This is a very long story...just a heads up :)
Everywhere I stepped foot, I was recognized as the girl who could draw stunning portraits. From school to college to multiple jobs I’ve had, I have successfully earned the title of a portrait artist. I wasn’t famous like the big guys but I was well known in my networks. I was known for art among my friends’ network, extended family, professors, my dad’s business network, and sometimes I appeared in the good ole newspaper with my drawings. I loved all of it. It was just the balance - the little bit of encouragement, social life and then the craft itself challenged me so I really enjoyed it. I was a straight A student; because my focus was really good, I didn't have to study too hard and that would leave me lots of free time to practice drawing more. I started selling custom portraits commercially through my dad’s professional network when I was in 9th grade (I was about 14 years old). I loved the little bit of extra spending capacity which I would use to buy more art supplies. Since then I have had a desire to be a “real” artist one day who had a small cozy art studio. I could see myself drawing morning to night and then come back home fulfilled. Afterall, I started earning from art very soon so I knew my dream had to come true one day and it did….
(Harshpreet Kaur at 14 years old (above image))
Art has been the one consistent part of my life; it was always present in all highs and lows in my life. I have to be honest though - internally I was sometimes embarrassed of my love for art. I had this one stinging thought always echoing in my head “I have really good grades. I am quite intelligent and can take up any profession. I can do so much better than art.” It’s almost like art was not good enough to be a career. I started hearing this around my friends, family and other social circles more often as I graduated high school. So I squashed my desire to follow my heart and…… did every miserable thing/job/study I didn't enjoy and also somehow convinced myself that this is best for my future. Maybe later on I did kind of start liking some of it?!?!
To shorten this long story a bit, I applied for an art college and got rejected, so I took as a sign from the universe and applied for studying in 3d animation then dropped out within 6 months, applied for 2d animation year after and dropped out within 8 months, and then finally applied for a web and graphic design diploma a year after. I did complete the last one and got my diploma (somehow). I got myself a web developer job and… quit after a year and a half; I then got myself a graphic design job and….you guessed it I quit this one too…I fought with myself for keeping this one but it didn’t work.
(Art Battle 2020 (Harshpreet Kaur with Winning Piece in First Round Prince George, BC, Canada))
Try and make a guess on what I am doing now?? Sigh.. I am a full time artist now. I basically spent most of my early twenties fighting with myself and dismissing my strongest desire to become an artist. The desire did win! So yayy for that…I guess… I could’ve made it easier on me by just accepting that some people like me simply just know what they are meant to do right from their childhood. I DID NOT HAVE to go find a passion that makes me forget I live in a world full of chaos. I had to go explore it all just to be sure that art is my past, present, and future (I hope). It took a few years of suffering that made me realize what I was best at, what everyone loved from me, what I loved myself, and what gave me the life balance I needed.
I had tried everything my own brain, society, peers and random strangers told me to do…. This was the last resort. Now is the time I tell you a brutally honest story about what finally gave me the courage to follow my heart and embrace art.
Let me start with why I loved drawing portraits to begin with. It’s because I loved showing expressions in people, I found small subtle emotions in people very fascinating. I was drawn to portraits because they felt familiar and I also kind of felt they were predictable. I found drawing portraits comfortable but the details in them gave me the drawing challenge I needed to enjoy it. I would look for a unique expression in the portrait reference(s) that was provided by my art buyers and I aimed to get that feeling on paper the best way possible; that process just felt otherworldly to me. I was also certainly very drawn to portraits of women in youth because I could myself relate to them. A lot of my practice pieces from my teenage years are portraits of women.
Here I was in my early twenties, distracted entirely from my path and wondering why I stopped enjoying drawing the way I used to. I knew my skill was refining at the speed of light everyday - even though I was doing other things in my life now, I still would practice everyday because I knew the skill I had was a gift given to me and I wanted to always honor it. Did I not find the challenge in it anymore? Or did I find it repetitive? I still love people and expressions. Is this normal for artists?
I was working on a lot of portrait drawing commissions but there was something missing in my life now.
After drawing portraits for over 12 years and switching careers, jobs, and countries, I hit the dreaded mid-life crisis at the age of 24. Is this real? It’s hard to pinpoint when it started but I enjoyed ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. The things I loved before - sleeping, social media, meeting friends, working out at the gym, drawing, cooking, and finding inspiration from other artists. Now everything was of no interest to me. I quit social media for a long while (till date I only use it on my laptop), I quit my gym, couldn’t sleep well, didn’t feel like drawing, or cooking or baking, or even listening to my favorite music. Only thing I wanted was to find peace and solitude. I felt I was experiencing a burnout... At the time, I couldn't even hear someone motivating me. I found myself pretty much always in my room staring at my unfinished artwork pieces (except my commissions of course). Everything had changed.
(Harshpreet at Art Battle 2022 in Vancouver, BC, Canada)
My mind kept trying to light a fire of passion again so I could maybe try and do something to fix this; it was trying to absorb some motivation here and there; at the same time trying to answer tough questions like how do I deal with a failure like this. Nothing seemed to work since my BODY just gave up on this version of me. My life became a bitter soup - it was a blend of some really unethical people I was with, bad physical health, terrible mental health, Covid rules (ofcourse), a horrible workplace environment, and just what not. I fought, and fought, got really tired again but repeated the same cycle.
