from chaos to order :: how to build a sustainable creative life that fits you perfectly

From Chaos to Order - how to build a sustainable creative life that fits you perfectly

{This is one of my long ‘inside view’ posts! There’s a little story, a big idea, and a gift for you if you actually make it to the end! I would love it if you did; this is a turning point in my work and it’s all about you. Even if it takes me a while to get there. :)}

There’s a point during almost every painting where you look at the canvas and all you see is an unholy mess of things that don’t relate to each other. What’s more, you can’t see how to just freaking make them. It can be a very daunting time, and it’s not uncommon for it to happen repeatedly as a painting develops.

Every new mark you make can throw the others out of balance or start to bring them together. A lot of the time, if you’re an expressive, freestyle sort of painter like me, a large part of the painting process is adding and removing experimental marks and trying to get them to play nicely together.

I both love it and fight with it. I love the problem solving nature of it, and I sometimes feel like I’m going slightly insane when I see what looks like an endless vista of possibilities with no cohesive end in sight.

So a painting goes through these cycles – chaos, order, chaos, order. Our job as artists is to resolve the painting to a sense of order. {Which, by the way, is not the same as saying it needs to look neat and tidy.}

And of course we don’t ‘make it’ happen, we are part of a dance with creative source {or whatever your preferred name}, and the resolution comes while we dance.

My Tai Chi teacher has been saying to me for years, when the shit hits the fan and I’m freaking out about something, chaos precedes order. It’s intended as a reassuring reminder, although let’s face it, when you’re in the middle of the chaos and can’t find any order whatsoever, it can just feel frustrating.

The point is, no matter how much unimaginable chaos we’re experiencing in any given moment, it will be succeeded by order. It’s a law of the universe.

I’ve recently come to a very personal understanding of order succeeding chaos, and it’s basically all about you. {One of those strange and wonderful life paradoxes.}

For the past eight years or so I’ve been taking step after step back into my art, after many years without it. You might know I spent a large chunk of my younger years in and out of depressive episodes of varying severity. That’s its own kind of chaos.

So I started to take my art back – which is a bit like saying I started to take myself back – and bit by bit it grew and evolved, sometimes chaotic, sometimes in order, until about three years ago when I took the {terrifying} step of seeing if I could make it my work, and created my first ecourse.

I actually spent quite a while right before that sitting in chaos, certain I could no way teach, could no way create a course, didn’t know enough, wasn’t good enough, just didn’t have what it would take.

And in the end I looked at the road ahead and I thought, I want to know where this leads.

So I stepped onto it, and now I have six ecourses under my belt, a book, and a kind of behemoth of a blog. It turns out I can teach, I can create a course, I do know enough, I am good enough, and I do have what it takes. {So far!} Who knew. {Not me, that’s for sure.}

And let’s not leave anything undisclosed here – a lot of that time I’ve been surrounded by chaos. The chaos of not knowing, the chaos of trying to wear all the hats and learn everything quickly, the chaos of dealing with tech hiccups and disgruntled people, the chaos of not knowing where and when to invest and having to take risk after risk, the chaos of working and working and not knowing why it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

So what does this have to do with you?

I’ve had a course percolating in me for about two years; I knew the name of it from the start, but it’s taken that long for the chaos to start resolving itself into enough order that I now have some raw material to work with.

Partly I wasn’t ready, partly the idea wasn’t ready. At first I thought it was going to be a membership site. Then I realised I’d hate that because I’d be tied to creating to a regular schedule. So no, that wasn’t going to work. I noodled about with it, played with logos and colour palettes for a thing that didn’t even have a form yet, and then I left it for a while since it seemed happy to stay in the chaos for the time being and I know better than to force things.

And now, suddenly, boom. It’s coming together. It’s called Touchstone, and it’s the course that all my other courses – and all my work and all my living – have been preparing the way for, although of course I didn’t know that at the time. It’s the course I wish I’d had access to when I was trying to resolve the chaos of my own creative life.

All that time I was worrying about finding my artistic style, or how to make my creativity the most prominent thing in my life, trying to become a better artist, wondering whether I could earn a living doing it, feeling afraid and unsure, and learning learning learning how to use the technology and what makes a good teacher and and and….

