14 May 2014

You know how "artists" are...

Many of you who read my other blog know that in March I submitted some art to the local hospital for review.  We'd received an employee call to donate art to a program that recognizes the importance of art in the healing environment. 

The deadline for submitting was April 1st, and the chosen would be notified by April 15th.

I had a couple of questions, so I spent a day or two emailing the contact back and forth to make certain that I really wanted to participate, and once I had made that decision, was told to be sure to make an appointment when I was dropping the art off so that someone would be in the office to take it.

About half way through creating the art for this I received an email asking me to consider  participating in another book.  At the time, it really took a great deal of consideration... I mean, local exposure vs. international exposure again... but, I didn't feel as though I had enough time to create good pieces for both projects.  In the end, the prospect of contributing to the town where I live and the campus where I work won out. 

I finished three paintings, emailed to make the appointment to drop them off, dragged my friend Kellye into going with me for moral support, and dutifully arrived on time to drop off the paintings.  That wasn't easy since no one in the hospital seemed to have any idea what we were talking about when trying to find the drop off point, and even after we had found out where that was, finding the tiny office was another challenge.

Still, we did finally find it and announced our presence to drop off the art.  

The person with whom I'd been emailing was not there, and a couple of folks in the office had no idea what I was talking about, but we were eventually directed to the program director.  She looked totally befuddled when I handed her the art with the paperwork.

After explaining that I had made an appointment to drop this off, that it was for the employee call for art, and that I wanted to be certain to get it in before the deadline, she still looked somewhat confused but did take it. 

Kellye asked her when I would hear something, and her reply was to the effect..."We haven't had many entries yet, we will probably have to extend the deadline... you know how artists are."

Thankfully, it was a day where the majority of my filters were intact, and I resisted the desire to ask, "No, exactly how are we artists?"

Seriously... the person in charge of this program taking a stereotypical view of what an artist is?  I mean... they did ask us to contribute this art, and if chosen donate it for free to this program... and here I was, standing in her office, with her confusion about why I was there, BEFORE the deadline... and she says "you know how artists are"???

Even more happy that I had brought Kellye along... she scooted me on out of there and back to work before I said something I probably shouldn't have.

Time moves forward (at an unbelievably fast pace)... and it's just past the middle of April.  Folks in my building who had seen what I was contributing started asking if I had heard anything.  I hadn't, so I decided to email.  Apparently the deadline had been extended to April 22nd, and they would be in touch with me one way or the other very soon after that.

Fast forward again... first part of May (the 7th to be exact).  People asking about it again.  I hadn't heard a thing so again, I write an email and send it off... the reply (in part)...

"We extended the deadline until April 22nd so I am just now getting around to cataloging all of the submissions.  The jury should be meeting to make their selections in about a week and a half."

Maybe it's just me, but shouldn't things have been cataloged AS they were being dropped off?  Am I taking this too personally?  Would it have been that difficult, since they had so few entries, to catalog as they arrived and then email those who had dropped items off just to let us know what was going on adding a rough outline of time?

Sooooo freaking frustrating... so to vent, a letter I will never send... but do think is very important for those involved...
Dear *****,

I appreciate your reply to my question regarding my art.  You know, after setting up an appointment to drop it off to you on February 27th (to make sure someone would be in the office as you suggested), I was there on time.  You were not there at all.  Those who were in the office seemed confused as to why I would be showing up in there, art in hand.  However, after much explaining, I was shown to your Director's office, where, as I handed her my art, she looked a bit more than confused.  

She told me then that the deadline may have to be extended, because "you know how artists are".  The implication was that we are a bunch who can't meet deadlines because we are so flighty and without direction... you know, that stereotype of we creative folks... unlike you "professional" folks who are so deadline and outcome driven.  

Wow, the Director of a program that is supposed to support the belief that art is an important part of a healing environment making a comment that is really supportive of a vision that so very stereotypical.  I'm pretty sure my jaw dropped. 

Considering I was dropping my art off at an appointed time, ahead of the scheduled deadline, thinking it would be to someone I had made that appointment with, who wasn't even there... let's just say it was a struggle for me not to ask, "No, how are WE?"

Here we are, more than a month later, and again you are telling me that it will be a bit before I know anything. Impressive professionalism.  I'm so glad you aren't like artists.

