What a difference a year makes

by Jamie Orr


 

Today is Thanksgiving! This time of year and this day in particular sparks reflection in all of us. We are prompted to take a minute to acknowledge the things in our lives that we are grateful for. This morning as I thought about my own life, I realized that today is extra special because it marks one year since I left my job as a full time teacher and began to incorporate art back into my life. When people would ask me why I was quitting, I would tell them that I was getting burnt out trying to work a demanding full time job and finish grad school at the same time. That statement was absolutely true. I was extremely tired, and knew that I couldn’t maintain that intensity and also be a happy and healthy person. In truth, as much as I loved my students, I knew there had to be a better way for me to incorporate teaching into my life while salvaging my happiness.

There was another reason why I left my job that I kept to myself in fear of sounding flighty and completely unrealistic. In the back of my mind, I knew that if I had a little more energy left at the end of each day, I could start painting again. I had neglected that part of me for a long time, and I could feel it. Secretly, I wanted to make it a real part of my life, but I wasn’t quite sure how. Last year at this exact time, I was headed into the unknown, but I felt like a million tons of bricks had been lifted off of my back. As scary as it was to leave security behind, the freedom and excitement I felt was enough to assure me that I was headed in the right direction.

Sitting here now, I know I made the right decision. Money has been a struggle, but I knew it would be, and I know it’s only temporary. I look back on the person I was a year ago and I barely recognize her. Yes, sure I was the same person, sort of… but I wasn’t a happy version of me. It’s hard to see that when you’re in it. It’s especially difficult when you already have a job where you are helping others. Isn’t that the definition of “fulfilling” work? I’m writing this now not only because I’m proud of myself for making the changes necessary to live a happier, more balanced life, but because I think it’s so important to let others know that I took a risk and I am still okay. It’s the hardest thing in the world to push fear aside and move outside your comfort zone, but that’s the best way to grow.  Sure, you could fail in a million different ways, but what if you succeed?

 

 

 


The Process

by Jamie Orr


 It has always been somewhat of a challenge for me to describe my art. In college, I remember having to stand up in front of the class and talk about what went into the pieces I produced, and being terrified. That process introduced me to a level of exposure and vulnerability that I wasn't comfortable with, especially at that juncture in my life. Most of the time when I stood up there, I would downplay the emotional side of the piece and talk about technique and outside influences instead. And then, there was that one time when I was breaking up with my boyfriend, and actually did let my guard down to talk about it, and my teacher (who I am sure had excellent intentions) belittled my emotional experience. As you can probably imagine, I didn't try that again for a while!

For my senior art show, I created a huge four-panel piece that shocked most of my peers. It shocked me! This is because it was all dark blues, and blacks, and a lot of texture. It was clearly a bit tumultuous, and unexpected coming from the smiling, blonde girl standing next to it. To deflect from the emotions and thoughts that I was actually feeling when I painted it, I told a story about how I was inspired by a recurring dream I had growing up about tornadoes. While I really did have this dream, that wasn't what the piece was really about. My life at that time was rough. I was unsure about graduating, my relationship with my boyfriend was ending, my family relationships were strained, and the list goes on and on. So when I sat down to paint, all that stress and anxiety came out. It was the most therapeutic way for me to sit with and work through all those emotions, and it is the sole reason why I gravitated towards abstract expressionism from that point forward. 

Flash forward 10 years and you'll find a secure, confident woman in a much calmer place in life. However, no matter how "stable" my outside world is, I am constantly pulling from past and current emotional experiences whether I choose to or not. It's usually something that just happens, which is both the beauty of the process and the reason why articulating it is so difficult! I'm a firm believer that some things should be kept private, especially when art is concerned. I want people who view my work to draw from their own thoughts and emotion, feel what they feel, and see what they see. One of my favorite parts about posting my work on instagram has been reading about what people see when they look at my work. Most of the time, it's something I would NEVER have seen myself! So this blog thing will be my attempt at letting people (who are interested) in on how pieces came to be, without telling them how they should feel. I'm excited to finally open myself up in this way… and I hope you enjoy reading:)