That was all essential. Every moment of chaos was essential to get me to this current place of order.  And I have to tell you guys, it’s a game changer. If you devote yourself to the thing that feels meaningful and true to you, and you hang in there long enough, no matter how chaotic it gets, it’s inevitable that you will get to a point where a beautiful order starts to arise and suddenly an awful lot of things start to make sense.

I want this for you. I want this for you so much I can hardly stand it! Perhaps because I know it from the inside now. So I’m making a course which will be full to the brim with everything I know that can help to bring order from the chaos.

  • If you’re struggling to make space for your art in your life.
  • If you’re finding it impossible to settle on something because everything looks so interesting.
  • If you’re longing to make art that is unique to you but don’t know how to find out what that is.
  • If you can’t seem to establish a practice that sticks.
  • If you’re longing to understand the nuances of your own process better.
  • If you’re constantly stymied by fear, self doubt, procrastination, impostor syndrome, and all those good things that come with the artist journey.
  • If you’re struggling with meaning.
  • If you’re swinging between terror of being visible and longing to share.
  • If the inner mean voices are preventing you making your best creative work.

Essentially, if you’re struggling with the chaos of the what, the why and the how of your art, that’s what this course is for. I’m not going to pretend I know all the answers. {I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t believe me anyway!} But I do know a lot about this artist life, and I’m longing to share it because I know it helps.

It can mean the difference between a seemingly endless chaos and the deep bedrock of calm confidence that this is what it’s about for you. 

And when you know that, everything becomes so much easier. It’s not a quick fix or a one size fits all, but that’s the beauty of it; it’s deeply personal and infinitely universal, and it grows with you. We can tailor your creative life to your unique, quirky, glorious, busy, creative self, to your life and your needs and desires.

This post has gone on long enough already, so I’ll finish by directing you to the page where you can find out more information. {I’m in course creation mode right now so that page will evolve as I bring more order to things! ;) }

Or if you’re already curious, feel free to sign up by clicking the image below, and I’ll notify you when there are updates. You’ll also receive Building the Dream, a little downloadable booklet I put together identifying three common myths about creating a life as an artist {of any kind} and some suggestions to reframe them and move forward more easily.

If you have any questions, please email me at and I can make sure to add them to the page. {I’ll respond to you as well of course!}


  • Hi Tara, I can’t wait to hear when your Touchstone course is online. Reading through the Touchstone page, struck so many chords with me right now. I am at that point in my life (I have been a stay-at-home Mum for the past 8 years and 43) that I need to take back something for me, which is my art. I would love to take it further and see if I could make a living out of it. I dabble in it, but I never say I’m an artist. Its something I want and need to be apart of my life, as I believe it makes me a happier person :)

    • Tara says:

      Hi Julie – thanks for stopping by and for your interest in Touchstone! I love how you describe it as taking back something for yourself; I’m starting to think we all reach a point in our lives where that becomes necessary, whatever it might mean for each of us. And for SURE: art = happier self. ;)

  • Leone Konings says:

    Hi Tara, i have a questions, I don’t whether you can or want to answer it but thought I would ask anyway. I am a tortured artist. I know, that sounds really dramatic but I have known since I was a kid that I wanted to be an artist. Although my parents bought me prismacolours and an art book they didn’t really encourage me. I got married and supported my husband to become an artist and I have encouraged and supported others in their art. I am a shadow artist as Julia Cameron calls it. You have very bravely shared that you have suffered from depression in your life and have overcome it through art. I do paint watercolours and acrylics and do crafts but it is such a struggle. I just can’t seem to connect with myself. Can you tell me what you did to get through your block. It’s like I just freeze and also dismiss ideas that I have. If you would prefer not to answer this I will totally understand but I just thought I would ask. I am 76 years old and am feeling so discouraged and frustrated. I have struggled with this for about twenty years. Thanks for being here, I love your blog and read it all the time even though I don’t comment often.

