Choosing A Challenge

Almost ten years ago I was on my first overseas experience- a 16 month solo trip beginning in Australia. That entire trip for me was about pushing my boundaries to the very limit. I was young and needed to challenge myself. I wanted to grow, I wanted to be uncomfortable, I wanted to know myself and what I could handle. Turns out, I never came across anything I couldn’t handle in the end. Be it hitchhiking, fully trusting people I had never met before, sleeping on the streets, being robbed, all kinds of sicknesses and injuries. The encounters with ticks, bedbugs, lice, spiders and snakes… even having a close call with death in the wilderness. I got through it all, and kept coming back for more. 

Jilene hitchhiking with a sign saying 'anywhere'
Somewhere? Anywhere! Hitchhiking in 2011

See, I had decided that at every crossroads, every decision, I was going to choose the harder option. The uncomfortable option. The option with the most unknowns. All on purpose. It was an exercise in learning who I am, what my boundaries are, what worked for me and and what didn’t.  It was, at times, a torturous way to approach my travels, but very important in becoming who I am today.

A photo of Jilene with backpacks while on a challenging barefoot hike
Barefoot hiking the Copland track in New Zealand, 2012

Though I don’t travel as much as I used to, nor in the same way, I still find this mindset showing up in different things that I do, especially in my art. I look for the areas that I have resistance to, the skills that are underdeveloped, the subjects I avoid incorporating for lack of confidence or know-how. They become painfully obvious to me, and so that is where I dive.

cool toned acrylic painting with two ghostly hands clasped together
Remember When, by Jilene Schafers
This piece was a turning point in terms of style- it was one of the first pieces where I tackled my resistance to making things look more realistic.

I used to avoid realism like that plague, then let myself explore those skills. Drawing people was always a big challenge, and so I dove into portraiture. I now find landscapes to be overwhelming, thus, I know where I will eventually need to push myself.

I think this approach of acknowledging your weaknesses and testing your capabilities is a great way to become a more well rounded human, and a more capable artist.

a photo of a dirty foot on a pebbled ground. I challenge you to go barefoot!
A foot well graveled…

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