My job finished up just before Easter, and since then I've been working on my art project. I was excited to have unlimited time to work on it, and was feeling confident that I'd finish on time and everything would go swimmingly. I was having ideas for new pieces and tucked them away in my brain for later. I even started on one, but just a little bit here and there, knowing I'd have plenty of time later.
Then I got some news that changed everything. An artist that I admired and knew a little had died. She was only a few years older than me and her name was Natalie Uhing. Her art was exuberant, playful and colourful with a dark twist. You can see much of it on her Instagram here. I had been following her long enough to see the changes in her style and influences. When she started a mail art subscription just over a year ago, sending a beautifully decorated letter once a month, I signed up straight away. Each letter told a story from her life, of travel and adventures and encounters with people, all written in the most beautiful calligraphic hand. I feel lucky to have every letter she produced.
Even though I felt I came to know Nat through her letters, as I mentioned, I only knew her slightly. I never met her "in real life", only exchanging a few messages through Instagram and Patreon. It's hard to describe a friendship with someone you've never met. The internet hasn't been around long enough for there to be words for that. Even still, acquaintance is probably the best word. She did mention once that she'd never been to Melbourne, and if she did visit one day, it would be great to meet up. I was excited at the prospect, but it will never happen now.
I don't mean for this blog post to be depressing or to garner pity. Nat was a happy, curious, passionate person from all accounts, and that's what should be remembered about her. Her art will continue to inspire me, even though the person who created it is gone. It's also driven home to me that we don't have unlimited time left. Even if I'm only half-way through my life, that's still not very long.
Since hearing of Nat's death, I've had a great sense of what the Germans call torschlusspanik. Literally meaning "gate-closing panic", it's come to signify the fear that life is passing you by. If you don't act now to do the things you want to do, you might never get the chance. None of the doubts and insecurities I have about my art and writing seem to matter anymore in the face of this feeling. Of course, I still have my anxieties, and I still let them hold me back -- it's only been a few weeks, after all, to get used to this new way of living -- but I try to overcome them and create anyway. There's no better way to say it than Nat did herself on the tagline of her blog: