Working Through Grief and Returning to the Studio

Guest blogger: Barbara Muir

For artists, making art is life’s main goal, so what happens when we quit producing?

When my 13-year-old dog died in September, I thought I’d hit the depths of sadness. Then my mother died in October, and I was suddenly sidelined by my own grief.

The direct result of losing someone or something you love is profound grief. And that hollow, meaningless feeling that accompanies loss does not lead to art. Yet we know art is the answer.

Barbara Muir painting
©2012 Barbara Muir, Breakfast in the Hotel. Acrylic on 4 canvases, 72 x 96 inches.

Here are eleven ideas that helped me work through my grief. Perhaps they might help you feel your way back to your studio.

1. Don’t do anything—push the pause button.

When you’ve suffered a serious loss, take a break. Take care of yourself and trust that the urge to get back at it will resurface.

2. Open your eyes.

Loss hurts. But let in some beauty.

Fill your senses with music and the sights and sounds of nature. Visit museums and art galleries to get focused on the type of art you’ll make when you’re ready.

Whatever touches your heart will help you heal. Being moved by what we see, hear, and feel leads to inspiration, and that gets us back to creating again—even when the darkness is so profound that we can’t imagine it’s possible.

3. Forget the rules.

Lose the rules about how to be a real artist. Don’t worry about comparing yourself to Michelangelo, Marina Abramovic, Georgia O’Keeffe, or David Hockney. Making art of any kind makes you real. Your creative process and your own style are what matters.

4. Tempt your inner artist.

Buy new supplies. Treat yourself to all the colors you love. Stopped by the cost of supplies? Shop online for bargains or trade with other artists.

Barbara Muir painting
©2013 Barbara Muir, Let's Get This Party Started. Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 30 inches. Private collection.

5. Find an artistic space that’s safe for you.

To get back to work we need physical space that also feels right emotionally. Give yourself permission to start small. If working at home doesn’t work anymore, join an art club where you can make art every day or share a studio.

6. Dedicate time to making art.

Block out chunks of time. Make an appointment with yourself and then show up. Stop telling yourself you have no time for art. You can finish your big ideas by grabbing ten-minute time slots.

[ See: Making Art While Grieving Loss with Jan Heaton ]

7. Rely on your lists.

Lists are your lifesaver. Start lists of art you’d like to make. When a piece is giving you trouble, make a step-by-step list of what you want to do next.

To help you move beyond the current moment and start thinking about the future, make lists of places you’d like to show and artists you’d like to show with.

8. Lose the guilt.

Don’t waste time feeling guilty for not making art – make some. As Neil Gaiman said:

Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do.
Make good art.

9. Be your own BAFF (Best Artist Friend Forever).

Praise yourself for each small achievement. When you’re using a list, cross each completed task off and feel some pride as you do. Being kind to yourself helps you let go, relax, and get creative.

10. Recognize that you’ve changed.

Whether it’s a month, a year, or 10 years since you produced your last piece of art, you’re not the same person. You don’t have to make the kind of art you used to make.

Moving in a new direction may be the inspiration to get going again.

11. Remember the bigger vision.

When you are ready, remember the world needs art and the world needs you. Gently—at your own pace, and always paying attention to what’s most important to you—realize that people want to see your work. Your loss isn’t any less, but art can be the path out of the darkness.

About My Guest Blogger

Barbara Muir is known for her portraits and positive life view, which she enjoys sharing through exhibiting her work, public speaking, and teaching English and psychology.

She gained recognition on the international stage through the images and stories on her upbeat blog, Barbara Muir Paints. This earned her a spot on the Oprah Winfrey show drawing Oprah via Skype.

Barbara Muir in front of her painting, Breakfast in the Hotel. Acrylic on 4 canvases, 72 x 96 inches, ©2012.

This post was first published January 24, 2014 and has been republished with original comments intact.

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53 thoughts on “Working Through Grief and Returning to the Studio”

  1. Barbara, you are a solid artist as well as a ray of sunshine. I know that you followed all that you said and came out stronger and more positive if possible. Great post and happy creating!

