Getting Back Up After Being Creatively Knocked Down

My Creative Wipe-Out

One of the most pivotal points in my life was when I handed control over to Fate. And the next pivotal moment was when I took control back from her, 20 years later. 

In my late 20s, I had a falling-out with a gallery owner over my solo installation exhibit running in his space. He asked me out, and when I turned him down, he broke our exhibit agreement and was very nasty about it. So I drank about 1/4 of a bottle of 20-year-old scotch and gave him a piece of my mind. It wasn’t pretty. And then he got me blackballed from galleries across the city. I didn’t know what to do or how to handle the situation.

Nearly 25 years later, I can look back at how hurt and confused I was. I didn’t have a mentor to give me a hug and say it was going to be all right (although I was fortunate to have a wonderful sister). I didn’t have an older, wiser anybody to tell me I was still a great artist, that this was just a stumbling block. That this was just one jerk at one gallery. And that what happened to me happens to artists all around the world.

Hiding in a Suit

I didn’t know how to keep going in the face of what felt like a crushing defeat. I was young. So I stopped showing my art and got a job in Corporate America. 

I was knocked down and stayed down – for a long time. Even though I kept painting and sold some work privately, my confidence in my creativity was shot. I stopped talking about being an artist. I was an artist in secret, hiding in my suits.

I’ve heard great leaders talk about getting back up after falling. And I’ve read countless books on it. But none of those folks were artists, so no matter what I read or heard, it didn’t sink in. Then something happened, I was ‘let go’ from yet another soul-sucking job, and walking out the door, I realized all I wanted was to make art.

I threw off my cloak of drama, grabbed control back, and pivoted my life. 

Getting Back Up Was My Choice

Falling down happens to everyone, and for a simple reason – because there’s a lesson we need to learn. Sometimes it’s challenging to step back to see what the lesson is. Sometimes the hurt is so big that we have a hard time thinking logically. So all those leaders are right – it’s not the falling down that matters. It’s the getting back up that really counts. 

Time does heal wounds, and hurt fades. But it’s our choice to stay down and let pain define us. When I finally realized it was my choice to stop nursing my hurt, I was able to get up and brush off. 

Now I’m back up and moving forward, paint and brushes in my hands. Happily creating the life I always wanted. 


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