While I don't know whether or not you are the creative sort maybe you should take just a moment to see it from the artist point of view.  When I create something my soul goes into it.  I think that is pretty universal for those who create.  If I hand that creation to others to be judged far more than the quality of the art is being judged, that bit of my soul is being judged as well.  At least that is how it is from my point of view, and I'd bet a great many of us feel that way.

While I have come to realize that I cannot view rejection as ME being unworthy, it is still a difficult, somewhat soul baring, process.  I'm betting that most of us who create feel that way to some degree.  Being put off, especially after the comment "you know how artists are" is simply not acceptable. The artistic creations, and the artists, whether formally trained and working from the heart, or working from their heart with no formal training, deserve to be respected.  We may have "day jobs", but creating is really our life work.  

Remember, you have asked us to do this for free, we are not being compensated for our time or materials or abilities, so the least we deserve is respect, regardless of how talented you do or do not believe us to be.

Perhaps a better method for all of this would have been to catalog the works as they came in... it's simple enough to create a spread sheet with the artist name and email contact... very easy from there to create a mass email letting everyone know what is going on and an approximate timeline.  I'd have a lot more faith that way that you at least knew where my work was.  Right now, considering the confused look on the Director's face when I dropped it off (and the condition of her office), I don't know that.

Had I known exactly how unprofessional this process was going to be, I would have made the choice to submit for another book rather than share my work locally.  While I wouldn't have been paid for that either, at least I would have been given international exposure... but you know how we artists are, we just can't keep focused... doing two projects at once I might not have given my best to either, and for me, that's not acceptable.

I also might add, to those of you who work in your office... if you truly believe in the concept of art adding a positive note to the healing environment... and respect people who create it, don't make comments that seem to indicate that what you really think of an artist is stereotypical... that's sort of like Donald Sterling telling the world he is not a racist, and we deserve more than that.  The theory that art as a healing effect deserves more respect than that.  I'd go so far as to say that you should be passionate about that belief, and act in accordance without preconceived stereotypes... because belief without passion really isn't belief at all.

At this point, I am not certain that I will allow my art to be displayed even if it is accepted...  I may just tell you to kiss my ass and take it home with me.  But I am going to think about that, because I've been known to cut my nose off a time or two... rhetorically.  And I have never regretted doing that when needed. But I do know with some certainty that I will not participate in this event the next time a call for art goes out.


I know that this may seem a bit over reactive, but I have a deep and abiding belief that any time one perpetrates any stereotype they are creating a disservice to all of humanity.  Yes, creatives are "different" than those who are very "straight line" sorts... yes, every ethnic group may have differences from every other ethnic group... yes, religions and belief systems differ... even folks from the country and those who are from the city may see things differently... but when we make blanket statements based on those stereotypes what that really says is that we have a closed mind and believe that we are "right"... rather than look at the individual and decide for ourselves... and, in the end, I think that is what I am most sad about in this instance... but, then again... you know how artists are...

01 May 2014

Sometimes it just sucks...

Sometimes it just does, you know?

Now, let me remind everyone before I begin this... this blog is about encouraging YOU to see yourself as an artist... maybe even and ARTIST... all capitals.  And, it's meant to be very, very "real".  Sometimes that includes not so nice words and some uglier sort of thoughts... and even every now and again some whining...

There's whining ahead, so bear with me, I'll be better once I have the wine after the whine.


In 2009 I gave myself ACreativeDream for a birthday present.  I'm not sure why, other than I REALLY like to share what I know.  I love to teach, to encourage, and to inspire.  What can I say, I have an ego.  I admit it, I want to be able to talk, or in this instance, write, and actually have people listen (read).  I want to have an impact.

I don't think I am achieving that goal.

Somehow this has turned into that whole ugly dieting sort of thing,you know, the going in circles feeling unfulfilled and like you are not winning the battle. It goes like this... I feel like I am failing at a goal that is important to me... so I work harder, try harder, encourage more... get fewer readers.  Look at other blogs, wonder what I am doing wrong... look at the work of others, wonder why they can get "discovered" while I keep trudging and trudging and never getting noticed.  Feel sad that I am not reaching what I want to reach... try harder, fall farther... feel like my time and emotional investment in it isn't working... start wondering why I bother. Lose the desire to create and share, because what's the point, it's not like the readers are coming in droves and I'm sure not being discovered...

It's ugly, isn't it?  Yet that is my (perceived) reality.  At least for the moment.  Now, don't get me wrong, while I feel this way right now, in a week things may well be totally different.  But, geeze... some days... 