    1. Hi Kim,
      Thank you. I think I am lucky to have a 99% positive attitude. But there is no doubt that that is bolstered, encouraged and even partially driven by the wonderful friendships I’ve made through the art/blog world. Thank you.

  2. I find this a topic more suited to self-help blogs than an art “Art Biz” presentation. Nonetheless, I, like every other person on the face of the earth have experienced (or will experience) the repetitive “normal fact of life” called death. It is not a horror to be “down and disturbed” by the death of a loved one. It is a normal reaction to be upset. Therefore, the happening should not be treated as if it is a disease for which we must re-calibrate our self-esteemed mandated lives in order to survive its pain. This destructive line of thinking is more in keeping with the new pharmaceutically encouraged Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders which came out in March 2013 – where sadness and grieving have suddenly become mental illnesses (to be treated with drugs, naturally).
    For those of us who are lucky to have creativity and the possibility of expressing our emotions through artwork, immediately grabbing a brush and letting go in an ‘art-therapy” manner would be more healthy than to re-mold our lives into a set of self-gazing moments mandated by an over-protective funk.
    Death is simply a part of life. It naturally is inconvenient and upsetting because it involves loss. We are saddened by a loss of the person (or animal) who or which is gone. We are saddened for ourselves – and rightly so as we have lost a part of what helped make us who we are.
    Suffice to say, I find many of these 11 points to be humanly and “artistically” degrading. They encourage the creation of “safe” harmonious” niceties which have nothing to do with the truth of artwork. They in fact deny us the possibility of angrily expressing our loss by corralling us into a (safe haven) of non-functional depression – until we are ready to be “alive again”.
    Sadness is not depression; (depression being the inability to do what we once freely and lovingly did). Sadness is not a mental disease. Despite it, most of us have to move on. Most of us are not part of the middle and upper-classes where it becomes the (advertised) norm to drop everything and get into ourselves when life happens to hurt us. Most of us get up in the morning, go to work and function despite the bad things that occur. Sadness is a normal feeling through which we must pass to eventually get to memories and remembrances and smiling again.
    As far as being painters and sculptors and being subjected to grief. We are not the type who wrap ourselves up into a ball and run away from life – no matter how much self-anointed gurus try to make us believe we are such lost souls.
    Visual artists are daring, creative, rebellious, powerful and straight-forward. We face life (and death) straight on in order that we and others can go on – in honour of those who have loved us and left.
    Thus sayeth the old curmudgeon.

    1. Bernard: Since this is my blog, I’ll respond to your first sentence and let Barbara respond to the rest if she chooses.
      You are probably new here because I talk about mindset, motivation, and inspiration a lot. And will keep doing so because I think they are important for successful businesses.
      Please just ignore the posts that you don’t think will help your art business.

    2. Wow Bernard I could have done without your comment. I had to come back and tell you that your comment was very inappropriate, insensitive and way too long, especially since you had nothing positive to say.

    3. Dear Janet, I think re-reading my too long comment will reveal several positive statements regarding people both in crisis and out. I also defined artwork creation as a positive rather than a guilt-ridden self-centered exercise as one of the 11 points implied. I am not immune to the horrible situation that death puts us in. I too have faced and continue to face death on a regular basis – not only because of my age bracket but because of life circumstances which have introduced wondrous people to me who just happen to fall ill and die prematurely. I am insensitive because I see artwork creation as a a salve for the pain encountered? My apologies for being different and preferring to see most individuals as capable of dealing with life and death events as normal happenings and not as horrible impositions making victims of us all. Do I get angry when people devise terms which make us all look weak and incapable of dealing with life? Yes.

