my creative cortex

getting through life with creativity

Art gave me confidence

I often say that art saved my life. I don't mean it so much in a literal sense but more in terms of that I don't know where I'd be without it in my life.

For one, art gave me something to focus on when other things couldn't.

I grew up in a small village in Iceland, where options for after school activities were limited. My tiny town was a pretty big centre for sports – we had a big leisure centre with an outdoor pool, a gym and a sports hall, as well as an outdoor race track and football pitch.

The Icelandic university for Physical Education was located there, so many of my schoolmates had parents who either taught or studied there. On top of PE and swimming lessons in school, there was always a selection of after school sports lessons, like gymnastics, basketball, athletics - and more swimming.

Sports were never my thing. I was born quite ill and had physiotherapy for many years. I even got extra support lessons by my gym teacher at school – you know, like getting extra math lessons, but for sports. I was also often home sick and couldn't attend PE classes.

So, it's fair to say that a person with my body strength and speed couldn't have ended up in a less suitable place. I did try to participate in some of the after school activities throughout my time in school, but overall I would go home alone while my friends headed to their lessons. For any kid – or anyone of any age, really – this can be really hard. It can make you feel left out. It's like you're unable to do the one thing everyone else wants to do.

This is where art came in for me. From a very young age I showed great interest in making art. I would sit for hours drawing and painting. My parents noticed this and encouraged it.

Every birthday and Christmas I got art supplies. They would talk about how I was going to be an artist. They proudly hung my drawings and paintings around the house. Early on, creativity became my thing. Soon enough, I started to be seen as “the creative one”.

It was still hard to not be as good as everyone else at sports. I was lucky that my classmates for the most part accepted me as I was and I never experienced much bullying. But I knew I was struggling and that caused anxiety around anything sports related throughout school.

However, instead of dwelling on it and letting it shape my identity too much, I looked to art for support. At the end of the day I could think to myself, “well, I might not be good at sports, but I can make decent drawings which most of my friends can't do”.

But what truly saved me was that we had an artist in the village, an older lady who had been a professional artist and art teacher for many years. And my parents were able to make an arrangement with her to take me in two days a week after school and let me share her studio for a couple of hours. We would simply sit together, paint and talk. And we continued to do this for about 7 years (or maybe even longer?).

Not only was this a great outlet for me to practice and learn new methods, this was also a fantastic way to make me feel less alone. While my friends went off to their sports activities, I too was able to go somewhere after school instead of straight home. I went to my art lesson. Admittedly, I was going alone and not with friends, but at least I was going somewhere that to me was fun and interesting, and that I could tell people about if they asked what I was doing after school.

As I've briefly touched on, the second thing art was good for during my school years was to give me a value and shape my identity. This doesn't just apply to art, but for me it was art.

I was different, both because I didn't do sports and also because I had an unusual voice and for a while I was quite overweight. But instead of being pushed to do what everyone else did, I was allowed to focus on my own strengths and things that brought me joy. I think this is vital because I developed outside-of-the-box thinking in many ways. Creativity became a part of almost everything I did, from my hobbies to the way I dressed to my aspirations and goals. Art taught me a lot about myself (self-discovery through art) and it taught me to celebrate my individuality from a young age. I wasn't afraid to be myself.

Do you have a strength or interest that has helped you in your day to day life? This can be anything that you consider a part of who you are, regardless of how big or small it is, how unique or common and whether you're skilled at it or not...just something that you do often and makes you feel better in your everyday life and you could not imagine living life without.


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