    • Tara says:

      Hi Leone, I’ve just been thinking about your question over my lunch, and here’s what came up. For one thing, while art played {and plays} a huge part in my recovery and ongoing wellness, it wasn’t all of it. I have also done a huge amount of {also ongoing} inner work over the years. The point about that is that it’s offered me a stable platform of consistency. I practice Tai Chi and that teaches me about myself while raising my overall frequency and being a demonstration to myself of my willingness to do what’s necessary to care for myself and my wellbeing. While Tai Chi isn’t for everyone, I do think a regular practice of some kind that offers these things is invaluable. For some that is art. I don’t like to rely on my art in that way, but that doesn’t make it any less of a source of healing. The Tai Chi, the inner work, and the art have all enabled me to connect with myself, as you mention.

      The other key thing {so key!} is connection to support and encouragement, whether from one or two others or a community. Without my creative connections I would find the going a LOT tougher. Just hearing someone else say ‘me too’ brings enough relief to continue despite blocks and frustrations and fears. We are all in it together, not battling alone.

      All this to say, I admire you very much for recognising what’s going on for you, and for taking the courageous step of sharing it; and my best advice is get support {if you’re an Artnote subscriber you are welcome to join my private and very supportive Facebook group}, and find a way to demonstrate your commitment to yourself and the art you so want to make. Whether that’s a small daily practice or joining an online challenge or setting up a weekly painting session with a friend or something else, consistency and support can make a huge difference. You may also be interested in my upcoming new course, Touchstone, which deals with this. {The link is broken today but I’m working on it!}

      Hope this helps a bit Leone. Cheering you on!

  • Leone Konings says:

    Thank you so much Tara. I used to have a Tai Chi teacher that I loved but I moved away from the city he was in. I have done a long of inner work and it is on going. My problem is I can’t stick with anything art related. Like the 100 challenge and on-line classes I have signed up for and not completed. I will check out your Touchstone when it is up and running. I was interested in it but afraid I would sign up and then not complete. Anyway, i appreciate your openness and will give it some thought. I really appreciate you and all that you do.

    • Tara says:

      Well I wouldn’t recommend the 100 Day Project if sticking with things is hard! I think really it comes down to permission; it’s so so hard but until we can give ourselves permission to do things imperfectly, it can feel impossible to do them at all. That’s been a major learning curve for me, and is partly why I now embrace the idea of making everything {everything!} an experiment. If I’m too invested in the outcome, or in wanting something to be a certain way, or thinking it should be, that sets me up to fail and then I just end up ‘proving myself right’. I’ve learned that I have to do whatever it takes to make the path easy and fun. And for it to be 100% ok if I diverge from that; if I don’t complete the 100 days I’m going to be fine with that, so I don’t mind either way now and that makes it easier to keep going. {I’ve also missed a couple of days and am ok with that too.} That’s another reason I advocate support; everything is easier with support! Whatever you decide Leone I am sending support your way!

  • Leone Konings says:

    Thank you Tara. Thank you for reminding me that not doing things perfectly is a problem for me. If I create something and it doesn’t turn out I get very discouraged. That is something I definitely have to work on. For some reason I expect myself to make things right even when I haven’t made them or tried them before. No learning curve for me. I just have to do it right the first time and all of the time. Wow! Harsh eh! Thanks for your support Tara, it is much appreciated.

  • Elizabeth Winters says:

    Your gift of the Booklet was wonderful. I am very much looking forward to the Touchstone Course. I’ve learned so much about myself as a creative person in the last couple of months since being involved in Abstractify and the Creative Spark Community, and feel more like–well, me. I now feel comfortable, not intimidated, by going into my art room and just picking up a brush without having a reason to other than, “It feels good and makes me happy, and it’s important to me!” How can I describe it–my other classes were great, but they felt too much like ‘school’. I live in a city and state where I feel I have no real ‘tribe’. Although I have some people to connect with, and consider friends, this community has enriched my life tremendously.

    And I still cannot remember exactly the process, the steps, that led me to your site! Odd, but synchronicity works that way.

    • Tara says:

      Elizabeth this is music to my ears. :) I couldn’t wish for more for you or anyone who interacts with my work. Thank you so much for taking the time to say this.

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