How reconnecting with my passion allowed healing and growth 

People have often told me what they thought I couldn’t do. “You’ll never be able to drive a car,” when I started taking lessons. “You won’t be able to run a catering business,” as I was beginning to make some money. “You’ll never get a black belt,” from a fellow aikido trainee. And, most significantly, “You don’t know how to paint,” when I began selling my work. 

Art was central to my childhood in Poland. Always painting and sculpting, I loved my grandparents’ collection of art books and remember hours spent turning their pages.  Then adulthood kicked in and somehow my creativity was gone. 

The man I was to marry had ambitious plans, and his career took us to New York, home to Poland and then, just as I had found an exciting job in advertising, over to Ireland.  As he ‘earned the real money’, my career always came second, and I went from being an independent woman to a full-time mother in a foreign country. 

My inner magic was diminishing slowly. Thankfully, my mother saw it and gave me the advice I needed: “Go back to creating.”  

“Depression” by Joanna Kaminska/JOKAMIN

These words glowed inside me. I began pouring all my feelings of loneliness, sadness and isolation into paintings, and slowly everything started to change. I began to think about what I wanted from life, and who I wanted to be. I looked for a way to build my self-confidence, and found it in aikido, a non-violent martial art that changed me from being a victim to a woman with inner power. I had the self-belief to begin selling my art.  

In 2014 my husband’s job took him back to Poland, and I followed for what would be the last time. He had always been dismissive of my paintings, never believing in my ability. I could no longer accept being tied to him. I planned a carefully-timed escape and found myself back in Ireland with two sons and three bags. He filed for divorce soon after. 

“Expat’s Life” by Joanna Kaminska/JOKAMIN

It turned out that I am an excellent driver. I can run a business and I got my black belt. And I can paint. My work is sold in the National Gallery of Ireland and my printed silk scarves were displayed in a high-end department store. 

More importantly, my art seems to connect with people at turning points in their lives. It’s bought for first-time mothers, for sisters enduring chemotherapy, to remember a friend who has passed away, or to thank one who has stayed true. My art has healed me, and I believe that’s why it helps to heal others. 

Joanna Kaminska with her cushions. Picture by Clare Keogh

I was lucky to have a mother who urged me back to what I love, and sometimes I wonder where I’d be without that piece of advice. If there’s a voice telling you that you’ve left a passion behind, don’t ignore it. Listen, and you never know where it will take you. 

Artist Joanna Kaminska lives in Cork, Ireland. You can view her paintings, silk scarves, cushions and other creations by visiting her website or follow her on Instagram.