There was one thing I looked forward to. In the midst of this craziness, I started making frequent trips to the parks and gardens nearby. The walk to the park and the time I spent sitting on a park bench allowed me to be quiet in my head and outside. After about 3 years of this chaos, one day I was sitting waiting for my bus ride and I saw the art gallery across the street. I always stared at the entrance everytime I waited for the bus there. That one day looking at the gallery door something in me changed; and the next day I quit my job. I didn't have another job ready for me or any kind of backup to help me survive, I just quit because this misery had to stop - this was the only one I could myself put an end to - this job that didn't fulfill my desires had to end so I can make space for something better. BUT…it didn’t feel great.
I felt truly sad. I decided to move cities and start afresh thinking that’s what I needed. Well it didn’t unfold that way. A few months later, I was still at a standstill. My life was now a movie running in slow motion, I frequently overslept and lost a lot of my appetite. In between this, I still somewhat enjoyed walks to the nearby gardens. I would find beautiful flowers, meet some squirrels, ducks, birds, butterflies, and…it felt better. I started sometimes taking pictures and kind of started enjoying it. Listening to water streams, seagulls, and birds chirping was like music to my ears. One day I saw this lavender bush. I had read a lot about Lavenders in historical stories - how they were used quite often in medicine to relieve pain and speed healing. So I came home that day and decided I wanted to paint them. I hadn’t done much painting throughout my life but I told myself this one's for me. No judgment on how skillful I am in painting, just paint and see how far I can take it. Well it took 4 months - on and off. There was just one thing - now that I painted flowers, I realized that I really really enjoyed painting. Why didn’t I ever try this before? This felt so effortless; it was so natural to me. I started painting another one and I honestly felt like I was floating. I felt so drawn to painting and botanicals. It felt as if something beautiful was unraveling. This also helped me realize something very deep….
Throughout this mid-life crisis, I did a few things that allowed me to explore what was truly (I’m afraid to say) the PROBLEM. Before I discovered I liked painting flowers and nature, there was a major force - a big puzzle piece that was missing. In all my actions, whether it was drawing or working at my job, or studying at the college, I realized that I may have somewhat loved the action I did but I never truly found a way to love myself and what I ACTUALLY desired doing. I loved others and every other thing but not me. So I would always find a way to not spend time with myself (cheezy…I know…but true). This burnout period was a blessing in disguise; it forced me to spend time with myself, my thoughts, emotions, and desires. But that’s not the only way I found my road to recovery; there were some other powerful forces that helped me move forward.
(Harshpreet Kaur at Butterfly Gardens, Victoria, BC, Canada)
Time with nature was one of the biggest ones - I cannot hold back appreciation for the time I spent at gardens, parks, near water, and time I spent observing wildlife. Before this life changing circumstance, I did spend time in nature but never felt the same way I do now. Other habits I also developed during this time were reading historical stories of peaceful leaders and saints. I was so impressed with these stories that I sometimes would ponder over them for hours which really helped motivate me to start rising again. All these habits together helped me recover from this experience. There was still another side of me that needed some exploration.
Repairing my relationship with myself as a woman and a human being - Nature again played a big role and probably the one that was again missing. I realized I was so tangled in the web of societal pressures and expectations that I forgot my first duty to this universe is being a human to myself and all other living beings; my second one is being a woman. I do not have to opt in to any other duties that this life forces on me unless I want to. My humane duties were assigned to me by nature itself along with what I needed to fulfill these responsibilities. Then why should I worry and live in stress? It is all already in me; nature gave these powerful abilities to all living beings. I don’t have to try to find them; these powers are already there. These powers communicate with me, and I just have to listen to them. When I started tuning in and really listening to them, I found all the answers I needed - just the appropriate explanations, not too much, not too less. Just enough. I also found another thing that I always unintentionally was looking for….
I found peace in solitude and in the company of others. Call it a deep cleansing of mind, brain, body whatever term you want to use. I felt clean, and weightless.
Art is my hobby and my therapy. I paint for peace but more than that, I use my art to share my gratitude and love for nature for helping me get through a time so rough that I thought this must be the end of the good in my life. I appreciate everything that this life has to offer and since my time on earth is so limited, I must live true to myself, that’s the only way I can be true to nature. Just how other animals and birds live the way they do, I can live like a human being. Nature gave me the courage, the power, and the nourishment to walk a road that has been walked by many but left unfinished. If you’re reading this and realizing you are maybe facing something similar to what I faced, I’m here to tell you it’s your time to realize what nature brought you here to do first as a human being - that is the only identity of yours that cannot be altered or changed.
WATER, LAND, AIR, LIFE…Nature is my inspiration
SHARE AND SPREAD LOVE…Love is my religion
UNIVERSE WITHIN…Spirituality is my healing
EVERYTHING IS A MIRACLE…Positivity is my way of living