I live in this beautiful old duplex, next door to someone who is absolutely horrible... every breath I take just pisses her off.  She really should live in a single home, all to herself where she cannot hear someone walking up the stairs or vacuuming.  Yet, she lives next door and seems to find great joy in making me as miserable as is possible.  The landlord ONLY does maintenance when it is an absolute necessity... like when the water lines burst.  It's time to move.  But the whole administrative fees, deposits, pet deposits, pet fees, moving utilities, hiring someone to move the big stuff... just not in my paltry budget right now.

Daily visits with my father... making sure he has clothes, cokes, peanut butter fudge, making sure the staff knows he needs his eyes checked, or that he tells me he isn't feeling well (he never complains, so if he says something, he really doesn't feel well), and just someone who spends time with him, who asks him about where he was stationed in the service, what my great grandmother was like, what he loved to do when he was young... you know to remind him that he's important to someone... even if it is the black sheep daughter he disowned years ago... we all want to feel important to someone... Of course, after  more than two years there, I have come to know lots of the folks...and I try to spend time on the weekends listening to all of the little ladies whom I have grown to love as if they were my grandmothers as well.

Each and every day I arrive at work at 6:45 and bust my ass to try to catch things up until 4:30 in the afternoon, only to feel like I am more and more behind...

And, from time to time I try really hard to create something for someone that they will love, or at least appreciate... although, of late, I've been sort of short in that as well.

I know that I have a good life, I know it's no where bad as so many do... but, obviously, my life is thoroughly out of balance with my goals/desires/wishes/dreams right now.  Sometimes I wonder, as I lie awake in the wee early morning hours of insomnia, arm wrestling with my demons, how much of me can I hand out before the well runs dry?  How do I replenish... recoup... refill that well?  How do I regain my confidence?  How do I regain the sense that what I do is important... that it matters?  How do I ever feel as though I make a difference?

I'm not good about allowing my vulnerabilities to show.  I'm certainly not good at sharing my fears and insecurities.  I'm very protective of them and try to not show them to people.  Too often when I have it's caused me pain. Of course when that happens, it causes me to build walls around myself so that I may feel more secure... I can hide better that way, protect my fear better. But, those walls also may hinder the view.  Not only my view, but the view of me for others.

Part of the process of being an artist, heck, of being human, is recognizing that there are going to be times where you feel far more disparaged than encouraged.  And it's important to recognize that, while it sucks, "this too, shall pass"...  and it's important that, if I want to truly encourage others, others have to see that I have "those" times too.  And, to be honest, it's important that I learn to allow myself to be more vulnerable... to show and be my authentic self, warts, demons and all... otherwise those walls will be too tall and I will have locked myself in them, a prisoner of my own fears, real or imagined, with only the demons to entertain me. 

Of course, in the mean time, if any of you have any suggestions about replenishing that well, or reaching goals... I'd love to hear them.

09 April 2014

Well, doesn't that just look like crap?

How many times have you said something like that to yourself?  How often do you spend at least some portion of your creative time hearing that (or something similar) whispered in your head?  Oh, those whispers of self doubt.  Those voices that can take a whole lot of joy out of creating.  Those voices that are so freaking ingrained... sometimes they are hard to get out aren't they?

Does everyone hear them?  Where did they originate?  I can remember all the way back to kindergarten when my teachers insisted that trees simply cannot be purple, and cows were most definitely not red and pink thank you very much.  I also seemed to give them fits because I often forgot to draw things on people... I  left off eyebrows and arms, unless the arms were doing something.  To be honest, even to this day I have to remind myself to draw in eyebrows.  But, let's be real...

These are my eyes... you see any eyebrows there?  (And no one sees any wrinkles... got it?)  You have to look darn close, right there, just above my eyes.  My eyebrows are a very light strawberry blonde... I have never plucked them, never waxed them, never shaped them...they are just thin.  Very thin.  And almost invisible.  When I look in the mirror I really don't notice eyebrows, so I forget to draw them.  (And thank goodness for mascara, my eyelashes are just as pale.)  

Yet, in spite of those negative naysayers that told me I wasn't doing something right, and the voices they left inside my head, I persist in my creative endeavors.  How interesting is that?  Why do you suppose that is?

