Saying the last two years have been difficult is an understatement. It has been a dark period and for anyone that lost a loved one or was financially affected, you have my deep sympathy.
I have heard many people speak about silver linings and positive outcomes like connecting with friends, family, or hobbies too long on the back burner. Challenging times can bring with them unexpected gifts, and I’d like to share with you how the past two years have helped me re-align with my deepest values, create a fresh business model, and find new forms of community. And while I don’t want to minimize the challenges we face, I find that I need to hear stories that inspire hope. That little bit of light gets me through the darkness. Perhaps my story will do the same for you.
“Adversity introduces a man to himself.” – Albert Einstein
As the pandemic swept the globe we were all thrust into a strange new world. One week I had a full teaching schedule for the year, and the next week everything was cancelled. My family and I had just bought a house and I worried how we would pay the mortgage in the coming months.
Before the pandemic, I had experimented with doing private lessons online, but was underwhelmed. I saw the potential, but could never find the time to learn about cameras, microphones and streaming software. However, losing all of my in-person workshops made me realize I needed to come up with a new business model, and forced a time of intense learning. My goal was to create an online classroom for my students. It had to be simple and easy to use, but more importantly, it had to be a great learning experience for them. Easier said than done!
Over the coming months, I spent 12-14 hours per day learning about A/V, video editing software, online classrooms, schedulers and payment processors — all the ways they work and don’t work together. I was in over my head and deeply outside my comfort zone. However, with persistence, the pieces gradually fell in place and I launched my online classroom and started teaching. The hard work paid off. There was a lot of interest, my classes were full, and students loved the experience. The right tech solution was a must, but what made it special was the sense of community the classes created. Many students told me that this community, and our classes, have helped them get through the pandemic. Even though we were thousands of miles apart, we found a way to be connected, and joined together in a shared experience of learning to paint.
“A man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked.” – Victor Frankl
Creating community and contributing to others’ wellbeing through teaching is very fulfilling and touches on my core needs for contribution, meaning, and purpose. However, there was something still missing. When people asked me what I did for a living, I would tell them I was an artist’s assistant; when they asked who I worked for, I said, Dominique Medici. My days were full of admin, tech troubleshooting and customer support — very few hours per week were actually spent painting. As months passed, this problem only became more acute. Fair enough I suppose, making any business thrive is an all-encompassing endeavor. That said, the relentless pace of it all came at a huge cost to my well-being.
This past spring was the end of a hard-core sprint. I had just finished making three instructional landscape videos to release over the summer months in order to give my students a way to practice while allowing me to take time off. I taught my last class, dropped my partner and kiddo off at the airport, and after returning home, collapsed exhausted on the sofa. I had been feeling unwell for a couple of weeks but was too busy to stop. Now however, I found myself too sick to get up for over a week.
This was a real wake-up call. It gave me time to reflect, and I realized that even pre-pandemic, everyday was an incessant stream of needs, obligations and events to attend, and Covid just pushed it into an even more extreme mode. I was doing what I loved and grateful for it, but not feeling replenished in my daily activities. As an introvert, I derive a lot of my energy and inspiration from meditation, doing retreats and painting, precisely the things that were put on the back burner when the pandemic had me putting out fires in all other aspects of life.
I habitually said yes to everything, be it an article or a presentation for an art school. While that was a good strategy at the beginning of my career, I realized that I had been working as a professional artist for many years and needed to start being more selective with what I take on. This meant cutting back on teaching, smaller commissions, events and anything that wasn’t a top priority aligned with my core values. I like being busy, but not if I abandon myself in the process. With that insight, I reestablished my daily meditation, walking, reading and painting practice. The things that ensure that I will able to offer the very best of myself in the years to come.
“If you are quiet enough, you will hear the flow of the universe. You will feel its rhythm. Go with this flow. Happiness lies ahead. Meditation is key.” – Buddha
As part of my painting practice, I started painting people I admire. One of them is Dr. Gabor Maté who is internationally renowned for his work on trauma, stress and addiction. In an interview he did with Russell Brand, I was struck by his humanity, wisdom and compassion. The authority and sincerity in his voice spoke to my heart. I painted him as I listened to the interview and it was one of the most effortless and joyful paintings I’ve had the pleasure to paint.
Incidentally, one of my private students interviewed Dr. Maté for her charity. She shared a photo of my painting with him. To my surprise, a couple of days later I received an email; Dr. Maté and his wife Rae loved the painting and wanted to acquire it! It was my great pleasure to hand deliver the painting and visit with them for a few hours. The conversation was meaningful and by the time I had left, I felt we were old friends. A couple of days later I was also pleased to learn that the painting won 3rd place in the Portrait Society of America’s members show.
Perhaps we can’t avoid getting lost and losing sight of ourselves when challenges come, but finding our way back home has a way of distilling and clarifying what is most important, a process that can replenish our inner well. If we want to contribute to others, we first must take care of ourselves. We all know this and yet it is so easy to forget in practice. When we do remember, we are more ourselves; we are healthier and have more to offer.
The past 2 years were an intense journey filled with hard work and challenges, some of which surprisingly brought me deeper self-connection and alignment with my values. Paradoxically, scaling back on external commitments and focusing on what I loved doing helped to increase my exposure in ways I found deeply meaningful and satisfying. We are not out of the woods yet, for many of us the struggle continues. But my sense of purpose feels clearer and this makes the journey manageable. My hope is to continue supporting my students by offering classes and instructional videos. If my students feel uplifted and inspired along the way, and continue to gain skill and insight, then I am doing something worthwhile with my time.
Marcia Hodges says
Excellent article that resonated with my soul.
Jill Rudzik says
What an amazing talent! I have a new benchmark.
Thank you! Your journey has inspired me.
