Finding My Way- Where the Rubber Meets the Road

I have a terrible sense of direction, on the road and on foot. Pathetic really. Thank goodness for GPS.

Finding My Way, Acrylic, pastel, collage on paper. 30"x22", ©NanciHersh

But in my life as a visual artist, wife, mother and world traveler, I can navigate effectively. Why… because the creative process is my internal GPS. It helps me figure out where I am and what’s going on. It reminds me to follow my heart and trust my instinct.

A good friend has the opposite situation. She has a great sense of direction. Put her in a car, she can find her way, anywhere. But in her life, it’s a different story. Easily distracted or discouraged from following her dreams, they often slip away or are left stranded on the side of the road. Recently, she told me that she had an idea for a one woman show. I told her to write it down. Writing things down makes them more real whether it is just a whisper of an idea or a bold grandiose statement, giving them energy and power that goes from your head out into the world. Often, these ideas gain traction in ways we don’t always understand.

Walkabout, Acrylic, graphite, rubber stamp, collage on paper, 16.5" x 16", ©NanciHersh

My studio is where the rubber meets the road. I am a painter, sculptor, and a storyteller who examines what I have learned about the people, places and experiences from my life. Stories of home, family, transition, trauma, and the peace and healing (which I often find in or near water) are told through paint, paper, mixed media, and found objects.

Like chapters in a book, a series or body of work is chronological. Often, however, a piece may circle back to “riff” or revisit, a memory or event. The process and materials of making the work becomes a part of every story. Each piece builds on each other to find meaning and connections to something larger than self.

Putting things down on paper can also help when we’d like things to be less real. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was looking for a way to deal with the emotional and physical trauma of the experience. Eventually, it was journaling and going into my studio, that became the path to healing.

Following my mastectomy, I was gifted a beautiful little beaded sketchbook from an unexpected source- a group of moms. They were the mother’s who were part of my son’s kindergarten class, many of whom I had only seen a few times at the bus or at a school function. Unexpectedly, that book became the place to hold my thoughts, images, and ideas that led to my Body as An Open Book series. I began to make collages using digital photographs of my body taken before and after surgery. I layered the photographs with handmade paper, sewing pattern tissue, and other materials; all of which helped me navigate through the experience and find my way to move on.

Body as an Open Book, Digital print on handmade paper with inclusions, collage. 10" x 15", ©NanciHersh

Finding our way is not always clear or easy. Often, there are circumstances or situations that take us off track, or bring us to our knees. But, as we travel through life, we learn that it’s the journey, not the destination. We come to the realization that we are not alone. We can help one another by sharing our stories and experiences, by pointing out the roadblocks and detours, by allowing others to take the wheel, or just simply riding shotgun for a friend in need.

Thankfully, I’ve got my GPS for the road, and my art and soul for the rest.

and thank you for reading. You can find me and more of my work at

Like what you read? Give Nanci Hersh a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.