Sunday, October 5, 2014

Coming Out of the Dark

This is going to be a deeply personal post, it's not something I would normally share with the world, but I feel it's time.  I have been struggling with something for a long time and carrying a heavy load of guilt and shame that has been paralyzing.  I'm ready to be done with it, right the wrongs if I can, and try to return to what I love.  What does this have to do with the Studio you may ask?  A lot.

A passion I discovered when I was a girl was repainting model horses.  I think I put some paint on one shortly after I started collecting them, that would have been around 8 or 9 years old.  My mom gave me her collection of old, well-played with Breyer horses and I slowly started to build up my own collection, looking forward to a Breyer (or even two!) on my birthdays and Christmas.  I eventually stated to collect on my own as well.  I still remember chasing the UPS truck to our house on my way home from school the day they delivered "Rana".  During the years to come, when I discovered photo showing, he was one of my favorite subjects.  I think I took hundreds of pictures of his head alone.  I still have him.

I started repainting, and one my first creations was on a Hartland semi-rearing mustang that I bought at a flea market.  I painted him to a wildly colored bay and white tovero and named him "Reckless".  He (and Rana) had quite a bit of success as photo show steeds.

Over the years as I got older, I ramped up my creations, starting to not only paint, but reposition, re-sculpt, and hair models.  In the early Internet days, living with my Grandparents, I devoured any "how to" article on customizing that I could find.  My Granddad was fascinated with my newfound obsession and he loved every horse I made, telling me they were wonderful.  I would point out the flaws the rough spots, all the little bits I couldn't get juuust right.  He would simply tell me, "An artist is his worst critic."

My first drastic remodel job was to take a G1 Stablemate Arabian stallion and, using a candle and a box cutter, reposition him to a trot, neck arched.  I ordered my first box of Gapoxio and started bulking him up.  He became a proud Friesian stallion named "Hawke Nevarre" - named from one of my favorite movies - Ladyhawke.  He went on to enter 3 live shows in the years to come once I started doing them.  He won all 3 of his classes and stumped 3 judges in a "Guess The Mold" class at his first show.  A year or so later, I invested in some real tools - a Dremel and a Heat Gun, and then I really got busy.

I got married and lived in Southern California at the time, there were a lot of live shows there and in Arizona.  For a period, I was going to a live show a month, and loving it all.  I had started selling my work and had a handful of repeat customers.  I started doing custom orders and had started investigating having my own resins cast - to start with little Hawke Nevarre.  I was working on making a name for myself in the hobby, or at least in my little corner of it.

Then my world started to crumble.  In a short period of time, I lost my Granddad, the only father I'd ever known and one of my greatest supporters in anything I ever did.  He was diagnosed with brain cancer, six months later he was gone.  I lost my baby daughter, born right before Granddad passed away.  I decided to give her up for adoption to get her away from her father, he was abusive to her and to me, and because I wanted her to have a better life than what I thought I could give her.  My marriage was ending, I was completely heartbroken at the loss of my "Dad", and in my grief I thought the best thing for her was a better family.  Of course my husband helped talk me into it, he never wanted her.  We separated, later divorced, and the tumble continued.  Over the years I've tried and tried to get back on my feet, not just from a physical standpoint, but an emotional one as well. 

Now I come back around to the point of this post.  When my world fell apart around me, I had several custom orders in.  Other hobbyists had sent me models to paint for them.  A handful had been done and returned, then my life started to crumble all around me and I couldn't hold it together.  I left the hobby, I went MIA, I couldn't deal with any of it or anything anymore.  It was all I could do a lot of days to survive.  I packed everything up and had to move, again, then again, and again.  I didn't do anything creative for a long time, my heart just wasn't in it.  Through it all I kept all of the models safe along with my own collection, but I never considered them mine.  I knew someday I would make it right, I had to.  But every time I tried, I found myself buried in shame, hating myself for what I had done. 

I've had so many false starts over the past several years.  I unpack everything, get it all set up, I feel happy, excited, my paints are all old and dried out, I buy new paints, I start painting again, I'm going to make it right, I'm going to return to doing something that I love!  Everything will be okay.  Then that inner war starts, telling me I am a horrible person, I can't make it right, I blew it, I don't deserve a second chance, everyone hates me, I suck at this, I don't even know how to do it anymore, and on and on.  I put everything away, the paints dry out again.

A quote I keep coming across is:  "Never give up on something you can't go a day without thinking about."

