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The Artistic Anchor: How the Creative Process Supports Life Transitions

This is a little story about life transitions and staying grounded through art.


I'm currently curled up in my makeshift office space in the sleepy coastal town of Morro Bay, California. Surrounded by stacks of cardboard boxes yet to be unpacked, I've set up my temporary desk with a plastic folding table that I picked up from Costco. It wiggles a little as I type and I just pray it doesn't collapse on me (again), sending a bowl of water cascading across my delicate watercolor paintings. It's not my ideal set up, but I'm making the most of things.


But let me back things up a little bit and explain how we got here.


 

For the last five years, I lived on the island of Oahu, having initially moved with the military to be stationed at Schofield Barracks. As an engineer officer, I managed construction teams and a couple of humanitarian deployments in the Pacific islands region. While being away from home was often lonely and work was stressful, I found comfort in the dramatic landscapes and underwater scenes of the region. On each assignment, I always packed my watercolors with me and spent my evenings painting, sometimes with a glass of wine if I was lucky. Art was both a way to decompress from the hyper-masculine military environment and a way to document my travels.



I suppose I didn't try to hide my "free spirit" at work anyways


Upon returning home after a seven month period away, I was lucky to meet my now husband Julian right before the great lockdown of 2020. As the bustling tourist town of Haleiwa became reminiscent of a ghost town, we found solace in each other's company and bonded over our love of red wine, surfing, and attempts at making homemade pasta. It was during this time that I also decided to finish up my active duty contract with the Army and go back to school for my Master's degree.


While I knew that leaving the military was the right decision for me, it was emotionally challenging to leave a place of financial security and a predictable career path. Suddenly I had a lot more autonomy (and could paint my nails bright colors... woo!), but I also felt like my sense of purpose and self worth was shaken without the structure in my life. I could write about this topic at length, but will save that reflection for another day.


What I did find through this career transition was an opportunity to devote more time to my art practice and the creative process. Between semesters, I entered into the Haleiwa Arts Festival, my first official art show in Hawaii. In hindsight, perhaps I should have done a couple smaller markets before jumping to the big leagues... but sometimes a leap of faith is the perfect opportunity for growth. I worked on new original paintings, created my first collection of fine art prints, and convinced my husband to be my charming salesman. During set up I broke down in tears, largely due to imposter syndrome and worry that nothing would sell. This would not be the only time that Julian gave me a pep talk and told me that I was worthy of being in the line up of artists that I had looked up to for years.



All smiles once everything was set up, of course!


Little did I know, that weekend at the Haleiwa Arts Festival ultimately gave me a sense of confidence that I had been missing since leaving the military. I am guilty of being a "list person" and without mapped out goals, I had been feeling lost. However, by ushering in this period of creative growth, I focused on my art business and was instilled with a sense of purpose and newfound inspiration.


Though I'm thankful for the support of friends and family through the years, it was so encouraging that complete strangers were buying my artwork to be displayed in their homes. I loved seeing faces light up with smiles as they recognized the locations from each painting and recalled their own memories. I also had the opportunity to meet some of my favorite local artists such as Steven Kean of Kean Arts and Seth Greene of Trvlandsea and learn about their careers and business insights.


These community connections challenged me to believe in my abilities and find new growth. From humble beginnings of doodling Pinterest quotes in coffeeshops, I have graduated from my hobbyist to artist and now enjoy painting landscapes for private clients and businesses. My medium of choice still remains watercolors, but I have since upgraded to Winsor & Newton professional paints in every color I could ever desire and large rolls of Arches cold pressed paper that feels like a work of art in itself. Seriously, the paper texture and deckled edges are heavenly!




"Deep in the Valley" by Kirsten Larimer


All this is to say, while life has sometimes felt unhinged amidst career changes, moves, and new relationships, I have always found a sense of grounding through art. Perhaps it is the practice of slowing down and honing in on the light, color, and textures of a photo. The chatter in my mind dissipates and worries drift away with the stroke of a paintbrush. Or maybe it is the nostalgia for special landscapes, remembering the crisp morning air on hike with a friend and the smell of mud caked on our shoes.


 

Now, back to my current reality (typing away on my folding table).


Last month my husband and I made the voyage across the Pacific to move from Hawaii to California, or at least, our household items made the voyage and we were fortunate enough to fly with our two Frenchies. A modern transportation miracle, to be honest! After five years of living on Oahu, it was time to start our next chapter as Julian transitioned from the military to begin his new career path. Knowing I'd be living out of a suitcase for a little bit, I made sure to pack my paints, just in case.


In true fashion, life transitions never quite go as planned. While we thought that we would be spending the next couple of years on the Central Coast, circumstances shifted and we are moving again after only a month or so in Morro Bay. Although I yearn for some stability in my life again (and look forward to making new friends and finding a yoga studio), I know that this discomfort is temporary.


As I drift between homes, caught in feelings of isolation and uncertainty, I once again lean upon the creative process to make me feel whole. Whether it is through exploring a new trail with my camera, painting, or writing, I hope to integrate creativity as a healing and grounding practice. Perhaps you may find these creative musings relatable, or you are inspired to pick up a pencil or paintbrush in times of stress. I truly think that art is a valuable outlet for us that can both inspire and soothe the soul when life is in motion.


With love,


Kirsten




"Changing Tides" by Kirsten Larimer



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3 Comments


Guest
Jun 16, 2023

Aloha!

Love your writing as much as your painting and hope your new destination is as beautiful as the last. Can't wait to see you again soon, I hope.

Big Aloha,

Melanie

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I adore this reflection and am comforted to hear the solace that practicing your art provides you.

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Guest
Jun 15, 2023

beautifully put Kirsten! I can't wait to see the amazing art you continue to create ❤️

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