An Anxious Artist

By Hillary Asbury

I think I may have mentioned this before, but traveling with my artwork is nerve-racking.

I’m a bit of a type “A” personality, which I’m often told is odd for an artist. I have high anxiety. I like things to be just so. I don’t want to be on time; I want to be five minutes early and perfectly presented. People sometimes comment that I am a skilled artist. I often answer that I am a perfectionist who happens to make art.

All this to say: traveling with my work is exciting, but it really stresses me out.

I live in Southern California. The farthest I’ve traveled for a conference was to Phoenix, Arizona, about a six-and-a-half-hour drive. The drive itself isn’t bad, pleasant even, as long as I have a good audio book lined up. There is just something that feels so off about packing up all of my paintings, prints, and equipment, stacking them up in the back of my car, and taking off. I have taken such care with my work my whole life that treating it like this seems callous, disconnected. I do pack carefully and take care that nothing will be damaged or ruined in transit…at least I do my best. I haven’t had any incidents so far, but my nerves get the best of me every time. It often worries me that if I am so much as rear-ended, hundreds of dollars of investment (sometimes more) and countless hours of work could be damaged or destroyed.

It’s a lot of pressure.

I often have to take a step back and remember what my work is, what it is about, why I do what I do, and why I am packing it all up to begin with. I have to remember to trust my God, to have faith. I have to remember to pray, and I really need to remember to ask for prayer! I’m not very good at these things.

I’m a worrier by nature, and I find it difficult to ask for help.

In just a week, I will be doing something I’ve never done before. I will be flying my work (and myself) to Saint Louis for the annual Theological Symposium at Concordia Seminary, and I am already losing sleep. I’m not exactly sure the best way to get all of my materials safely there, but I have to figure it out, and fast. What’s more, I’m participating in an art show that they are hosting and quite a large painting of mine, which is being loaned to them by my home church, is already on its way to Saint Louis in a crate.

I thought traveling with my work was stressful, but traveling while separated from my work is a whole other story.

This is a wonderful opportunity. When I started exhibiting at conferences a year ago, one of my long-term goals was to make it to this very symposium, and here I am preparing for it! I should be grateful, excited. I should thank my God for all I have been given and for the chance to do what I love to do for work. Instead, I am fretting! I am flawed, so blatantly and fatally flawed. I am a sinner: anxious, proud, and weak, unworthy to do the work that I do.

Were it not for Christ, I would be so lost.

I suppose there is comfort in this: that in my worst shortcomings, I am reminded of my best hope. When I am confronted by my sin and lack of faith, my only choice is run right back to the cross and cling to it for dear life.

So here I cling, anxious creature that I am, to the only comfort I have.