13 Musings About Being an Artist

What is an artist?  I’m asked this question a lot. It comes up in various flavors and in a smorgasbord of conversations. I don’t have a pat one-size-fits-all artists answer, but I have a few thoughts about some attributes for artists like me.

What does an artist look like?

What does an artist look like?

  1. We don’t always wear black, although, I did have a black uniform phase. Black creates a dramatic back drop for color, texture, shape and line. So it works for wardrobe, canvas, or mat board.
  2. We’re not a weird as you think. However, we do have certain opinions, many of which we just keep to ourselves. We’re not interested in what others think much of the time, because our minds are busy creating. So we may project weirdness to push you away, so we can happily keep thinking about our projects.
  3. We are keen observers. We see and understand things you may never experience. You may think we’re airheads, but some of us like it this way. Then we can be entertained by what goes on around us without needing to explain ourselves.
  4. We’re human and screw up a lot of the time. And we make plenty of messes, but they’re necessary to our life’s purpose of creating. It seems chaos must come first.
  5. Few of us are rich enough, but most of us would like to be. At least we’d appreciate receiving fair pay for our labor. Remember you have to pay for all those practice paintings, and unpublished writings, too. That’s how we got good enough for you to want our art.
  6. We do fight amongst ourselves, at least in private circles. Artist’s communities are true enigmas. And the difference in our opinions can be baffling and unkind at times.
  7. We struggle with creative license and who did it first. We want recognition for our uniqueness. There really is an artist’s ego. But, it’s just our bane, we’ll create anyway.
  8. Some of us will never grow up, and some don’t want to. Part of being an artist is to keep our future options open. Another part is not wanting to leave the playground.
  9. The best of us can see the future, even though it can be hard to illustrate for others. That’s why some people just don’t get the art when they go to a museum.
  10. We’ll never stop. We don’t get retirement. We’re born this way and we’ll be creating until our last breath.
  11. We tire of critics and self-appointed experts. You are not as knowledgeable as you think. If you really want to help us — give money instead. We can always use more supplies and practice.
  12. There are lots of artist wanna-bes. Just because someone dresses the part (and other than all black, handmade jewelry, unusual hair or shoes, I’m not sure what that look is) does not mean that they can create great art. However, I encourage everyone to try.
  13. Real great art comes fearfully from the soul. It encounters risks and rules tempo. Real artists allow great art to master them.

What do you think being an artist is about? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

So, I have this crazy idea. I get asked a lot about the books I read for creative stimulation. I believe in the magic of synchronicity and the amazingly creative journey it will take you along. Books are an important tool I use to keep my ideas primed. My crazy idea? I’m thinning out my library of cool books. Instead of donating them I want to give them away in a drawing. Here’s how it works. Read my blog and leave a comment (or click on the comment box symbol in the upper right beside the title). I’ll pick one commenter and they’re the winner of a great book chosen for that blog post. Make sure you have a valid email so I can contact you to let you know you won a book and you can tell me where to send it. I keep your address private and pay for shipping.

A few facts about the books: Yes they’re a few years old and yes they’ve been read already. But, hey aren’t we all?! I need to make room for my new stories, and all my books have nuggets of treasure just waiting for you to discover. Oh, and just for fun I encourage you to try the Magic “8” Ball approach that taps your intuitive side. Ponder a question, open the book you won to a random page and read for your inspiration or answer. It works!

This idea could truly open up a new perspective for you and me. Please give it a try, share with your friends and post your replies often to win.

(Photo courtesy of Jeroen van Oostrom at freedigitalphotos.net)

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Memorializing Your Legacy

ID-100141696_“Family” by arztsamui_freedigitalphotosWhen I was a child Memorial Day was one of those holiday gatherings that had little expectation or preparation. It was meant for spending time together and hearing stories. The elders of my family bothered to get flowers and visit the grave sites of our loved ones. I found this to be a very interesting tradition because it connected the web of our complete family. Making the time to connect and reflect with those who came and went before fleshed out characteristics that defined our family.

This holiday is traditionally about honoring those who served all of us through their military and other service institutions. In my family, it was about everyone who served the family in all the ways a family needs service.

Some of my family’s stories were quite fantastic and others we’re out of the ordinary but all of them described a thread that wove the fabric of our family.

My father served in WWII and while he NEVER talked about his active service years and what he had to do during the war, in my own research I discovered that he fought in several very nasty battles in and around the Ardennes Forest. I’m sure he had many memories both good and bad but he chose instead to teach that war was that was a means to an end and something to fight very hard to avoid. He served in the army as an officer for almost 30 years, and he cared greatly about the service men he trained to go into battle, especially during Viet Nam. He was deeply disturbed by the manner in which the service personnel were cared for, and appalled they were shipped in and out of active battle returning to civility with merely a few hours between. Without time to decompress he predicted the damage to our soldiers would be devastating. He died before the conflict ended, and sadly we now know he was right about the needs of our soldiers. I remember his silent and anonymous honor. He did kind things for people he barely knew. Often in secret he paid their bills, bought food, and one Christmas he bought bags of food and gifts for a destitute family of five kids whose father just died after a long illness. At his funeral numerous people I never met came up and shared stories of his quiet kindness’s that truly made a difference in their lives. His legacy is one of taking action to live kind and fight in all ways for freedom.

