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Archive for February, 2014

Through the years of art study and my creative professional career, the topic of whether making art was work or if focusing time and energy and financial resources toward art really constituted a job or “work”, has popped up quite a bit. I’m sure I am sensitive to it because I have struggled with the fundamental reasons it is asked in the first place. How can doing what you love be work? How can one say they have a job when all you’re doing is having fun?

You see, many people associate art-making with a hobby or activity that we did as kids and a luxury for many. Recently several of my painting students commented that they didn’t realize how hard it was and assumed that it always came easy for me. They thought, like many who think there’s a magic happy pill out there, that taking a six week class would give them all the techniques they need to be a skilled painter.

But isn’t that how it usually is when we see someone passionate about their work? Don’t they make it look easy? It’s become intuitive for them, they are comfortable, which leads to confidence and a productive work ethic. But like any relationship, the one we have with ourselves as artists is a daily balancing act and requires nurturing and yes….work.

I struggle daily with my work/life balance, especially having three different jobs to manage, a quilting of income streams that is paramount to any artist’s financial success, let alone to satisfy the artist’s tendency to have several projects in the works. And I don’t mentally or physically work efficiently in a 9 to 5 construct. Creative energy comes in waves so I work on other aspects of art-making in those down times. The flip side to that is I suffer artist guilt if I’m not actively in the studio or at the easel. One way I overcome that and enjoy time with friends, exercising, doing the things that don’t feel like work, is to think of myself as always being on the job, that being an artist is 24/7. There’s not a time clock that gets punched when I become the working artist, it’s just an essential part of my being.

I know I am not alone in this struggle, it was brought back to mind yesterday as I was reading a blog post by one of my favorite artists working right now, Nicholas Wilton. It is refreshing to get a peek into his process because it is so relatable. He so eloquently shared his struggle with this issue, art as work, I literally thought I was reading my own thoughts.

Check out the post here, it’s worth the read.

http://www.nicholaswilton.com/blog/

Wilton’s words are personal and ring so true. I realized this struggle essentially makes me feel vulnerable, to judgement of course, but also to choosing hard, hard work. I could choose a different way of life. I could be making a lot of money, I’m sure if I had chosen a different career path. But at the end of a long day of teaching or working in the studio, the choice is quite easy, I choose joy.

 

Orion Rising, Acrylic/Mixed Media on 4 x 4″ canvas.

Image

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2014 Word(s) of the Year

I will admit, on this cold, dreary February 1st of 2014, that I spent the majority of January thinking about what I would write for my first blog post of the new year. Would I share resolutions, my fears of the unknown, my weaknesses from the previous year, the shame in thinking about my weaknesses and realizing they are the same as the year before that, and the year before that? And why has it taken me a month to put the words down? A friend recently reminded me that January is a liminal time, it is a transition from the crescendo of year end festivities and the coming renewal of spring. In the meantime, she said, let us all percolate a little, ponder and hold tight as we digest all that led us to this point. Really what she was saying is just “chill.” (See #1 on the word-of-the-year list below)

I noticed that in  recent years, especially on social  media sites, many friends and colleagues posted their “word of the year,” a way to encompass their goal or mantra for the coming months. Here are some of the ones that came to mind for me:

chill (yeah, surfers and Buddhist monks seem to have this one covered!)

still/stillness – difficult for us artists who typically have 5 projects going at once and believe that busyness is the answer to all ills.

presence/mindfulness – big on my to-do list, especially when the creative spark strikes. I have a difficult time not thinking about the past without it causing angst about the future, the unknown. Practicing presence, or being mindful, with non-judgment, is one of the hardest Zen-mastery concepts I think for most humans. If only we could be dogs! They understand presence…and unconditional love.

generosity – a little different than just being a giver, some mindfulness tucked in there adds authenticity. Being a giver isn’t necessarily a good thing so it’s important to understand the difference. For me, giving has an underlying desire for something in return attached to it. Generosity has no such agenda.

authenticity – am I honoring the artist within? Am I honest and loving to myself and with the people I cherish in my life? Am I generous with that love?

open – open minds, open hearts, open to change, learning, making mistakes, open to love, open arms, open to vulnerability, to new techniques, to new goals. This was most certainly going to be my word of the year, until I read an article this past week about the one skill that will improve all of our relationships and how we deal with all the voices and noise bombarding us 24/7. So my word of the year, at least in this moment, is….

listen – yep, not only silencing the noise in your head and all that coming out of our mouths but just honestly listen. Can you be still and quiet? We all want to be heard, need to be heard,  through all the languages that hold our truths. If you want to be heard, start hearing. Give the gift of listening. Perhaps one of the biggest ways we hold ourselves back from authenticity and potential is by not listening to our body and our gut. Listen to your children, your mate, your friends. It’s really just another way of being vulnerable, and accepting of ourselves, the good, the bad and the ugly.

I think when we truly listen, we are mindful, we are open and we are generous. Now just take the time to do it. With January behind us, may we welcome the creative bounty of the new year.  

Cheers to 2014!

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