    4. I’m sorry to hear that you’re angry, Bernard, but I found Barbara’s post generous and empowering. We all process grief differently. She’s present with her feelings, dealing by making good art and boldly sharing those experiences with us. I’m not that brave with my grief, but I do keep creating and moving forward.
      Speaking of good art, I took a look at your site and especially enjoyed your waterscapes.
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    5. Dear Marilyn,
      Thank you for visiting my site.
      But, please do not feel saddened by my anger. It helps keep me balanced. The world is filled with difficulties, horrors and difficulties. And yet there are also happy times, blessed moments and wondrous occurrences. Nothing is blandly the same all of the time. I therefore try to take full advantage of all of the Creator’s gifts of emotion, all the while trying hard to keep anger as righteous as I can (vs self-righteous).
      As F. Scott Fitzgerald once said : We should be able to hold 2 opposing thoughts in our mind – feel hopeless, yet feel positive that we can do something about that hopelessness. To this I add : as long as we don’t sit back “hoping” all will be well if we just ignore it.
      Being the son of a great woman – who survived more than anyone of us could ever fathom (and still move on), the husband of another wondrous lady who does and did the same, the father of 2 incredible daughters who’s individual strengths never cease to amaze (and that : despite. . . ) and 2 grand-daughters who have decided that the world is theirs to mould. . .
      What can I say? My anger is born of a staunch feminism which is more intense in me than than in any of the women in my life. It’s the family joke. The feminist mailings in the post box are always passed on to me – whether the envelopes have my name on them or not! 🙂
      The smiling curmudgeon

  3. Still working thru it after the loss of a good friend.But this week was the first time that I actually wanted to create again. Just a few hours but still…..
    I started by just cleaning and organizing my Studio, surprising how that got me moving in the right direction. And I was able to let my mind wander. Creativity will return,for now it is enough to prepare for that.

    1. Hi Luise,
      I am so sorry about the loss of your friend. I am glad you are preparing a way for creativity to return. I hope you will share your work with the blog artist community when you do begin again. My thoughts are with you.

  4. Barbara, thank you for the clear helpful tips to get back to the palette!
    You are so right when you say “art is the answer”. There was a period in my life when I was deeply depressed. I read at the time that you should try doing something again that once gave you pleasure. I took my pastels outside and began to draw. At first it didn’t seem to make a difference, but gradually I’d loose myself in the work and be transported to a place of calm. With time the periods of calmness lengthened and I began to experience flashes of joy. It was then that I BELIEVED that joy was attainable.
    I think your good advice could also help anyone who is stuck.
    AND your paintings are GORGEOUS! Your internal joy totally emanates from them.
    Thank you Barbara.

    1. Hi Flora,
      I love your description of the process. I started a painting before my mother died that I really loved. But after she died I could not work on it. One day I got out the paints, and maybe worked on it for 10 minutes, and felt a flicker of happiness returning. There is no question in my mind that art is almost second nature to artists, but also the heart has to be in it. And grief definitely broke my heart for a while. Thank you for your kindness. Your work certainly proves that joy is attainable.

  5. Grief is not a place, it’s a process. Working through it by doing what comes naturally to artists is healthy and healing.

    1. Hi Pat,
      I spent the day today in the hospital with my husband who had a setback after surgery. The temptation to fall down into grief can be strong in difficult times. But knowing that when we got home, and my husband was safely tucked into his own bed, I could get back to my paints, really did give me courage, and hope which is part of the process too. Thank you.

  6. Catherine Meyers

    All through my life during times of difficulty, sorrow and trouble I turned to creativity and making art. I couldn’t have gotten by otherwise, and I’m certain I’d be out of my mind completely or worse.
    I have been in the frame of mind, when I didn’t feel like doing anything because of overwhelming grief.
    At 27 years of age, my new husband of four months tragically died in 1981. I lost my mum in 1995, my father and brother 11 years ago within two months of one another. What helped and continues to help? If I can’t paint, I write everyday, as much as possible. After reading The Artist Way by Julia Cameron this made all the difference to my creative process and committed to the daily discipline and practice of writing Morning Pages. This practice gets my creative juices flowing. I can’t afford to sit around waiting for motivation. Once I get at my pages and push through the feeling of being creatively dry, before long, I’m ready to paint. Journaling changed my life.

