Samuel, has cancer; stage three papillary thyroid cancer to be exact.
And ever since Sam’s diagnosis came into our lives three months ago I’ve been unable to engage the world beyond my little trio family and the small collection of friends and family that have been supporting us through this nightmare.
The thought of continuing to share my art and ideas with the lovely folks who engage my colorable and traditional artwork here on my website, on social media, on my YouTube channel, and through my newsletter while my partner, Steve, and I helped our child through his difficult health journey was more than my already overwhelmed brain could process. I couldn’t see how to possibly keep my accounts going with new colorful ideas and experiences and not acknowledge the inspiration behind each of these fresh creative moments; that inspiration being that my son, Samuel, had been diagnosed with cancer (I have been relying heavily on my creativity and studio practice to help me process what it means to be the parent of a 23 year old cancer patient). It’s a bit ridiculous, I know, but I couldn’t stand the idea of being the bearer of shockingly bad news to all the people who turn to my work for creative inspiration, a bit of humor, and a whole lot of color—it seemed sort of a violation of the unspoken contract between myself and my audience. I’m moderately comfortable (never fully comfortable, but I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that as an introvert I never will be) with the attention I receive being an artist in the world, but thinking of all the attention I would undoubtedly receive when people learned that my only child had cancer (folks who love to color and make art are a caring group)…well, it made me feel like a deer in headlights—completely immobile, without coherent thought, and doomed. Because of this I decided as a self-employed person to give to myself what a good employer gives to their employees when the unthinkable happens: family medical leave from the social-sharing demands studio artists have and from any projects I was currently working on that felt like more focus than my brain effectively could muster.
Y’all might be asking then why share this difficult news publicly now if it makes me so incredibly uncomfortable? Because, as my Sam just said when he came into my studio to check on me and see how this post was coming along, this experience is changing me, changing my art, changing everything (“I am not the same musician during this and I won’t be the same after this is over, mom, and you are not the same artist—how could you be?”).
And so, with this post I am taking a tentative first step back into a public art making-and-sharing life. I don’t know exactly what the future holds for Have Color Will Travel (for Pete’s sake—tomorrow’s agenda hinges on the results of my son’s latest round of bloodwork, and as I type at 4pm we’re still waiting to hear back from the doctor), but what I can promise y’all is that it will be extremely colorful, quite often colorable, and (I hope) occasionally creatively inspirational.🌈🖍💚