Susan Blackwood says
Dominique, I feel you have been walking with my soul.. this is exactly the journey I have traveled these past 2 years. Plus 9 months prior to the pandemic, we had moved to a new part of the country. My world has been upside down for 3 years. Workshops, classes, shows and gallery closings all created huge challenges. Your journey to return to inner peace and time to paint is exactly my quest.
I agree. The gifts from this struggle have been amazing! Out of Ashes, rises the Phoenix!
My sister gave me a Quote years ago
“ We are all faced with a series of great opportunities, brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”
Your work is AMAZING! And so are your words! Thank you!
Anna Rose Bain says
Dominique, thank you so much for baring your soul and sharing such an inspiring story. This really resonates with me and I love how you talk about getting lost as an actual part of the process – but the way in which you find your way back is what defines whether or not you learn and grow from it. So good. Thank you! And congratulations on your recent successes. Your portraits are so deep and soulful – I always love seeing them.
George Jennings says
Dominque’s heartfelt description of herself and the past two years had an aura of me looking in a mirror, but often seeing different blemishes. I absolutely love her works, and hope to avail myself of some of her teaching through the techniques she now makes available. I admire her greatly for making those tools and techniques additions to her offerings. Her work is somewhat similar to mine, but it’s beautifully done!
January, ’21, I tested positive for COVID but fortunately suffered only intermittent symptoms. But that was while I was trying to schedule a quadruple bypass. I was one of the prime targets for such medical problems, but these were two I didn’t like having to manage simultaneously, so the heart work floated on the surface until the COVID symptoms were better and simply managed.
May, 21, ’21 I went in for the surgery which was to be 3 – 4 hours, and they wheeled me back out 12 hours later after much more than a “simple bypass.” When I could comprehend what was going on and where I was, they told me I was fortunate to be anywhere that accommodates living beings. I was lucky to be alive, and the recovery would be hard. I don’t sit still for that kind of report, and they said I smiled and said “You wanta bet!” And I remember right then and there thinking that I was going to become enough of an artist to recover from the surgery and enjoy a future in art; even at my late stage in life. The challenge was amazing and after nearly five weeks in the known heart hospital, I spent only half the time allowed in inpatient therapy and 12 days after driving my kids crazy, I finally climbed back in my 4Runner and drove back home 90 miles away.
I noticed I had never stopped smiling, but with a new circulation system and a pigs valve with some piping, I just continued to be extremely thankful and when my friends told me “It is so good to see you!” I could only say “Believe me, it is so good to be seen, and I love seeing you too!” And being 8 months post op, I still feel that way, and I understand that full recovery will be another 8 to 10 months. I’m fine with that, it’s a move in the right direction.
I regain physical and mental abilities slowly. They will suddenly show up again one day, and I feel like, “Wow, I remember that”, such as how to write.
But the one problem that is slow to return is my artistic inspiration and abilities. But I am subjecting myself to as much academic and practical absorption as I can get, and I am painting some now. I know my art is about change, and I will continue to change with it.
I absolutely love Dominique’s works, and hopefully I will be able to fit some of her teachings into my still being here and wanting to be able to try again.
Thankfully, some day I might actually learn to paint!!
Janet Borders says
I didn’t loose anyone in Covid . No one I know got sick and died unless they didn’t get the shot. I barely knew anyone sick . I did have to change jobs in Covid but I’m over it. Welcome to a new world in health folks trying to take better care of themselves. ?
I could relate to what you said but I don’t do online videos of any kind. I’ve noticed other people who sell those but do to my inability to concentrate by TV I don’t do them. I’ve never did an online course. I appreciate folks that can do those but it’s not me .
Most of my inspiration I get from galleries that sell pretty good art and I find a lot of inspiration from teachers who taught in real schools like colleges or high schools. I see a lot of great artist on Instagram and I enjoy following them and learning from them. I’ve noticed these artist that I follow post one great work a week and they are in the price range of $2,000 to $4,000 American dollars.
I find it hysterical where I live more new younger artist are moving here and trying to become an artist and curator into a new area and they are just looking the part. It’s like my daughter asking me if I’ve watched about the young European curator that is on TV in an eight part mini series. I laugh at that junk and my daughter is my number one supporter of my art. I guess we all need a fan who buys our work. I’m just saying it’s a lot different doing the art verses selling the art and teaching the art. The only thing I do is art. I don’t do too many things that way I don’t worry if I’m spreading myself too thin.
Kathy Levenson says
Thank you for this article. While I did not take online art classes from Dominque, I have used the last two years to take a variety of online art classes. It has been a joyful adventure! Each painting session I feel transported to the scene I am painting. Each day there is a new challenge to try something new. While it is not the same as having a class in-person, I am grateful to teachers who are teaching online so someone living in more remote areas or who is stuck at home has easy access to top notch instruction. Thanks to all the art teachers for helping many of us during the pandemic grow as artists and make the most of these years.
Carol Hopper says
I loved the blog with the brutal honesrty of your reality. I too am an Introvert and dislike all that you also dislike. I am lucky in that I don’t need to have an income other than my retirement income. So reading what it took for you to get up and running with your on-line classes read like a horror movie.
To survive the dissatisfaction I was feeling last week about my painting style and subjects, I was able to ask my joyful part what it was I wanted to paint FOR MYSELF. It was hearts, just simply hearts. Love.
Alisann Smookler says
Dominique I love what you wrote and it really hit home with me. Meditation is KEY in my life and it is typically when I find my next idea to paint. This has been a brutal 2 years and it has caused me to rethink my work and what I really want to paint – that brings me joy. That transition began in December and now I am busy in my studio creating ONLY art that makes me happy. I know all too well how fragile life can be (Brain Cancer Survivor 2013).
Sometimes we all need to just take a breath and listen. I think you demonstrated that very well in your article. Thank you!