    1. Hi Catherine,
      Your post took my breath away. I am so sorry for all of your losses. I have read Julia Cameron’s book, and like you I write morning pages every morning. I agree that does get me going. I teach writing, and Cameron’s idea of three pages a day is the foundation of the creative process in writing too. So many wonderful happenings have occurred in my life due to the journal writing process fostered by Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg who wrote Wild Mind. Thanks for sharing this. I did write every day when I couldn’t paint too and it did help a great deal. I have met so many stopped artists — people so talented that it is a great pity they can’t produce. Your suggestion would help.

    2. Thank you Barbara for your kind comments.
      I will be reading Natalie Goldberg’s book. Thanks for the suggestion!
      Death is a life changer and yes all part of life.
      Most of us don’t want to talk about it, our even face it. My experience has been through death we learn about life if we allow ourselves to do so. Dr.Clarissa Pinkola’s book, Women Who Run With The Wolves Skeleton Woman is a important story for me that conveys the importance of embracing death instead of running away or keeping death at arms length.

  7. Barbara, I’m so glad I know you. What a wonderful blog! I have been thinking of you often wondering how you are dealing with the grief you have had in the last months. I love these suggestions and know that it will help others as well. It seems that some of these suggestions could be used when people are going through any difficult time or even blocks. Thank you so much for sharing and being and inspiration. xo

    1. Hi Janet,
      Thank you so much. Your “blessings” and paintings have been an inspiration to me. I have taught a course for blocked artists called Jump Starting Your Art, but after my mother died I couldn’t handle the topic in a humorous way.
      Last year my own illness in the spring (pneumonia) coupled with the losses last fall really hacked away at my creative spirit. That’s when I thought that my post should be about how to get back into the studio.
      XO Barbara

  8. I think this is certainly an appropriate topic for artists. Thank you, Barbara and Alyson. I have gone through the difficult deaths of both parents in the last few years, and continuing with my art was helpful in many ways. Shortly after my mom died, I attended a Ted Nuttall workshop in Arizona, and it was a perfect time and place for healing. More recently, during the time my Dad was in hospice, a hospice worker recommended that I continue to attend the oil painting class I had signed up for. If it were not for her encouragement, I might have skipped out, or felt guilty leaving the hospital. The painting process in that case also felt healing. Art can be a way of supporting yourself and making you a better person for the ones you love.

    1. Hi Lynn,
      Thanks for this. I am sorry for the loss of your parents. How wonderful that the Ted Nuttall workshop, and the hospice worker’s recommendation that you keep taking your oil painting class helped. I do believe that being able to express yourself through your art benefits both you and the people in your life. I hope you keep painting! The world needs your art.

  9. I so totally understand and GET what you’re talking about. It’s exactly in tune with lessons I learned years ago. My very wise mother was terminally ill and bought each one in the family a book she’d seen talked about on a TV interview: Ann Kaiser Stearns’ Living Through Personal Crisis. Reading it was a turning point for me after she passed. I’ve bought numerous copies to give to friends facing loss. It’s been as big a help for that part of my life as I’d Rather Be In The Studio… has been for my marketing of art. (I’ve given a copy of that one away too.) And YES, the two books mesh together in this one place and I agree that this topic belongs here. Thanks.

    1. Hi Michael,
      what a wonderful and wise woman your mother must have been! I have not read the book Living Through Personal Crisis, but will look for it now. I do think that a big part of being able to make a living as an artist — the business of being an artist — is being able to produce the art. After my mother died I continued to function. I taught my classes, and bought groceries,but art required something deeper. I delight in your recommendation of the combination of these two great books. A what a great friend you are — your mother’s son.

  10. Barbara, thank you so much for sharing your grief process and your creative solutions for healing. Sometimes grief can cause paralysis and it helps to remember the power of simple choices, like returning to the list and just tempting ourselves. You are a generous spirit… again, thank you.

