Looking Back at my Journey as an Artist

As this year draws to a close, I've been looking back. Assessing. Reviewing. Summarizing. Thinking about what I have and haven't accomplished. Planning for the coming year.

But before digging in too deeply with that, I thought I should look back on my artistic journey as a whole. Remind myself of where I've traveled. Remember how far I've come.

Five years ago last month I first started painting with watercolors. I was participating in Art Every Day Month and trying to do as many creative things as I could. I didn't set out to become a watercolor artist and I'm not one of those people that you read about whose very first painting led them to discover a hidden talent.

No, my first paintings were awkward and unskilled.

I had no art training. I couldn't even draw, not really.

Maybe this awkwardness should have discouraged me from continuing with watercolors. It ended up having the opposite effect.

I became determined to learn how to paint the way I yearned to be able to.

Back then, and for a while afterward, I was simply immersing myself in creativity. I sewed. I crocheted. I painted. I wrote. I had leapt for my dreams of being a farmgirl and an artist, though what sort of artist, I didn't really know. I had no plan. My goals were vague (I share some thoughts on the early part of my journey here). The picture of my dreams was unfocused.

Although I didn't set out to become a watercolor artist something about it lodged in my spirit and I couldn't stop painting. Even when the paintings were ugly (far uglier than those four), I didn't give up.

I was naive. I was stubborn. I moved at a snail's pace, in fits and starts, taking detours, backtracking, discovering my path as I went along.

Benjamin Franklin once said: "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail."

Fail I did.

I think failure can be a wonderful thing. It can be our greatest teacher. I've learned so much more from failure than I ever have from success.

Back in the beginning of my creative journey I was inspired by the idea "Leap and the net will appear." The quote is from John Burroughs, but I found various creative people throwing around the idea while inspiring others to leap for their dreams.

It's a beautiful idea. But I think that often it is wrong.

I leapt for my dreams and fell flat on my face. It was painful. I got back up. I brushed myself off. I kept going.

butterfly, coneflower, garden, nature, resilience, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

In some ways I'm embarrassed to admit my naivety (it's all here in my blog, sometimes written between the lines, but it's here). In other ways I realize that to deny my story is to deny who I am as an artist. I'm proud of my stubbornness, my unwavering faith (well, in truth, sometimes it did waver, but I never gave up). If my art had come easily for me, I think it would have less meaning. Every brushstroke, every flower, is an act of defiance. Every finished piece is a pledge not to give up.

watercolor, cyclamen, cyclamen paintings, watercolor cyclamen, painting development, art development, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry
I painted my first cyclamen painting (on the bottom right) in January 2011. February 2015 I painted the one on the top left. The other two were painted in between.
Maybe you have some dreams. Maybe they're as vague and as unfocused as mine were. Maybe that makes them easy to ignore. Don't. Don't let go of them. Don't give up on them.

I'm not yet where I eventually want to be, but I'm on my way. Each day, each sketch, each painting, each act of creativity gets me closer. I'm so glad that I picked up a paintbrush five years ago. And I'm so glad that I didn't give up after those first awkward paintings.

As we near the end of the year and make plans and resolutions for the coming year, take a look at your dreams. Listen to those secret yearnings of your heart. And then start. Start today. The beginning might not be pretty. It will certainly be miles from where you'll eventually end up, but imagine all that is possible and simply start.

"The secret to getting ahead is getting started."
                              --Mark Twain

What's stopping you?


  1. I'm sure I'm not the only one who is grateful to you for sharing your artistic journey. I was not one of those people who just naturally had a knack for drawing/painting/whatever and it's refreshing to hear someone else say the same thing! Never give up, that's the key...you're so right. :)

    1. Thank you, Laurie. And thank you for sharing part of your story, too.

      I think it's really rare for someone to have an immediate, innate talent and that makes it so much harder for the rest of us who need to work, work, work at something. I think about children in school, early attempts at drawing or writing or playing music aren't praised and they (we) give up.

      Oh, and I think there are two keys. One, start. And then two, don't give up.


  2. You always write such thought provoking posts that touch my heart Anne. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching your progress as an artist and you are a fantastic example of what happens when you don't give up on your dreams. Your paintings are stunning - they reflect your beautiful soul.

    1. Thank you so much, Simone. I am glad to have had you along on my journey. You are such a wonderfully encouraging cheerleader! Your sweet comments mean so much to me.

  3. Great post and you are so right, we just need to start. Thank you again for the inspiration and helping me find the courage to take the next step!

    1. Thank you, Carla! It makes me so glad to know that you find encouragement in what I have to say.

      Wishing you all the best in 2016! Hope it's as wonderful, creative and interesting as your wildest dreams. :)

  4. I think I have been watching you throughout all of these years of growth, Anne, and I have greatly admired your tenacity and talent. Even in the beginning I could see the artist in you and I love seeing the progress you've made. I really love your work!
    I too am "in process"as an artist, looking for exactly which path I want to take. I'll take inspiration from your determination and practice, and we'll watch each other grow in 2016!

    1. Yes, Judy, you're one who's been here nearly from the beginning. Thank you so much for accompanying me on my journey, cheering me on along the way and inspiring you with your beautiful artworks. It means so much to me!

      We're probably all "in process", our lives, our art. Let's just keep going and see where our paths lead us. I'm excited to find out what will be along the way in 2016!

  5. I think your Jan. 2011 painting is just lovely Anne but I know what you mean. You have come so far with your painting skills. It's inspiring. I'm glad you didn't give up and remained determined through it all. It helps to keep us all going. :)Thanks for that.

    1. Thank you, Dana! It represented something special to me when I painted that first cyclamen. I framed it and hung it in my room. In part because I thought it was beautiful and in part because it was pointing to something bigger, to those yet unspoken dreams.

      You've been an inspiration to me from early on, Dana. Thanks for that and for your friendship! Let's make 2016 fabulous!

  6. Good for you for sticking with your creativity and believing enough in your gift to share it with us as you progressed. Seeing how far you've come makes every push worthwhile and its been fun to watch you grow. Your artwork today is gorgeous, a testament to hard work and natural talent. Happy New Year to you!

    1. Thank you for following along and encouraging me, Sharon. It's been fun to watch you grow as well. You, of all people, know about sticking with things. How far you've come and grown with you toy-making!

      Happy New Year to you, too. I hope it's the best one yet!


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