When No Training is a Blessing

Today, count your blessings.

Where to start? With what you DON’T have.

“Every artist dips her brush into her own soul, and paints her own truth into her pictures.” – Henry Ward Beecher

I consider it a blessing that I have no formal “art training.”  Not being savvy with technical art terms is an advantage when my lines aren’t perfectly shaped or my colors aren’t seamlessly blended.  My oblivion and unashamed passion help to silence my inner critic.  Whatever I paint, I create from the heart.  I try to focus on the physical sensations of feelings my brush glide across the canvas, drenched in a juicy glob of heavy-bodied paint.  I feel the bristles press against the stretched linen; I see each fiber drag across a mound of cherry-apple red.  As I guide my brush up and down my canvas, the repetitive gestures become meditative.  I stop thinking, as I press down on my brush harder.  The canvas then becomes an open channel to my soul, a clear-as-day lens into what can be sensed, but not seen.  And now – here it is:  in iridescent hues, glistening in silky splotches of wet paint.

 “It doesn’t matter how the paint is put on, as long as something is said.” – Jackson Pollock

For me, art is healing.  In the process of creating, I find myself and learn lessons along the way.  Through creativity, I discovered my voice.  I picked up a paintbrush for the first time when I was stuck in the hospital for months after a disastrous surgery.  My mother brought fabric, glue, paints and markers to my small hospital cubicle, and I made art for the first time.  Suddenly, I found a way to express emotions that were too painful, complicated and overwhelming for words.  I used everything – even toilet paper from the hospital bathroom.  I painted my trees that I missed, I created my inside and outside worlds, full of their joy and pain, tears and hearts, lightning bolts and flowers…

 If I knew what the picture was going to be like, I wouldn’t make it.” – Cindy Sherman

IMG_0647 dreaming of angels.jpg

Through this creativity, I discovered a voice.  It was a voice I could recognize – the “Amy” that was there before dozens of surgeries – the passionate part of me that no medical intervention could surgically remove.  For me, painting was one more step towards feeling human again.  Art was my way of documenting my life and pinpointing my soul at a time when I wasn’t sure who I was or what I was feeling.  Making art inspired me with the courage to put myself out there, and emboldened me with the confidence that I was a person – and not just a patient.  My life had changed, but my Self was still vital as ever – in whatever colors I dipped my brush in.

 “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” – Salvador Dalí

Each morning before the doctors came in for rounds, I’d paint feverishly whatever abstraction came to mind and what evolved from my situation.  When I completed my pieces, I felt like I had not only gotten out my frustrations and worry, but also found a place of joy and gratitude.  I would put each canvas outside my hospital room, and soon the unit began to catch on, even taking patients by my room to see whatever I had created that day.  Now, I was sustaining my aliveness and inspiring others, which filled me with unanticipated meaning and satisfaction. 

 “I don’t think about art when I’m working. I try to think about life.” – Jean-Michel Basquiat

Ironically, the darker the circumstances became, the more joyous my paintings seem today.  Every tree seems to be singing and dancing, although the teardrops and lightning bolts are always streaked across the bold backgrounds.  Even though an onset of sadness would prompt me to paint the act of painting became joyful – and by the time I finished a painting, I was exhausted and oddly happy. By painting, I could see what I was feeling.  And to know I could feel at a time when every surgery made me feel more and more like a robot – well, that just made me very happy.  Finding my heart in every canvas was a happy discovery, the sweet reward every time the paint dried and it was ready to display to the unit.



I found my way to painting accidentally on the road to healing.  But I had no idea that art would continue to heal the part of me that the doctors couldn’t.  When identifying as a “patient” for so many years made me lose a sense of who I was, the paint picked up where I had left off and created vivid worlds that I didn’t even know I had within me. 

You can read more about how creativity helped me to reimagine obstacles in my book, My Beautiful Detour: An Unthinkable Journey from Gutless to Grateful.

What do you have no “training” in? Let that be your greatest inspiration this week!


Amy Oestreicher