    1. Hi Laurel,
      I just read a good article in the February issue of Live Happy on getting going if you’re working on a big project and I hope to start on one at the end of this month. It said to put one or two things on your list that you’ve already done, and then cross those off immediately to give yourself a sense of accomplishment. I like that idea. You are so kind Laurel — I feel the generosity is all with you. Thank you.

  11. Barbara, Thank you for writing this. I’ve discovered that three year old clay is still good. That I can create again. I’ve felt everything that you have described but didn’t put it into words. We do breathe still. My eyes can still see the artist’s way. My hands have created recently. The canyon in my heart is not quite so deep. Your blog encouraged me that I’m on the right track. Thank you.

    1. Hi Jan,
      I love how you described this. “The canyon in my heart is not quite so deep.” That sums it up for me too. My mother didn’t live in town, but I talked to her every day. I am glad that your hands have created recently. And I am happy for anything I can possibly do to help. Thank you too.

  12. It will be three years March 2 that I found my husband cold and blue on our dining room floor, dead of a heart attack at 53. I had two concurrent solo shows to finish within three months: they got done, and were well reviewed, although I’m not exactly sure how.
    Since then, I’ve done a few small pieces, been on a residency, and have only just started to pick up my career as an artist seriously again. I started a number of projects in the interim, but none of them seemed right until just before Christmas. I’m not back full-tilt yet, but the piece I finished last weekend I got to see installed last night, and I was mightily chuffed. Folks are asking me when the next projects are coming, and I feel like I can actually write applications and grants again.
    It’s a good list, Barbara, but for me, the most important item is the first one: I wasn’t sure I could ever come back and do anything again.

    1. Dear L M,
      All my sympathies for your loss. But I can’t help but think that your husband is proud of the determination and strength you displayed in completing those 2 shows.

    2. Hi L.M.,
      I cannot imagine how hard it must have been getting those shows done. The first item on my list I credit to Alyson. That’s what she said to me when one hard event after another got in the way of my posting. Being kind to yourself is as important as pushing yourself in my opinion. And both have their place. I attended an opening the week my mother was dying, but have no memory of that event. I am glad you are starting to feel “chuffed” again about your work. That is such a great feeling. I so know what you mean about not being sure you could ever come back and do anything again. Thanks for this.

  13. I stopped painting when my son was in Iraq, or more specifically, when I realized he’d be going back again and again. I quit my galleries, packed up the paints and moved my elderly mother into the studio. I continued my daily job as an art teacher but could not find it in myself to paint anymore. I was too consumed with worry and then later on with caregiving. My mother lived in the studio for 7 years. I took care of her all the way until the end and when she died at the age of 96, I was empty.
    Grief will do that to a person.
    My husband and I discussed renting out the studio, we could use the income. But I knew if we did I would never get back into painting. Yet at the same time I had no desire to ever make art again. Quite the quandary. We decided to give it a few months and see what happened.
    Art’s what happened. OMG, A.R.T, kick-started by an online class with Judy Wise. I found myself in the studio everyday making marks in a style totally different than anything I’d ever done before. Forgetting every ‘rule’ I ever knew. I made marks, primal marks from someplace deep inside. I explored new mediums and techniques.
    And I started waking up happy.
    Before long I taught myself wordpress, started blogging and building websites. Showing my work online and offline. Most of all, growing as an artist.
    I don’t find anything ‘degrading’ about your list, Barbara. I think I’ve ticked most of those boxes at one time or another. Three years after my mother’s death I’m not the same person I was, not at all. I’m better than I’ve ever been. But I had to allow the grief and process it before I could come out on the other side.

    1. Hi Susan,
      Empty is a good description of how I felt when my mother died. The world seemed trivial for the first month. I remember that when my father died too.
      I love your line, “Art’s what happened. OMG” I know what you mean about not being the same person, and I’m so heartened to hear that you feel you are better than you’ve ever been. My mother was a strong, incredibly brave person, I can feel her energy lifting me to new levels of bravery, and I am so encouraged by everything you say.

