SOP: Your name is Paula Timm and you are a great artist. Explain your background.
PT: That is very kind of you to say, thank you. I grew up around creativity, both at home and at Waldorf school. These early influences ensured that creativity was in my bones, though once in public school, institutionalized art instruction gave me ‘art scars’ to last a lifetime. The Teacher(s) gremlins of comparison, judgement, and ridicule made a profound impact on me which kept me from pursuing art as a vocation. This feeling, of not good enough, prevailed in every facet of my life. Not one to give up easily, I pursued employment that complimented my interests but grew my confidence with on the job training. My early resume was filled with roles such as Event Coordinator, Graphic Designer, Purchaser, Retail Manager, Bartender & Caterer.In my mid twenties, I found myself chronically ill, I was diagnosed with two auto immune diseases – ulcerative colitis and celiac disease. I was already entrenched in the ‘too busy’ routines which intruded on my creative pursuits. Fortunately, while convalescing at home, art was what I turned to in order to pass the time. It was then, during the ebb and flow of sickness and health, that I saw my pattern emerge. While sick I would make time for art and would allow my dreams of pursing a creative life to bubble up. While healthier, I would slowly allow the grind of work to wear down my creative dreams for the security of regular pay check.
SOP: What happened recently that truly gave you an experience of a lifetime?
PT: My illness took me through 15 years of unsuccessful drugs and remedies and I continued doing jobs that sometimes gave me a glimmer of a creativity. It wasn’t that I was unhappy; it was that I wasn’t living the life that I had secretly dreamed of having.I had no other drug options and I was frail, I was scheduled to have my colon removed and to be fitted with an ostomy bag. A surgical mistake occurred and my life changed forever. I was in ICU, on life support, and just waking from a drug induced coma; but with the knowledge that I had to live my life with creativity or joy.
Seven years have past and have been a culmination of physical recovery, integrating an ostomy, intense Post Traumatic Stress exposure therapy and developing my career as an artist.
As if this wasn’t enough, I did this all with the awareness that I would someday require an additional surgery to remove my remaining colon. I, and my doctors, gave me as much time as possible to allow me to prepare myself for this major surgery. I am now just 5 weeks post op from this much anticipated surgery. Made possible with years of therapy, art making, dream pursing and of course all with my supportive awesome husband, family and friends at my side.
SOP: How did the situation change your perspective about life?
PT: Through this, literal and figurative rebirth, I came to learn just how much of my life was spent suppressing emotions and its inherent cost to me physically. Although cliche, life is precious and fleeting, my near death experience emphasized the necessity to heal my fear and shame beliefs through self expression.I started to make decisions through the lens of ‘creativity and authenticity’ to make certain that I make wise decisions which developed my dreams into reality. I started by connecting with the community, sharing my work and facilitating art classes. Immersed in the arts community, the next logical step was to open my own studio. Not only a place for me to create, but a space for me to inspire others to help find their own creative voice. I now operate my dream studio at Calgary’s art hub cSPACE King Edward.
SOP: How did you use your passion of art through this experience? (Will include some of your fresh raw artwork you did during recovering times)
PT: In short, without expressing through art and writing, I might not be here today. I definitely expressed ‘out’ how I was feeling through the meanderings of art making or the of cathartic process of writing. I make (art) depending on my ability to create. When physically limited, I make art on my iPad or in contemplative moments with my sketchbook.
When in the depths of therapy, my emotions have found safety in detail, layers and surreal collage. Most recently, in preparation for the most recent surgery, my art took an abstract turn – providing its own healing with expressive marks and comforting colour.
Still in recovery at home, I am creating on an iPad Pro, testing new boundaries of marks, abstraction and colour. With the worst behind me, I am both anxious and curious to see the next phase, yet to reveal itself.
SOP: What lessons do you have for our readers to learn about this story?
PT: I am sure each person will take away what they need from my story. However, if I had a message to impart, it is for you to know that your story can be rewritten too- and hopefully without all the drama and trauma of mine! We have such tough inner critics which hold us back from expressing – be it art, words, or emotions. I hope that I can inspire others to consider attempting the journey to connect with their own self expression.
SOP: Will you do a series of art about this whole experience as a story? If you do, we will keep update with you 🙂
PT: I will do a series/book on my life..and something which I have contemplated and attempted with some apprehension. My guess is until the book is experienced fully the book can’t be written. Thanks for staying tuned!