My theory is that humans (at least some of us) were born meant to create beautiful things.  Or, maybe to phrase it more accurately, I think we are meant to create things we think are beautiful, in spite of what others may think of them.  I wonder how many more beautiful things would be created if we didn't suffer from this horrible thing called self doubt?  What would happen if we didn't "measure" ourselves by some self inflicted, and unattainable, idea of what being talented is?  What would we do if we could get those voices of self doubt to just shut up?

Every time I create something those little voices of self doubt chatter inside my lead.  And at some point during the creation process those voices get very loud and I just do not like what I am making.  Each and every piece.  Each and every time, every single time.  I have a box full of things that I put aside because those voices got very loud.  And you know what is interesting?  When I go back and look at what is in that box, there's really nothing wrong with the pieces that are in there.  I very often wonder why I didn't finish them. 

When that self doubt creeps in, it nags at us, tells us we are not talented, we cannot create art, heck, some days we can't even create dinner.  It takes our joy away.  We allow that doubt to win far more often than we should.

If you read the other blog you've often read that I do not do realism well.  (That applies sometimes both figuratively and literally.) Reality is that I will never create beautiful portraits that look exactly like the person I tried to portray.  I will never do a realistic still life.  I will never paint a perfect landscape.  But, I will always admire those folks who can do that sort of art.

As a matter of fact, I admire them so much that I used to believe that the only "real" artists were artists who could do that.  That idea came from my first art professor in college.  He's also the reason I changed my major.  But my real truth is, I don't want to do those things.  I want to create MY art, not someone else's art.  Every so often I will give them a try, just because I can, but I will never meet the standard of perfection I have set for myself in regard to them.  My little nay-saying voices are likely to have a field day.

On the other hand though, I may do some very fun and funky portraits, that might be amazingly colorful and "different".  And I may do some really interesting still life... but it most likely won't look real, but it might be labeled as "unique".  And, right now I am working on a landscape that I see every single day as I drive across campus... it doesn't look "real", but it is becoming interesting.  I'm not looking for "perfection", whatever that is, and suddenly I am doing better work than I have ever done.  I see "me" in my creations now, not me trying to do what someone else does... but me, who I am authentically.  That feels pretty good.

So, how do you quiet those negative little voices in your head that can steal the joy from creating and cause you to doubt yourself?  It's not easy, they are pretty ingrained.  It probably works differently for everyone, but I can share with you how I tamed mine.

A couple of years ago now I was working on something and the little voices were really tearing it up.  Every tiny thing I did was wrong.  The more I doubted what I was doing, the worse the project looked to me.  The worse it looked to me, the more I doubted myself.  It's a terrible cycle that just sucks.  As I was close to tossing the project when something stopped me.  I realized how unkind those voices of self doubt are.  How hurtful, how destructive.  How terribly unfair.

I realized that I would never say such destructive things to another person, so why do I allow myself to say things like that to me?  It was a monumental moment.  The realization that I had the power to stop that negativity.  If I would never say things like that to another, why in the world would I allow myself to have this mean and hurtful ongoing conversation with myself?  Woah.  This was big. Huge even... bordering on life altering.

Oh my gosh... I can be kind to myself.

I can treat myself the same respect and encouragement I give other people.  I can be encouraging rather than doubting... I can have faith in myself rather than that nagging doubt.  Wow!  WOW!

From then, each time the voices of negativity creep in and start getting loud I ask myself, "Would you say these mean things to someone else who was giving it their best try?"  The answer is always "of course not".  So the logical next question is, "Then why are you saying these things to yourself?"  and now, each time I begin to hear that negative thinking when I am creating something I remind myself that it is ok.  What I am doing may not turn out as I originally envisioned it, it may turn out even better.  And you know what, it often does.

It's taken a bit of resolve, and I've had to be pretty consistent with myself about it, but, the little negative conversation I have in my head about my work have started to lessen.  I've learned to be kind to myself, to replace the negativity with encouragement.  To stop allowing the voice of negativity to speak so darned loudly, and to let the voice of kindness step up to the plate a bit more.  Sometimes now days the negativity barely rears its ugly head... what's the point if I'm not going to listen and allow it to ruin my adventure?

And you know what?   I am having so much fun!  Fun!  To sit down with a blank canvas or sheet in front of me has turned into such an adventure.  To watch the colors splash across it, to see it take shape, to get my hands covered in paint and paper... and to NOT hear that constant line of negative thoughts streaming in my head.  Pure joy, seriously.  And I think it shows... my colors are bright and garish, and I just love them.  I've become passionate about creating, trying new processes, experimenting and coming up with what works for me.