  14. Barbara, I’ve just read your post on Art Biz Blog, not once but several times. Eloquent and beautifully written, these are profound insights for every day living as well as doing art!
    Grief forces us, reminds us to separate the genuine from the banal – encourages us to think about how best to use our time.
    I’ve always known you as one to reach out – through your etraordinary art, through humour, through friendship.
    As long as I’ve known you, you’ve been a gracious, loyal, supportive friend with an incredible sense of humor, wicked at times for seeing the light side of things.
    So yes, certainly in times of grief these eleven suggestions are eminently practical steps for reconnecting, healing and thriving by ‘going back into the studio’ – a phrase, I believe, coined by your host, Alyson Stanfield.
    Your positive voice is always a tonic to me – thank you!

    1. Hi Marcia,
      Thank you. It is true that loss teaches us to use our time. I’m glad you feel these ideas are helpful.
      Your positive voice, and powerful and elegant art are always a tonic to me.

  15. Hello, Barbara. I am sorry for your losses. But leave it to you to distill your experience into positive and helpful thoughts for others. I read your post with determination to keep going overcoming my own grief and getting back to painting. Thank you.

    1. Hi Laura,
      Thank you. I was so glad to see you back painting. I think we sometimes
      forget how powerful an effect our art can have on the people who love it.
      I am one of the people who loves your art. And I am encouraged and
      inspired by your discussions of the paintings you are working on.
      Thank you.

  16. I found Barbara’s list thought provoking, but not as much as the comments. I love reading the differences of opinion and reaction included in response! To be artists who make some sort of living at being artists, it does seem that we need to consider ways of moving forward when we might not want to. Grief can get in the way, as can concern about the job that is not art but is currently paying the bills or energy sucked by my differently-abled, high-maintenance daughter… Thank you all for contributing of your thoughts, strategies, and life perspectives!

    1. Dear Anne,
      Thank you for offering your balanced perspective. It is always enlightening to hear from someone who daily deals with difficulties, yet forges forward despite.

  17. Hi Barbara and Alyson,
    I also think the 11 things was very appropriate and helpful for any artist finding themselves in a quagmire of grief. My two favourite’s are ‘Lose the Guilt’ and ‘Recognize that you’ve changed’ – so that you dont have to make the same kind of art as you did before. That is such a permission slip…I love it! woohoo! Great article, and Beautiful work illustrating it!

  18. Hi Ann.
    Thank you. I’m glad you are enjoying the comments. Yes moving forward and managing and enjoying the challenges of family life, and the extra work we need to do to be able to keep making art all matter. And grief can get in the way of moving forward. After seeing many of my friends stop making art altogether I realized that this was an important subject.
    I wish you the best with all you do.

  19. Hi Sally,
    Thank you. Woo Hoo to you. Yes if we can really lose the guilt that helps– guilt for not making art, guilt for not being as strong as you think you should be, guilt for not saving the person you lost, when there is no way you could have saved them. I have heard this guilt expressed by so many people. After my mother died I knew I would never be the same. I am still learning what that means. Part of it is continuing her legacy of being a strong woman, and part of it is still unknown. I’m glad you like my work, you are a major supporter. I can’t tell you how much that means to me.

    1. Dear Barbara,
      You’re a gracious lady and you are most welcome.
      As is “evidently evident” I am not shy about presenting a perspective which at times can be jarring. And though it may not appear at first glance that I am amenable to rebuttals, I am definitely open to discussing the viewpoints I hold.
      Thank you for taking the time to visit my work. I am a very lucky man. I’ve painted and sketched more wondrous people (of all ages) than anyone has a right to encounter in one lifetime. My subjects are the ones who keep me mellow. . . . (really!) 🙂

  20. Dear Barbara,
    Your positive energy and desire to share your difficult experiences in order to help others is more than admirable. I am not sure I have actually come across anyone more joyful and encouraging than you, and there is nothing suggested here that comes across as destructive to me. If I’ve got you pegged right, and I think I do, that would go against your very nature. It comes across loud and clear to me that you want people to cut themselves some slack, do what they need to do to manage their grief, but stay creatively engaged in some way because that can provide comfort and salvation. You offer your list, not as a prescription to an illness, but simply and directly as a truly caring and kind-hearted person who has had a heck of a year, wanting to offer hope and ideas to others in a similar boat. Well done!
    Visual artists are people, not super heroes. And we all need help sometimes.