His father served in WWI and while he shared stories of the camaraderie of the fine men he served with and the people he met along the way, he also never discussed the battles or the horrors.; He too, believed that war was a sad and desperate means to an end that should never ever be glorified. It was about the duty of freedom. One of his oft repeated stories became known as The Black Snake Story. While he was training in Texas a member of his patrol didn’t join in the morning muster. When they went to check on him he was still in his bed motionless. During the night a large snake had crawled into his cot with him. There were lots of poisonous snakes around and these Northern boys had been warned to steer clear of them. They decided if they rolled up the side of his tent eventually the heat from the rising sun would warm the snake and it could slither away leaving him unharmed. My Grandfather spoke at a napping pace and if you could stay alert while he talked you’d learned that it worked. I always found it remarkable that during his slow cadence he rarely changed any words, and through the years of listening I had the story memorized. That story and the time spent listening to my grandfather was magical because it taught me that bonds are important and can’t be rushed.

Memorials are an important part of understanding who came before us and what we’re made of. It’s not the genealogy that makes a legacy, it’s the stories from the people you know that manifests the character of your family. What are those little snapshots of the people you know?

At bigger  family gatherings the women prepared, served and cleaned up the meal. As the youngest I floated between the living room listening to the men talk between dozing off with a full belly, and the kitchen a beehive of activity I remember lots of squawking about Aunt Tilly who always ran to the bathroom after the meal and was gone long enough to miss doing the dishes. I had an Aunt Bernice who laughed. “HA!” so loud she could wake her deaf husband. Uncle Norm was a diabetic and a very bad driver. Once he drove my sister and I mostly on the wrong side of the road while doing his errands. He had malt balls in his glove compartment which we devoured. He and his wife had a ball and chain and used it as a doorstop joke. Aunt Mae wore red lipstick that ran way over her natural lips and painted on black eyebrows. I always thought she was lucky and when I grew up I could dress for Halloween, too. These relatives had quirks, they were kind and loving and remarkably endearing.

We can do goofy things, dress oddly, say the wrong thing at the wrong time or give love when it is needed, but whatever our quirks they make us who we are and we will be remembered for them. These little things make us unique. When I paint pictures I look for the unusual, the small details that tell the story and create a pictorial impression of a memory.

All those wonderful service men and women fought honorably so you could have your memories. Remember them as you draw in a breath of peace, and celebrate their legacy by discovering your own. What are the little stories that will memorialize your legacy?

I’m thankful to my father, grandfather, to my aunts, uncles who served our country in military service and to my greater family for serving our small tribe.  Happy Memorial Day to all those honorable people who helped make my life possible so I could freely remember and celebrate today.

(Artwork by artzsamui courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)

What’s Your Slice of the Creative Pie?

ID-100199185_Fresh Homemade Apple Pie_KEKO64

I consider myself a painter who writes. It’s much easier for me to brush paint on a canvas than string words in a line on a page. It certainly feels better to me to work with brushes and paint, however, the satisfaction both creations bring me is the same. While some creative projects feel better or are easier than another, the need to create never stops. Even though it was a difficult process for me, I can’t explain why I had to complete writing my book. I only knew I had to. This compelling factor of creation is hard to explain. It’s not just a great feeling it’s more like eating. You have to do it or you’ll die.

Readers and writers share a special symbiotic relationship. I once asked an avid reader what would happen if they didn’t get to read, and they said they’d probably perish. There’s a part of us that is compelled to do things. Writers must write and readers must read. Painters must paint and audiences must look at the paintings. We need to support each other in our quest of creative pursuits, because somewhere we serve each other.

As far as the teeter-totter of creativity swings, it doesn’t matter on which end you sit. The part you play in a creative expression is up to you. What does make a difference is that you play your part. Make your art and share it. Tell your full story about what led you to create. Go to museums and look at art. Take the time to learn the backstory that led to the masterpiece in front of you. Wander through art shows and, yes, talk to the artists! Ask them why they make their art, what they do for fun or what their favorite piece is? If you’re an audience be a great observer and give appropriate feedback. If you’re a reader savor the words and then seek ways to leave a review or interact with the author.

Put some power in your playground of creativity and enjoy your slice of the creative pie!

 

(Image courtesy of Keko64 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

THANKS — To You!

It’s no secret we’re in the midst of the crazy time of year. There’s so much to do for others, and take part in that it’s easy to get lost in the wave of holidazzle. It’s also a great time to say Thank YOU!

Giving thanks to yourself is one of the most important things you can do for yourself at any time of year. If you’re creative person or like creative things, you know that too much celebratory chaos can be destructive. Practice T-H-A-N-K-S to you and enjoy this holiday season and arrive in the New Year with a great attitude.

