Leonardo and Me: Becoming a Life Change Artist

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“You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.” ~ Beverly Sills

Get out your paintbrush, prop up the easel, and grab your color palette, sketchbook and pencils. Whether you know it or not, you’re an artist; it’s time to get into the studio — to draw, design, paint your way through your next life challenge.

What? You say you can’t change? Oh, but you must. All of life is change, and the sooner we learn to ride the waves, the smoother the changes become. What? You say you’re too old? You’ve lost everything? You’ve been passed over, your health is failing, the economy has taken its toll on you, you feel totally washed up?

So there you are, on the shore of some strange island. What scenery do you see? You don’t think you can paint your way back to normal? To a new life that pleases you? Think again.

Authors Fred Mandell and Kathleen Jordan help you navigate questions like these in their new book Becoming a Life Change Artist: 7 Creative Skills to Reinvent Yourself at Any Stage of Life.

Think like the great artists – DaVinci, Monet, Cézanne, Picasso. With knowledge, effort and diligence you can wield the paintbrush to your life canvas; you can follow their lead, through the essential dimensions of each life transition. You can explore your options in this territory of your creative dilemma, and with the artists’ tools in hand, you have the power to discover what’s meaningful, what works.

While thinking about what to write about this book, I happened to hear an interview with Tom Hooper, director of the Oscar-nominated film, the King’s Speech. Hooper was talking about the main theme of the movie: Finding your voice again. King George VI, a stutterer since childhood, was finding his voice, thanks to the creative efforts of speech coach and mentor Lionel Logue.

Suddenly, it struck me. We’ve seen the film, and I found myself choking back a tear when Hooper said the point is: “You have a right to be heard; and people should bloody well listen.”

This struck me for more personal reasons, as I realized that for the past four years, I’ve felt like a kindred spirit to King George and his creative dilemma. As I read through the book – and through the seven skills of creative life change – it occurred to me that I’d been experiencing nearly everything discussed. It occurred to me, too, that I’ve been finding my voice, like King George. I just wish I’d latched on to all this good creativity advice (the authors say that our culture has tended to de-emphasize that aspect) a lot earlier. Thankfully, it’s becoming mainstream now, the understanding that to successfully navigate life and all its changes, we must become like artists and use our creative impulses to fashion our canvas.

One of the seven tenets, or skills to creatively reinvent ourselves – tools that artists use in creating their masterpieces – is Preparation, doing things that prepare the brain to undertake creative work. The authors don’t mention this, but I would add to my favorite preparation routine: going to the movies.

“Preparation,” the authors say, “means deliberately engaging in activities that help us break from our usual patterns of thought and feeling and prepare us for creative insight.” Apparently, when I was immersed in the film, my heart was registering that insight about finding my voice.

The other skills (seeing with new eyes, using our social and historical context, embracing uncertainty, risk taking, collaboration with others, and discipline) are all skills that the great artists employ in creating great paintings.

I was getting quite excited, the more I read through the book, as it seemed I could easily say — “been there, done that.” I took it to mean that I’m making progress in upping my creativity quotient when it comes to painting my life canvas — getting through the messy paint jobs, and turning out something beautiful.

I was excited because reading the book affirmed how glad I was that I’d acted on a hunch four years ago to get some help while navigating a life transition – a transition from the newspaper office to reinventing myself and discovering who I am, authentically, and what would I be doing about that. I’ve been learning all these skills, and moving through the four dimensions of this major life transition, using the seven skills.

It isn’t often I can read a book and feel that I’m affirming something completed, and not grasping at how I think it might help me. Again, thankfully, I can confidently agree with the authors, and recommend this book to anyone who is navigating a life transition and wishes to paint themselves out of a dark corner, into the light.

My personal adventure involved a dream quest and workshops on creativity and the healing arts. It may take dramatic effort like this for you to move through challenging life issues. There are plenty of these types of self-help opportunities available nowadays. Like King George, you might find a life coach, like Lionel Logue. My advice is to find something that resonates with you and give it a whirl.

I’d read many books on how to navigate life change, but Becoming a Life Change Artist helps understand the stages and requirements of life change, in the context of how the great artists evolved their work.  It’s easy to view your life in that context and picture it as a vast canvas to continually improve upon.

What would kindle your fire to become a life change artist? What would make you think like DaVinci, and spark your creative spirit? If you find yourself in a major life dilemma, don’t just sit there – well, sit there and contemplate (as that’s preparation for your creative work) — but get out your paintbrush. Ready, set, paint! Your life depends on it.

About Susan Parcheta 100 Articles
Susan G Parcheta dreamed of being an inspirational writer, even as heading off after college to a teaching job. While teaching was not her passion, words were -- writing many years for Livingston newspapers, especially in the areas of education, health and wellness. The dream continues: to inspire creative, healthy living and to explore new concepts of body, mind, spirit. Her signature theme “All Things Beautiful” invites you to embrace the beauty and imagine the possibilities that life has to offer. She lives in Gregory with her husband, Jerry, and their fluffy, pointy-eared -- and always lovable -- cat, Spock.