  21. Hi Nicki,
    Thank you so much. Of course you’re right that is what I’m trying to do — help artists to keep on making art, or get back to doing it if they’ve stopped. And Nicki, some artists are super heroes. You are one of mine.

  22. Hi Barbara,
    Thank you for this blog posting. I loved the Neil Gaiman clip, and it came at a fortuitous time in my own artistic journey. It is funny how sometimes the perfect salve lands in your lap right when you need it. I’m not one who is comfortable waxing poetic about fate or assigning divine cause to what is likely coincidence, but I am certainly grateful when happy accidents occur – and I have you to thank for it!

  23. Hi Auralee,
    Thank you. Glad you liked it and the Neil Gaiman clip. I love that too. I am also entirely grateful when happy accidents occur, and delighted that this post could be a salve to you. Your comment has made me feel a lot lighter in this part of the world.

  24. Barbara, you never cease to amaze. Thank you for your insightful and generous post. For years your blog has been my inspiration porthole, through which I learned of Alyson’s fab Art Biz Blog, TED talks, Neil Gaiman, etc.
    I am so grateful, thank you.

  25. Hi Marilyn,
    Thank you so much. You must know that your work has inspired me for years. I am glad I’ve shared information with you that you enjoy!
    I couldn’t me more grateful to you for your wonderful art.

  26. I feel that the person who died was me following a sar accident which left me suffering from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). I was not hurt physically but the artist in me was all but wiped out. It happened nearly 20 years ago but although my abilities are still there I rarely paint or produce art works despite having the nack of painting portraits that look alive (more alive than I feel). Painting or even drawing fills me with dread. Please any help or suggestions will be much appreciated.

    1. Hi Eva,
      I am so sorry. I don’t know what to tell you. The only thing I can think of is trying painting with a trusted friend who understands what you’ve been through. And I would start with drawing in a sketchbook and writing about your emotions about drawing and painting too. The other possibility would be to make a time once a week, or once a month to draw or paint for an hour.
      I think starting to do art makes many artists filled with dread that the work won’t turn out, or that it’s not possible to do it. But practice — just doing a bit, and then a bit more can overcome that feeling. My warmest wishes are with you, and if you do draw and paint again and start to feel better about it, please let us know how it’s going.

  27. I was doing an BA in fine art when I lost my son. Unless you have lost a child nobody can imagine how utterly devastating it is and completely life and character changing. I was unable to function in any way for quite some time, however I had to make a decision on whether to stop, shelve or carry on with my BA.
    My son shared my love of art and was my most constructive and unbiased critique as well as my rock. I knew that if I was to survive and live the life I had been dealt I would have to keep busy. What better way to do that, than to continue my studies and become the best artist I can be.
    Without my art and keeping busy in the studio and my blog I would be a complete wreck unable to function. I set myself goals and series to achieve and to move me on, and am thankful that I have art to motivate and challenge me
    Incidentally Bernard my son was a Bernard however he would have been there quietly encouraging me to keep going and his loving spirit sustains me still
    Thank you Barbara for this – best ashar

  28. Dear Alyson,

    Thank you so much for publishing this again. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    We’re going to have Chardonnay and Oreo cookies in honour of your father. Hugs from Toronto.

    Thank you again,


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Your Artist Mailing List: Rethinking + Assessing

Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

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You’ll also receive my regular news for your art business.

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You're invited ...


  • More than 7 strategies for growing your list lists, and why 1 shines above all.
  • How to redirect your energy for better results.
  • How a gratitude practice can help you shift your mindset.

I’ll also give you a peek behind the scenes at our classes and community.

Available through May 30 only.