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  • Kristi Burke

Make Art That Fuels Your Soul


I love a good hustle. I always have. I've been a creative spirit with an entrepreneur heart since I was a little girl. I used to cherish my multitude of craft kits and art supplies. I was latch hooking in long car rides, crocheting with my grandma after school, painting stained glass landscapes, and building cardboard castles for my cats. I would run outside whenever I heard my father chopping and sawing away at wooden planks, because I knew it meant I could play with the scraps. I would connect pieces of wood with a hammer and nails, pretending I was building elaborate sculptures - marvelous, wooden works of art that almost always inevitably ended up resembling a cross, since I really didn't know how to build anything at all. I just wanted to be doing something with my hands. And I always had big dreams of turning my arts and crafts into flourishing, profitable businesses.


In elementary school, I developed an interest in making Bead Pets. There was this kit that came equipped with multi-colored beads, string, key chain attachments and a guide to making a variety of different animals such as ducks, giraffes and dragonflies. I was addicted to making them and would work on them every day in my mom's office after school, as soon as I completed my homework. Eventually I realized that if I wanted to keep making them, I would have to find a way to buy more kits.

So I formulated a plan; I would sell the bead pets to raise money for future kits. I started my sales pitch with my mom's co workers and boss. I would gather all of my animals in a clear box and take them to each office - with singles for change in my pocket - and pitch my collection to them. If they wanted multiple pets, I would give them a discount. I would take commissions if someone requested a pet I didn't have, and then immediately get to work on my order.


This became a pattern that followed me throughout my teenage years. At sixteen I was making jewelry, and peddling it confidently to little local shops along my quaint, hometown Main Street. Around the same time I developed an unquenchable passion for photography. But I couldn't be satisfied with simply being free with my camera, because I turned my hobby into a business and by 18 was shooting paid portraits and weddings. I've always had an insatiable appetite for expressing my creativity, but was never satisfied keeping it monetarily insufficient.

A photo from my very first art walk.

When I first started painting as a method of therapy, I never expected it would take me on the journey it so graciously has. I was feeling lost, and my days were heavy and grey. I was going through some troubling times and I needed a way to bring color back into my life. Painting helped me do that. But the entrepreneur inside me wouldn't let it stay a mindless hobby for long. The weighing costs of canvases, brushes and paint were stacking up and I thought, perhaps I could just make a little money back if I tried selling some of my more popular pieces, and then I could further fund my hobby.

The first painting that healed me

Skip a few years down the road - a story I'll save for another time - and here I am working full-time as an artist. I don't fully understand how it happened. Looking back, it almost seems like one big accident preceding a series of lucky chances and events. Often I don't feel that I truly deserve all of the opportunities I've been given, simply based on what I think is a flawed effort to opportunity ratio. But here I am. And I wouldn't change it for anything.




I love getting paid to live my passion. The feeling of knowing that I am my own boss truly quenches my thirst for entrepreneurship. Genuinely Happy is what this unexpected career path has made me. With that being said; I get burnt out. It really is a catch-22 due to the fact that I'm literally living my dream as a paid artist, but that also leaves very little time or creative energy to create for myself. I turned my therapy into a business, which really isn't therapy at all. I substituted the pure joy and relaxation painting brought me with a busy - and sometimes stressful - full-time business. I'm often being told what to paint. Where to paint it. What colors to use. What theme to abide by. It is rare (although it does happen) that I can create genuinely from my heart. Because my soul needs it. Because I have something I need to get out. I'm usually in between major projects and have little or no time to heal myself with colors on a canvas or a wall.


This is dangerous. Because it steals opportunities for me to repair myself through art. Art exists to heal, to nourish, to express and to uplift. We create because we need to. We create because there is something inside we're compelled to convey. We create because we either need to escape reality or express it. And when that innermost need gets suffocated with the responsibilities of business, it can dwindle out, and even die. I don't want my creativity to die.



So I'm making it a mission to create for myself more often. Yes, I still have to run a business. And yes, I still have to create from the curation of other minds. But I want to take more time to find out what my heart is capable of constructing. I want to walk in the park with a sketch pad and a couple of colored pencils. I want to read a book, and get inspired to paint it's world on canvas. I want to imagine magical vacations and draw them in intricate detail on my Ipad. I want to sketch something beautiful that nobody will ever see. I'm making it my goal to set aside more time to create from the heart. So much of who I am is wrapped up in what I create. And I don't want to leave this earth one day knowing I didn't adequately express it. I hope to leave behind a thousand little pieces of myself that survive for years and year after I'm gone. I hope one day future generations will see my art and feel my soul, and it will live on through the works I create, speaking to the hearts of people who will never know me.


This is a piece I painted recently with no real planning, purpose or curation. I picked up a canvas and began to create. It was inspired by an Inktober Sketch I drew earlier in the month. I didn't care how it turned out. I didn't care if it I could sell it. I haven't titled it. I don't even care what happens to it. It just felt so good to create something with no outside interference. I realized it'd been at least 6 months since I'd done that. I won't let it go that long again. This unplanned, imperfect painting cured a longing in my soul that had been accumulating for a very long time.


Some Inktober Sketches from October. This exercise sparked within me so much creativity and imagination.


Note To Self : Do more of what fuels your soul. Make stuff with your hands simply because you love it. Exercise your passions without monetary reward. Go after your dreams. Ignite the fire within you. Do what makes your heart happy and everything else will gently fall into place. This life is so short. Don't waste it merely creating from the minds of others. You have power inside you. Within you. Harness it. Express it. Make it come to life. Don't let the world shade your expression. Allow it to shine, and it's light will illuminate your path. It will make for you a brighter future ahead. When you allow your heart to create, your head will follow suit. And when it comes time to make the visions of others come to life, your soul will be ready for it. It is then the artist and entrepreneur inside of you will coexist in peace.


Love yourself, Create for yourself, and believe in yourself.



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