Everyone who creates things should feel this way about what they are doing... it doesn't have to be a Rembrandt, or a Matisse... it is perfectly fine to be a June... or a Deb, or an Eileen, or a Cherie, or a Yvonna, or a Melissa, or a Mary or a Kate, or a.... you get the idea.  YOU are an ARtisT... and the work you do is lovely because of the joy you put into it... let that shine.  Let the beauty of YOUR work blossom, let it reflect who YOU are.

Sometimes it means strangling those negative voices, and it's ok to do just that.  Stop and ask yourself, "why do I allow them to keep speaking to me"?  And... if you ever need back up, email me, I'll be happy to help you strong arm them.

So, what do you do to quiet your little nagging, nasty, negative, nay-saying voices?

02 April 2014

A garage sale...

Ok, it's been a while... I promised posts, I didn't promise consistency.  Life has been busy, 40 hours in an office a week, visiting my father every day, trying to get in creative time, AND doing all the other stuff that must be done... you know, grocery shopping, laundry, vacuuming up the dog hair dust bunnies before they come to life, and watching The Walking Dead.  Not to mention that winter is just freaking killing my soul because it just will not let go.

But, enough with the excuses... let's chat.

What's your work worth?

Don't make faces at the computer screen like that.  It's a pretty simple question, right?  But it really isn't, is it?  Every time I show someone at work something I've done I get the "why are you working here" thing.  Let's look at that...

A couple of weeks ago I woke with this very clear "vision" of a painting swimming around in my head. (Happens to you too, right?)  I honestly had no intention of painting, I was busy creating little art dolls that just were not turning out to be what I wanted, but the painting just was not leaving my head.  It obviously needed to be brought into the world.  So I decided I'd put a couple of the things I was doing off and paint.

Interestingly enough, later in the same morning that I had woken with that in my head the University issued a juried call for employee art.  It seems that our hospital recognizes the role of art creating an environment that works to improve health.  Now, very often I don't notice the obvious, I want to, but all too often they just slip right past me, but this one did seem pretty clear.  A week later the painting on the canvas looked very much like the painting I had seen in my head and I liked it.  It's called "Flowers for Kate".

As I do with a whole bunch of my art I took it into my day job to share.  Again I got the "why are you working here" comments, and then someone said, "I'd love to see your house, I bet it is just full of your work!"

You and I have had this conversation, at least we have if you read my other blog, so you know I don't have my creations everywhere in my home. I never have.  You can find all sorts of them in lots of other homes, and you might find some in total stranger's homes (I often leave it somewhere to be found), but you don't see much of it in my home.  It's always interesting to me that everyone thinks my house must be just full of it.

 So, I explained to her that, while I have tons of stuff that both of my children have done, I have little of my own.  The majority of my work (what isn't given away or left to be found) gets tossed into a small dresser I have just outside my studio door.  It goes in, the drawer closes and I go back to playing.  Often I've made the comment that my kids will be able to build a magnificent bonfire with it when I move on.

Someone that had over heard it said, "You should have a yard sale!"

A yard sale.  Hmm.


While I am pretty confident that this person really didn't mean anything negative by the comment, I had to wonder if they realized that they had just equated my work, a week worth of applying layers and layers of paint to a plain canvas to create the vision I had seen in my head, with junk you no longer want and have decided to unload on other folks for pennies in a yard sale.

It's taken me about a hundred and three years to finally come to believe that my work is coming into what I want it to be.  I struggle with self doubt every minute that I am making something, but I like what I am doing right now.  Really like it.  Love the bold colors and the way it's all been coming together.  I see "me" in it, and that is very exciting.  So my initial reaction to the comment was "what the hell"?

This person stuttered something to the effect of, "I didn't mean it like that". Of course they didn't, but once something is said, it's out there.  And once we hear it, there is an impact.  And, once stuck in my head the whispers started.  You know the ones... the ones that hint that you don't know what you are doing, that no one is going to like the stuff you've done.  Mine go sort of like this... "why in the world did you put a pink background in that painting, I mean seriously?" "Geeze, really?  A big ass black pot in the middle of it... really?"  "You know, it just sucks, you can't paint, what are you thinking, why bother?"

I don't sell very much of my work.  Why?  Mostly because I am unwilling to sell a piece that I have invested money for a canvas and supplies, invested anywhere from 20 to 40 or more hours into creating, for less than the price that the canvas cost in the first place. 

