May 16, 2023

Creating Art with Purpose


Defining Purpose

Purpose. The great mystery, the why are we here. A metaphorical lantern for life, purpose reveals who we are and where we are going. Purpose is both a driving force and a quiet voice in the back of our minds. It reminds us that our time here is temporary and to focus on what is important. Living with purpose brings meaning into our lives.

Everyone has unique purposes, each according to their own passions, abilities and circumstances. Sometimes purpose finds us and sometimes we need to search for it.

So how do you 'find' your purpose?

woman in dark water with light

'Fight the Tide,' 2022. For those who are struggling, as a reminder to hold on to whatever light they find.

Finding Purpose

Our purposes may take form via the combination of the many facets of our lives. Such facets include: Our beliefs about the world, our unique traits, our desires, our resources and opportunities, our connections to others and our intentions and efforts.

One way to find purpose, is to recognise your patterns. Looking back at your life up until now, what holds the most meaning and value to you? Are there things that resurface, spark passion and have a positive impact on yourself and others?

Since I was young, I had a sense for the struggle in the world around me. I was the child that when taken to the pet store to get my first cat, wanted the sickly runt of the litter. The other kittens were plump and bright eyed, but this sick kitten was in need and unwanted. My mother agreed, with a mixture of admiration and dismay, unable to help but sympathiseand cover the vet bills.

I was genuinely distraught when I found out as a teenager, that the caretaker of the high school was shooting the stray cats. They had been giving birth to litters of kittens in the walls of the sports hall. After spending many hours unsuccessfully trying to coax the kittens out from the walls, I set out door knocking in our neighbourhood with DIY flyers titled 'Save the Cats.' I don't really know what I was hoping to achieve, but I was passionate!

All this to say, that my life's purpose is not cat rescue. Funnily enough, I'm allergic to them and much prefer the company of my dog. But the ability to recognise the overlooked and the will to do something, is a pattern that has repeated throughout my life. I've worked in mental health and social work and now seek to use my artwork to address challenging topics, in hopeful ways.

What is a pattern you might recognise in your own life and how might it lead you towards purpose?

woman with tattoos emerging from dark cave

'Out of Hiding,’ 2021. About climbing out of that dark place and into the light again.

Pursuing Purpose

Once you have an idea of what you'd like to pursue, finding the way forward and being consistent isn't always so simple.

It's easy to feel ill equipped and helpless in a world filled with experts and great need. It can be a challenge to know what to focus on, what to do and where to start. When you do start, it can be hard to feel like it's enough! It's easy to disqualify yourself with thoughts of "Who am I, to do anything about this?" There are a myriad of things that will attempt to interfere with our purposes. Lack of time, lack of clarity, lapse of confidence.

One way I've found to challenge these thoughts, is to think small. Fungi are a vital component of our ecosystem, breaking down waste to enable new growth. A fungus is considered to be the largest living organism on earth. How does it spread far and wide to achieve it's critical purposes? Microscopic spores. There are a plethora of metaphors along these lines: A seed turning into a giant tree, making it to the top of a staircase one step at a time. It's an important reminderwhatever your goals, your purposes, the things you most want to do and leave behind in your time hereit's the small things that will bring them to be. You don't need oodles of time, complete clarity or overflowing confidence to get started. You can begin with one 'microscopic' action.

For me, creating artworks on topics I've witnessed struggle in, with a focus on igniting positive vision, allows me to feel like I am doing something tiny towards my purpose. I hope that the images are seen by those who need them most. Connecting my work to the 'real world,' via relevant charity donation, has also been a good way to feel I am contributing some small amount of practical support. These are my 'microscopic moves,' but they are a start.

Maybe you've not thought much about purpose lately, but you want to. Maybe you don't know where to start, or you got stuck somewhere along the way. Or maybe you are on your path but just need a little encouragement.

To move us all one tiny step forwards, toward our individual purposes, I'd like to challenge you. Take #OneMicroMove towards your purpose today. Even if it's as simple as a web search or a phone call, or thinking what it might be! One small action will lead you closer...

I love to teach on this topic, if you would like to learn more, check out my 'Workshops' link below.

woman holding dead bird with fern growth

'Return to Aotearoa,' 2022. Expressing death of freedom and the new growth that can come out of hardship.

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