Permission to Simplify (& why I've stopped painting)

Back in my small hometown, I was known as that artist girl.

In high school, I'd been in the local newspaper a few times for awards I'd received for my paintings, and I had some pieces displayed in local galleries as well.

On my visit home this past summer, even though it had been 4 years since I've moved away, someone on the street recognized me.

"You're that artist girl right? I remember you!"

It was a sweet gesture, and I smiled and nodded.

But I didn't tell her that it's been almost 2 years since I've painted a portrait.

I didn't tell her about how painting became less of a creative outlet and more of a challenge I wanted to win. How each painting was supposed to be better than the last, on a larger canvas, with more complicated mediums and compositions because I wanted the recognition for my hard work. 

And in the end, it exhausted me.

But I guess I haven't been totally honest —I did paint once since my last art show. Around this time last year, I found out that my dad had cancer, and I didn't have words to describe how I felt.

So I painted watercolor flowers.
Three poinsettias, on a white piece of paper.
Just for me.

For whatever reason, I needed the simple strokes of a brush and color to give my heart the space to speak. That's probably the point of art; I just didn't realize it until now.

  A watercolor portrait of my younger sister. 

A watercolor portrait of my younger sister. 


I have a tendency to run from simplicity.

Maybe it's because I secretly believe that the end product is worth more if the process is complicated or difficult.

Simplicity seems too easy. Like it doesn't produce anything special.
It doesn't produce enough.

But that's not true at all.

The thing is, there's something healing about simplicity.

When something hurts, we must simplify. If it's the body, we have to simplify our movements. The stomach, we simplify food. The mind, we simply lessen the input to give our heads a break.

I don't know about you, but living in a world that is constantly wanting more and better and bigger has left me hurt and exhausted. 

And there's something inside me that is longing to simplify.

To be okay with less. To rest more. To let things heal and be reset as they should be.

To look at my life and the things I create and see that it is all enough as it is, even in it's simplest form.

  Her name is  Curls.  She's one of my favorite paintings.

Her name is Curls. She's one of my favorite paintings.


While walking around town with some friends last fall, one of them, an artist, stopped to look inside the window of a gallery.

"Jeana, your work is better than this," he said, almost with exasperation. "You need to be putting yourself out there!"

Again, I smiled and nodded. I could tell that it seemed wasteful to him for me not to paint.

But a year later, I'm realizing that I've needed to just let this love for art have the time to grow into something new. I needed a break in order to fall in love with my art again. And hopefully when I start painting again, it can be from a place of creativity and expression, instead of output and expectation.

Because in the end, I think that we all need simplicity to function well. It's what allows us to produce the better things, in simpler, organic ways.

Just as artisan foods tend to have less ingredients, created in a process that requires longer and more thoughtful work, maybe our lives could use a little simplicity in order to be made whole and well.

Like a simple, slow, artisan life.