Every day I go into an office where I spend eight or more hours managing a very large program. I work here to provide myself with an income that takes care of the bills and provides me with benefits.  When I come home, if there is laundry to be done, errands to be run, groceries to be fetched, chores accomplished, it is all on my shoulders.  I also spend time every day with my father, as well as try to get in some time with my daughter and from time to time get out with the girls from work.  Once everything else is done, I creep into my little studio and I spend time creating. 

One is the work I do to pay the bills, the other is the work I do because it is what I am meant to do. 

Which is worth more?  Outwardly, I get paid to go into the office for all those hours each week.  I get three weeks of paid vacation, a bunch of official holidays, insurance and benefits.  But, to me, worth isn't just about monetary gain.  Worth, in my way of measuring it, is growing, developing, learning, being the best possible version of me that I can be every day.  That does not require perfection, it simply requires persistence.  For me, my art is an expression of that growth, the learning, the persistence... there is truly a piece of me in each and every item I make. 

So, if I value my work, if I am asked to sell a piece of it, how much is it worth?  Shouldn't it be worth at least minimum wage?  Or the wages I earn for my day job?  More?  Less?  Garage sale prices?

It's an age old dilemma... how do you determine the worth of your work?

27 October 2013

Let's talk about art...

So, what is art exactly?  Obviously, there are some things we can all look at and agree, "wow, that is ART!"  But, really, how do we define "art"?  Is art the same for everyone, or is art more of a subjective concept?  If you study art you'll be told that there are seven elements of art... texture, space, shape, color, tone/value, line, and form.  But, are those elements all there is to art? 

Many years ago I owned a needlepoint shop in a little district near downtown.  There was an "art gallery" there, and I recall hearing the owner say, "I don't create art, but I know what GOOD art is."   We had differing opinions about that.  She did carry lovely art, very well executed by those who created it... for the masses.  By that I mean it was art that the "normal" folks out there would buy and put in their living rooms, and they would be very pleased that they had original works of art.  Nothing wrong with that, she knew her clients, and carried what they wanted.

But that is a pretty narrow definition of art.

What about the more controversial works of art?  Do a quick Google search for "controversial art", and you can find all sorts of things.  A quick look at what you find in that search will often shock you, disgust you, or simply leave you with your mouth agape.  Why?  Because most of these works of art deal with things we are uncomfortable with.  Sex, religion, world issues, the homeless, injustices...  You know, the things we all know exist, but would rather just keep in a dark closet and pretend don't.  This sort of art pushes our boundaries.  Just like a banned book, this sort of art can, IF we allow it, make us look at what we really think, and actually try to understand why we think that way.  We don't often do that though, we'd far rather decry it than delve deeper. 

And, of course, there is art out there that just plain confuses us. Is a red line painted across a white canvas art?  Does it have a deeper meaning to investigate?  Is the red line created from something exotic and interesting and that is what makes it art?  Did the artist just want to see if they could dupe the general public?

Or, is it all really just that subjective?

Have you ever had the chance to see an original Van Gogh up close?  A couple of years ago a dear friend and I spent the day at the Cincinnati Art Museum.  (BTW, the Cincinnati Art Museum, founded in 1881, was the first building built specifically to be an art museum west of the Alleghenies.  Entry into the museum is free, thanks to a generous donation, parking is $4.00 per vehicle.)  It really is a lovely museum, and whilst wandering through the galleries I came upon a Van Gogh.  Undergrowth with Two Figures...

The photographic representation of it is lovely, but it does not do the painting justice.  The painting is executed in oil in canvas, and when you are standing in front of it you can see each and every brush stroke.  The paint is thick, layers upon layers, the strokes are short and choppy, and run in every direction...  You can see where the bristles of his brush cut through the paint as it was being deposited on the canvas. The textures, the colors... I cannot tell you how much I wanted to run my fingers across the ridges of that dried paint... the ridges that just begged to be caressed.  I wanted to touch his brush strokes, as though some part of his genius might be transferred to me.

Of course, Van Gogh, who has had such a huge influence on 20th century art, whose work entangled my very soul that day, suffered from horrible anxiety and mental illness.  He died at 37, from a gun shot wound, thought to possibly be self inflicted even though the gun was never found.  His work was practically unknown, and certainly not appreciated as it is now.

