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Beyond the Sales: Self-Worth & Artistic Freedom - Reflections from “Making Waves 2024”


japanese style pastel art featuring flow of life
With my artworks at "Making Waves 2024"

Cannot believe I would ever have a chance to participate in Singapore Art Week (SAW) and we did, in 2024! I was thrilled to be part of the group exhibition "Making Waves" organised by Home With Art at the Visual Arts Centre (17 – 22 Jan 2024), showcasing my pastel artworks alongside 39 other talented artists. This wasn't just any exhibition for me though; I co-organised this and in case you didn’t know, I am also the co-founder of Home With Art, with a fabulous partner/life mentor that I am grateful to be in partnership with. I am proud to say that we have made this wish come true to be part of SAW and have our participating artists be part of this meaningful period.


The entire experience pushed me in so many ways, especially when it came to creating the artwork itself. For years, I had been creating small, 15cm square pastel pieces. Stepping up to create two A2 sized works in my usual Japanese pastel style felt daunting. This was the biggest size I have ever challenged myself. Fear of failure loomed large, but I knew I had to take that leap.

 

finger painting blending blue pastels into a wave for flow of life
Starting the very first line
finger painting blending blue pastels for flow of life completed
Getting my hands dirty
finger painting blue pastels for flow of life
Work-in-progress

“One step at a time” became my mantra. From ordering the massive paper to gathering inspiration, I kept my mind open throughout the process. Even setting up my workspace strategically to minimise distractions became crucial (with my ADHD diagnosis after the exhibition, it finally made sense how this strategy is actually planning for success for my hyperactive/easily distracted mind.)


The funny thing is, once I started, the fear melted away. The biggest hurdle was simply getting STARTED. Then, it all flowed – like magic! 


These two pieces, titled "Flow of Life 1 & 2," celebrate life's journey and the importance of embracing your unique path. 


They are a reminder (to myself!) to have courage and patience on the road to self-discovery.

 




This time, I also wanted to add a bit of fun! I hid a little fish swimming in the opposite direction in each artwork, a playful element to see if viewers could spot it. Some did right away, while others took a bit longer – it was a joy to see the surprise and delight when they found it. The symbol behind this lone swimming against the tide resonated for many as well.

Beyond the creative process, "Making Waves" also tested my self-belief. Throughout the exhibition, a nagging worry lingered – would my artwork find a new home? I know I should not tie my worth as an artist to sales, but it is a real struggle. After all, these pastel pieces reflect my vulnerable inner world, putting them out there feels quite exposing. In my mind, a sale somehow validated my work.

 

Then, on the very last day, just as I accepted that I will be heading home with both pieces, a wonderful lady approached me. She wanted them both!

 

Jaw on the floor moment.


 

This incident made me reflect deeply on why I had been so fixated on external validation. Why the fear of failure?


I was also curious about my disbelief when someone wanted to buy my work. Why the fear of abundance too?


Deep down, I know I have a lot of inner work to do on self-acceptance and letting go of external validation. No matter what happens, my art is a form of self-expression, a way to share the joy and emotions I have inside me through colours. And that, in itself, is enough.

 

Creating for myself, for the pure joy of it, is what truly matters. That should be my ultimate KPI. The hope is that this joy translates to the viewer, sparking a connection and sharing a piece of my world.

 

This "Making Waves" experience was a rollercoaster, but ultimately, a reminder of why I love being an artist. It's about the freedom to create, to explore, and to connect. And now that I have a clear direction of creating colourful mantras to awaken self-love, I am looking forward to the many precious pieces that will be created to nourish myself and my future collectors with love. And that journey, with all its ups and downs, is what truly keeps me going.

 

What about you? How do you deal with self-doubt and the desire for validation in your creative pursuits, or even in life in general? 

 

Share your thoughts in the comments below – I'd love to hear your experiences!


Sending you peace and love,

Caihui

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