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 Remember you have to pay for all those practice paintings, and unpublished writings, too.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)