But that feeling, standing in front of the piece, the longing to touch it, the feeling is almost indescribable... to me, that is what art does.  It's so much more than lines and colors and values... it causes you to feel something.  To me, art is very subjective.  That red line across a white canvas may well speak to you of something deeper, while all I see is a red line on a white canvas.  We all see things differently, we all define things differently.  We see art (and everything else) not just with our eyes, but we see it with our hearts and our belief systems as well.

Early one summer morning, back in that needlepoint shop, a young man walked by.  He stopped, peered into the huge front window filled with colorful canvases.  He was wearing a yellow t-shirt.  I recall that detail because I could see that the length of both of his arms extending from his sleeves were tattooed.  Brilliant colors interwoven with amazing imagery.  When I grew up, only "those" sort of people got tattoos.  You know, the ones who lived on the fringe of society, the sort who might be trouble.  As I was watching him through the window, he turned to come into the door.  I admit, there was a moment of "why would he come in here", and I even further admit, it was because of MY concept of tattoos that had been ingrained when I was younger, of what "those" people were like.

He was curious about what he saw in the window.  I was curious about his tattoos.  We had a conversation that morning, he learning more about needlepoint, me learning more about why he had chosen to cover himself with tattoos.  Turns out he was a very impressive young man.  He was working on a PhD (at 24 no less), he had fallen in love with tattoos the first time he saw one when he was very young, and he was terribly selective about what he chose to put on his body, each and every one of them represented something meaningful to him.  So here he was, this kid, who was one of the most polite young men I had met in years, well educated, well read, had a serious plan for his future, blowing all of my preconceived notions about what tattoos meant.  I just love it when that happens... when some stupid stereotype I have, that I didn't even realize I had, is simply crushed.  Once you can see a different perspective, the world is an entirely new place.

(Ode to Kate, a mixed media art doll inspired by Kate's tattoos)
I've never looked at tattoos the same again.  What I had learned from that encounter is that they are an amazing art form... a permanent art that is forever associated with the body that it is on.  It's a good thing I had the opportunity to learn that lesson, because a few years later my own beautiful daughter got her first tattoo.  Now, don't get me wrong... I still don't understand why anyone would randomly mark their body in a permanent way with something like a zombie Raggedy Ann, but, who am I to judge what someone else things is art, or is worth marking their body with?  My daughter asked me to design a tattoo for her.  One of my "doodles" with poppies in it.  And she wants me to get one that is very similar, to be forever linked in that way.  To be asked to do that is one of the most amazing honors of my life... my little one wants a piece of my art on her body, she wants us to share that experience.  Forever.  I mean, seriously, how incredible is that?

I'm darned good with color.  Not to terrible at some forms of painting.  I've got the whole mixed media thing going in a way that I like.  I have even learned that I can sorta do that folk art that I love so much.  But, I think that I suck at drawing.  I made that comment somewhere along the way and my friend Cherie contradicted me on it.  She called attention to my doodling.  I had never once considered my doodles drawings.  Not once.  Not remotely.  It's a great experience when one comment can make you consider things from a completely different perspective.  Maybe I do draw, at least a bit... hmmm... 

The real question behind all of this rambling is... does how we define art impact whether or not we call ourself an artist?  I think it may well play a role.  As I said in my first post, until I realized that art is not just what the likes of Rembrant and DiVinci did, I could never have seen what I do as art.  If you can't see what you do as art, you cannot define yourself as an artist. Once my definition of what art is expands, am I more likely to consider what I do art?

So, what do you think?  Does the way you define art, impact whether or not you see yourself as an artist?  Are you truly aware of how you define what art, or what an artist is?  What is art to you?  What makes someone an artist?  Why do you have those specific definitions?

Remember, this is an interactive dialogue... so let's chat about this.  You can leave comments here... OR... I am just getting so darned tech savvy... {she laughs hysterically} I started a Facebook group for us!!!  You can find that here.

21 October 2013

YOU are an artist...

Yup, YOU.  YOU are an artist.  How do I know that?  Because there is "something" in almost every human being that just makes us want to create.  Some of us foster that desire more, some of us ignore it a bit... but trust me, it's there.  It's been that way since we humans began becoming self aware.  Don't believe me?  Check out the world's oldest cave paintings in El Castillo cave.  Some of the paintings were as simple as a red disk, but they were made by man about 40,800 years ago.

