Since I started painting pet portraits on a regular basis a few months ago I started asking myself the question, "is this work meaningful and am I contributing to the world in a positive way?"
I would beat myself up about it and tell myself that my work isn't meaningful because all I'm doing is painting domesticated animals. Through my work I'm not helping to save endangered species. I'm not freeing animals from cruelty. I'm not creating awareness about animal welfare.
Yes, I am hard on myself sometimes.
As I thought about the question more though, I have realised that my work has as much meaning as I make of it. I have a choice in whether or not I see it as meaningful, and it's NOT my job to judge my work. My job is create what I like, and when I listen to my intuition and do just that, I tend to create work that other people love too.
I paint pet portraits and people write to me saying how much they appreciate how I perfectly captured their pets quirkiness. They write to me and tell me that I have created something wonderful to remember their beloved pet who has passed away. They write to me to thank me for helping them show how much they love and adore their furry friend.
That's meaningful. That's an act of love. And that small act of love flows onto the client who commissioned the work, and perhaps it flows onto another person who adores their furry friend and they perform a small act of kindness too, and then possibly it flows onto someone who doesn't feel that way, and maybe it makes them ask the question "how can I show more love to the animals/people in my life?"
As my husband often quotes to me "you have to help yourself before you can help others." It's all about the small steps, and right now I find meaning in the work I do because I LIKE it. I like the process of creation. It makes me feel good and even the times when I get frustrated that my paintbrushes aren't creating what's in my brain I appreciate the opportunity to grow and learn.
And the BIG meaningfulness will come. Now it's in the little things like donating part of my profits to the RSPCA, or giving away a pet portrait for an animal shelter silent auction, or running competitions for doggy daycare centers who in turn, in their own way help raise awareness of animal welfare.
I'm OK with all of that. I'm doing work I like. I create because its fun!
AND, I am excited to see what this work may transform into.
P.s. What small act of kindness can you do today for the animals/people in your life?