Changing Course in Life as an Artist

Changing Course in Life as an Artist

Life rarely proceeds without interruption from beginning to end. For the vast majority of us, there comes a time when we have to change course in life. Changing course in life as an artist is almost as certain, in fact, as death and taxes.

I’ve been an oil painter for most of my artistic life. I’ve also been painting portraits of horses and other animals most of that time. Had you asked me just three years ago what I’d be doing the rest of my life, I would have told you I’d be painting oil portraits of horses.

Point of fact, whenever I asked when I’d retire from painting portraits, my usual response was “when I fall face first in my palette!”

In other words, until I drew my last breath.

Changing Course in Life as an Artist Brushes

How times change.

Changing Course in Life as an Artist

It’s been a long couple of years creatively. I’ve written about the challenges of creative silence on EmptyEasel and here, so won’t go into all of that again. But I can say that it was one of the signals that my artistic course in life was about to change. After all, it’s somewhat difficult to stay on course with anything when everything shuts down.

As it turns out, though, creative stillness was a good thing. The slowing—nee, ceasing—of forward momentum on a path that was no longer the right path.

I’d come to see creative stillness as more of a blessing than curse long before it was over. Now, I see that it was no curse at all. Merely a redirection.

Changing Course in Life as an Artist

I was also troubled by a lack of joy in the creative process—what others often refer to as passion. There simply was none. Everything I did was a labor and most of the time, there was little or no love involved. I painted because I had to. People had paid me for portraits, so I painted them.

But in all honesty, it was simply easier not to paint at all.

It’s more difficult to see the loss of joy in the creative process as a blessing because I still wrestle with it, sometimes on a daily basis.

But I’m surprised by glimmers of joy more and more often with every step along this new path. So it, too, has been good for me in the long run.

5 Signs It’s Time to Change Course in Life

This week’s article on EmptyEasel digs deeper into how this change of course happened with me, including five signs you should look for if you suspect you may be facing a course correction. Read 5 Signs It’s Time to Change Course in Life on EmptyEasel.

And if you find yourself mired in any of these things or anything similar, I encourage you to be patient and be encouraged. Not so long ago, I thought my life as an artist was over. I know today that wasn’t a accurate assessment of the situation, thank the LORD.

Maybe you’re simply not aware of the larger picture yet, and what’s really happening is that you’re being positioned for changing course in your life as an artist.


  1. Carrie: So true! Sometimes that mental fork in the road creeps up on one silently. A sense of flatness or lack of fulfillment. Sometimes it smacks one in the face due to life’s circumstances – like a reluctant cross-continent relocation that takes one abruptly away from the familiar galleries, artist comrades and patrons. I can’t say I’ve really figured out how to consciously dig out from under this latter event that happened to me this past November. But I find resurgence IS coming about – slowly. More than from external sources – but from something I feel, like you, is innate to us as artists – our internal wiring that just will not let the skills, urges, love of observation, etc (the good traits) overcome the ennui and sense of drifting away from the anchors that had held us. Thank you for your insight and willingness not only to share your skills but also your struggles.

    1. John,

      Thank you for the comment. I’ve been wondering how the cross-country move went. I know a little bit about that, having moved from Michigan to Kansas some years ago.

      A lot of people think of the artist’s life as glamorous and carefree. It does have it’s moments, but I’ve never experienced either glamour or a sense of being carefree. Sharing all the sides of the story is the only way to be honest with other artists, as you have demonstrated.

      Thank you for reading and adding your comments to the discussion.


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