Sometimes, I consider it a blessing that I have no formal art training. Not being savvy with technical art terms is an advantage when my lines aren’t perfectly shaped or my colors aren’t seamlessly blended. My oblivion and unashamed passion help to silence my inner critic. Whatever I paint, I create from the heart. I try to focus on the physical sensations of feeling my brush glide across the canvas, drenched in a juicy glob of heavy-bodied paint. I feel the bristles press against the stretched linen; I see each fiber drag across a mound of cherry-apple red. As I guide my brush up and down my canvas, the repetitive gestures become meditative. I stop thinking as I press down on my brush harder. The canvas then becomes an open channel to my soul, a clear-as-day lens into what can be sensed, but not seen. And now—here it is: in iridescent hues, glistening in silky splotches of wet paint.
For me, art is healing. In the process of creating, I find myself and learn lessons along the way. Through creativity, I discovered my voice. I picked up a paintbrush for the first time when I was stuck in the hospital for months after a disastrous surgery. My mother brought fabric, glue, paints, and markers to my small hospital cubicle, and I made art for the first time. Suddenly, I found a way to express emotions that were too painful, complicated, and overwhelming for words. I used everything— even toilet paper from the hospital bathroom. I painted my trees that I missed; I created my inside and outside worlds, full of their joy and pain, tears and hearts, lightning bolts and flowers.
Each morning before the doctors came in for rounds, I’d paint feverishly whatever abstraction came to mind and what evolved from my situation. When I completed my pieces, I felt like I had not only gotten out my frustrations and worry, but also found a place of joy and gratitude. I would put each canvas outside my hospital room, and soon the unit began to catch on, even taking patients by my room to see what I had created that day. I was sustaining my aliveness and inspiring others, which filled me with unanticipated meaning and satisfaction.
Finding my heart in every canvas was a happy discovery, the sweet reward every time the paint dried and it was ready to display.
Ironically, the darker the circumstances became, the more joyous my paintings seem today. Every tree seems to be singing and dancing, although the teardrops and lightning bolts are always streaked across the bold backgrounds. Even though an onset of sadness would prompt me to paint the act of painting became joyful—and by the time I finished a painting, I was exhausted and oddly happy. By painting, I could see what I was feeling. And to know I could feel at a time when every surgery made me feel more and more like a robot, well, that just made me very happy. Finding my heart in every canvas was a happy discovery, the sweet reward every time the paint dried and it was ready to display.
I found my way to painting accidentally on the road to healing. But I had no idea that art would continue to heal the part of me that the doctors couldn’t. When identifying as a “patient” for so many years made me lose a sense of who I was, the paint picked up where I had left off and created vivid worlds that I didn’t even know I had within me.
Amy Oestreicher is a 28-year-old actress, musician, teacher, composer, dancer, writer, artist, yogi, foodie, and general lover of life. Surviving and thriving through a coma, 27 surgeries, and other trauma has inspired Amy to share her story with the world through her passionate desire to create and help others. Piecing her life together after her initial dreams of performing musical theatre took on a beautiful detour into broader horizons. Amy has written, directed and starred in a one-woman musical about her life, Gutless & Grateful; has flourished as a mixed media and acrylic artist, with her art in multiple galleries and mounting dozens of solo art shows; and continues to share her story through her art, music, theatre, and writings. More information on her unique story, as well as her creative ventures can be found at amyoes.com, and visit her blog http://www.allspiceandacrylics.blogspot.com/ for her newest art, music and inspirational musings.
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