For me, that is customizing model horses.  I think about it everyday - whenever I see a horse with an interesting color or marking, I think, "That would be fun to paint."  I'm constantly on the lookout for reference materials, "just in case" I ever get back to it.  I have a massive collection of hard copy and digital pictures and reference materials - something I would have loved to have had back then.

This is a burden, a shame I had kept to myself and shared with no one until fairly recently.  A couple of years or so ago, I told my new husband.  I was terrified of the judgment to come, but there was none.  Gradually, carefully, and with MUCH fear, I started telling friends.  My husband tells me I went through a period in my life that a lot of people couldn't have even survived.  He thinks I shouldn't be so hard on myself.  None of my friends have turned on me, or thought differently of me for telling them.  They've all been supportive of me and supportive of my desire to make things right and to try and, finally, move past all of this.

I've been struggling with another "false start" lately.  Over the spring, I decided -again- this was it, I was going to get past this.  I'm ready to be done with it all, get this weight off of me, finally move on.  I started painting again, struggling with having to relearn things that used to be easy, all the while fighting that negative self talk.  "Why are you even bothering?  You can't do this anymore, you had your chance and you blew it.  You are a horrible person, no one will ever care that you are sorry and that you want to do the right thing."  I've been thinking more and more lately that this was just another false start and I should give up again - maybe for good.  Why keep putting myself through this??

My birthday was a couple of weeks ago.  We went out to dinner with a couple that we are friends with and the wife had a HUGE present for me.  I unwrapped it there at the restaurant and saw the biggest horse book I have ever seen.  It is easily two and a half feet by two and a half feet, hardcover, and a couple hundred pages long.  It is filled with gigantic pictures of all types of horses, colors poses...  She said, "I thought it would be a good painting reference for you."  She is a friend who doesn't even know about my struggles, just that I really like to paint horse models.  The more I thought about it, the more I thought, maybe this is a sign (a big one) to not give up.

I used to love going to live shows, really LOVE it.  Earlier this year, I found out about a live show coming up in my area and I dared to hope that maybe I could go to it.  I hadn't gotten far at all in any preparations, because as usual, I couldn't "let" myself.  But about a week ago, I mailed in my entry form and fee for the show.  I think it was my first real defiant act in the face of the negative self talk that has had me paralyzed for so many years now. 

I don't want to live like this anymore.

Right now my husband and I are on vacation, visiting his family.  It is a working vacation of sorts, we brought out laser cutter to do some work with it and I brought supplies to customize model horses, along with the horses that I have been "boarding" for all of these years.  We have been getting a lot of work done together, he with the laser and I with my horses.  I'm daring to try and be excited about the show coming up and about the prospect of putting this all behind me, at long, long last.

Tonight as I decided to compose this, I wanted to listen to some music.  I discovered that the only thing I have in my music library on this laptop is Crystal Gayle.  She was one of Granddad's favorites and I got the CD a number of years ago, because he and I listed to these songs so often together when I was a little girl.  I can still hear him singing along on some of the lyrics.  For years now I have felt that I not only let everyone down who had sent me a horse to paint, but I had let him down too.  I hope he would be proud of me for doing the hard, but right, thing.  I feel like I am finally coming out of the dark.


  1. Hey, I just wanted to tell you that you're not alone. I read your post here and saw so many similarities between us. I myself have been in and out of the hobby over the years because I have struggled with depression, losing a daughter (losing her in a different way, but still..), abusive relationships/marriage, divorce, and then just my own insecurities about whether or not I could "show my face" to the model horse community again. I am a firm believer that people deserve second chances (and third, or fourth chances too), and I would like to hope that most rational people in the hobby can understand someone going through hardships and then coming back with honest regret and wanting to make things right.

    I'm glad that you have given the hobby another try and that I met you at the show earlier this month. I hope you can continue to overcome the negative self talk and the darkness. If you ever need someone to talk to, I'm here. :)

    1. We've talked about it already off of here, but I wanted to thank you again for this. Your words made my day. I have been living in fear, and buried under guilt and shame, for so long that I had tears in my eyes after I read your comment - happy tears. I've always believed that people deserve another chance too; I'm not sure why I had convinced myself that *I* don't deserve one. I'm so sorry, again, to hear that you've been through similar things and I'm so glad to hear that your life is doing better too!

      Leaving the darkness is a process and maybe we will always carry a little bit of it with us, but I think it does help to know that we're not alone. I'm very glad I decided to be brave and step into the "Arena" and I'm glad we had a chance to meet. I'm here for you too if you ever need to talk. :)