Nature does not ask permission

Moving from fear to creative permission, and what actually happened when I started making art again

Original artwork by Bernadette Cay. Paper and acrylics on Stonehenge paper.


As some of you may know, I had stopped making art for 10 years, before starting to make art again around this time last year. 

In examining my creative blocks, I noticed something odd about one of them: I was waiting for someone to give me permission to make art. As a “good student,” I was used to getting permission and seeking external validation before taking action.

Because making art wasn’t practical, I didn’t feel like I was “allowed” to do it. I felt selfish and guilty for wanting to do something just because I enjoyed it. At its core, this was fear: fear of some kind of punishment or social ostracization.

I realized that such permission would only come from myself. Furthermore, whether or not anyone gave me permission to make art, the desire for creative expression was not going to go away.

At peace and alive

I smile when I think about what actually happened when I started to make art again on nights and weekends: Instead of pain or punishment, I felt at peace and alive. To my surprise, instead of social ostracization, over the past year I’ve strengthened existing relationships and made new ones among viewers who resonate with my art. 

This quote was one of many pieces of wisdom that helped me reframe those beliefs and start making art again. It’s also the inspiration for the above piece of art, from my latest group of work.

“Nature doesn’t ask permission. Blossom and birth whenever you feel like it.” – Clarissa P. Estés

Don't know where to start? Try a creative quest

Find the momentum, focus and permission to bring an idea to life

Detail of "Awareness" by Bernadette Cay. Watercolor on newspaper and lokta paper.

What is a creative quest?

A creative quest is a multi-day program to help jump-start your creative process. Once you’ve designed a process you trust, you show up and do it. Even if you don’t want to sometimes. Even if it seems like you’re not seeing “results” right away.

Choose your own adventure

Creative quests have played an important role in my artistic journey. A daily drawing project (similar to Elle Luna’s #The100DayProject) was the momentum I needed to start making art again after 10 years. For the full story and tips on designing this type of creative quest, read on.

A creative quest can take on other forms, including a physical voyage. “Walking artist” Hamish Fulton walked +1000 miles across the UK in 47 days and made art about it. Photographer Reuben Krabbe took a team on an expedition to the Arctic to in search of a once-in-a-lifetime shot of skiers in front of a solar eclipse

A creative quest can also be an introspective process, no travel necessary. Examples include the book The Artist’s Way, a 12-week self-guided process to unblock and deepen your creativity. You can live your whole life as a creative quest, as in Gandhi’s autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth.

Benefits of a creative quest

  1. Momentum. The emphasis is on moving forward with the process and less on the results.
  2. Focus. A creative quest helps narrow focus without closing off new ideas.
  3. Permission. For some, it’s permission to make time and space in our lives for creative expression. For me, it’s permission to explore topics that are sometimes uncomfortable.

Creative Quest #1

Creative quests are the foundation of my current artistic practice. One creative quest I’m on now is around the cycles of life and death. So far, this quest has brought me to the Zen Hospice Guest House in the Haight, an open mic event at The Lost Church in the Mission and more. Read on for more about this creative quest (and how you can help) >>