ID-100271736_Thumbs Up Means Thanks A Lot And Approved_ by Stuart Miles

Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Timing- Pay close attention to your schedule this season. What’s your timing? It’s your personal time. Do you want to have dinner with a friend or be shopping at that hour of the day? Maybe you don’t want to shop at all? Give thanks for the way you choose to live and decide what works for your best timing so you can both enjoy, and give joy in all of your activities.

Health– Notice and be very honest with the state of your health right now. At this time are you capable of what there is to do? What exactly do you need right now to maintain the health you have, and improve it if you need to? Would a bit less decorating, partying or driving here and there be a good choice for your health? How would a healthy home cooked meal that nourishes you feel instead of a round of entertainment? A bit of quiet time or a nap might serve you better than many other activities. Honor your health and give thanks for how healthy you are this season.

Anxiety- There’s no denying it. This can be a season of high anxiety.  There’s extra noise, moving bits, activities, blinking lights and decorations spilling all over the place. Yikes! Those new wonderful energy saving lights give people like me serious migraines because they have a micro strobing effect. Even if you enjoy the decorative things of the season they’re in abundance adding extra input to your being. Sounds, smells, textures, colors, people, and an wealth of special foods during this season can create too much stress. If your nutritional balance goes awry you’re not going to feel well and might instead be feeding anxiety. Marketing uses an element of pumping up our anxiety making it irresistible to not grab an extra present just in case. Commercials send messages checking if you’re ready for that crazy hour when everything is supposed to be perfect. Remember that those moments last a few seconds of your life. Treat yourself gently this season. How will you choose to live with less stress?

No- One simple little word. I’m sure you’ve all heard the phrase, “Just say no!” Think of all the ways that you’ll need to say no during the holidays or anytime you need to moderate your schedule. Say the words sweetly and honestly, because you care about who and how you are.  “No thank you, I don’t care for any more food. No, I’ve had enough to drink.  No, I don’t feel like going out to dinner that night. No, I need to get rest instead. No, I’m not cooking dinner for 50 people. No, I don’t care to go through all of the work to decorate. No, I’m not taking on that extra project. No I’m not doing that extra activity.” Celebrate yourself by gently and firmly saying “No” this season.

Kindness– If there’s one word that says what this season is supposed to be about it would be— kindness. This is a great time to practice your kindness skills. People are taxed, tired, stressed, anxious, and bombarded with messages that they and everything they touch needs to be flawless and full of magical moments. There’s a pervasive sense that everything needs to be all shiny, twinkling, and full of hope and promise. However, without being conscious about your actions, it’s a setup for disappointments. Giving your kindness will go much further than anything else you can do. It may not be easy when another shopper hits you with her grocery cart and yells at you for being in her way, or the parking spot is rudely snatched, or someone is just angry. The loveliness you pull into your own heart will be well worth it when someone cuts you off in traffic, grabs the last item on the shelf. Flash your smile, send them kindness, and fill your own well with humanity.

Satisfaction– Know what you need to fill up, and when you’re full. Go for the things that serve you best. It’s okay to have enough of your nieces and nephews running around and screaming, relative’s rants or listening to stories about grotesque organ failures. It’s quite right to eat a few bites of all the rich foods. Decide what you need to feel satisfied and cut out the excess this season. The holidays will go smoother, your stress will be reduced and you’ll be a much happier person when January 1 rolls around. You won’t feel as if you’ve been bulldozed. Instead you’ll feel fulfilled, rested, and your checkbook could have extra money, because you were consciously choosing how you wanted your holidays to be.

I’m very thankful for you and that you’re reading my blog. Happy New Year!

 

Freeing Your Wild Artist

What’s the wildest art you can make?

Do you favID-100213076_Beautiful Girl with Her Hands In The Paint_stockimagesor marking with a pencil or brush stokes?

Will you use brilliant color or a monotone?

Are you the type who makes sketchy lines or bold smudges?

Will you give your work sensual expressions, or keep it plain and simple?

What is wild artistic expression for me won’t be the same for you. Finding your wild side can be fun and enlightening. Let yourself make a few messes with this opportunity and you’ll likely discover some amazing things about yourself and your art. If you want to stretch your creative abilities do something racy to juice up your creativity.

Challenge yourself to take a new risks. Try a new technique. Do something you really hate just to see what lies beyond your belief. Wear a color you don’t like and notice reactions of others, can you feel what the vibrations of that color do for your perception. Try being like another person for a day. How would that person make your art? During your next meeting take the opposite viewpoint from your own. Can you see something else in your reflection? How can you use these new-found tensions to enhance your performance?

When I feel I need to shake things up in the studio painting or on my keyboard writing I seek out my wild side. First I clear time and space for adventure trusting my instincts for what I think I need and can afford. Second, I give myself loads of permission to get really messy and have a lot of fun. Third, I allow play to invade everything I do. Fourth, I let go and live on the wild side of my artistic expression.

How do you free your wild artist? Leave me your comment. I’d love to hear about your experiences!

(Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)