Why do we create?  There are about as many different reasons for that as there are people who create things.  There was a time where the art invoked magic, it drew down the blessings of the gods, gave thanks, and represented the things that were important to those creating it...for some of us, it still does that.  As strange as it can seem to those of us who have phones we can hold in our hands that have cameras in them to record everything, once upon a time, that wasn't so. The artist was the camera of her day. The artists were what captured their world.  Humans want to make our surroundings beautiful.  We embellish our clothing, we create jewelry to embellish ourselves, we hang art on our walls... it makes us happy, it's what we do.

Now, while I am NOT an expert, certainly not according to Martha anyway , and boo-hiss to Martha for tearing down rather than building up those who blog... I am a 50-something-year-old woman who has wanted to be an artist all of her life... and I've come to realize that my time is marching on... fast.  If I am ever going to be an artist I have to simply decide that I am going to wear the hat of "Artist", and that's exactly what I've done.   I can, and I shall, wear that glittery and fabulous hat of "ARtIsT", because I am an artist.  BTW, my hat is fuchsia and lime green with great big bits of orange and deep, deep teal, with feathers, and colorful threads that hang from it, and lots of beads all over it.  Of course, it is constantly evolving, so next week it might be something different.

I will insert a disclaimer here...I have absolutely no formal training in art, unless you count the high school classes that I took.  But I do have a fabulously fun, and somewhat strange mind, so I can be whatever I choose to be... just as long as I can back the claim up!!!  Of course, if I have no formal training in art, and I am an artist, you know what that means, don't ya?  Means you can be one too!!

So, if I believe you are an artist... why don't you?

Since I don't know you personally, and haven't gone through years of therapy with you, I can't speak directly to your reasons... but I am willing to bet that, every person out there who wants to be an artist, but just cannot give themselves permission to wear that hat, can give you a dozen or so... right off the top of their head.  (Especially easy, since there is no hat on that head.)  And, I'd almost bet they are a bit more like excuses than valid reasons.  I mean y'all... "I can't draw a straight line" just doesn't cut it... who wants to draw something as boring as a straight line???

While I don't know your "why I'm not an artist" reasons, I can share with you mine...

In all my years, people have told me how "creative" I am, how "artistic" I am, how "talented" I am.  Ok, maybe not ALL of my years, I did spend all those formative ones learning how to walk, and feed myself and dress myself, but you get the idea.  And, looking back, I was pretty creative... and, honestly, relatively talented.  But I didn't believe any of them, not a one.

Why didn't I?  Because I believed that, to be an artist, one had to be an artist the likes of Van Gogh, or Monet, or DaVinci.  Creating a beautiful portrait that looked exactly liked the person, or a perfect still life, or some amazing landscape... I could try, but I sucked at it.  Seriously.  Sucked.

And, I don't know about you, but I have this inner critic that would shame the most scathing food critic at the New York Times. That voice inside your head that has the uninvited running dialogue about how what you are doing sucks?  Mine goes something like this... "OMG, you think THAT looks like a duck?  Seriously?  Oh come on... it can't be a duck, an elephant... maybe even a moose if you look at those lines you stuck out there for no reason just right... but a duck?  Oh no, that isn't a duck..."  The conversation can go on forever. Interestingly enough, my inner critic's voice is suspiciously like my mother's voice. 

And, just as bad, or worse even, than all my other reasons, or excuses really, is that I happily embraced wearing a hat for far too long that read "I am not good enough".  And, oh my goodness, that belief didn't just apply itself to art, that extended across my life.  I was a terrible daughter, a horrible wife, a therapy inducing mother to my children, a volunteer that just didn't do enough...  The list just went on and on.  The "I'm not good enough" and the "you can't do anything right" voices often got together and had quite the party in my head... and it was ugly.  Very ugly.  At least for me, but they seemed to thoroughly enjoy it.

Little by little, honestly, I think it has been mostly a process of getting older for me, I have (FINALLY) come into my own.  And, to be bluntly honest with you, I really don't give a damn what people think of me any more.  I am doing the absolute best I can, I am passionate about every aspect of my life, and everything that I do in this life is done with intent and commitment... and that is enough.  That is the best I can do... it ain't perfect, but it's pretty darned good.  It was such an amazing revelation when I finally understood I was never going to be someone else's definition of perfect. (Read that carefully, and let it sink in for a minute or two, because I think so many of us are trying to meet what we believe is someone else's definition of perfection, real or imagined.)

MY expectations of myself were unrealistic, because they came from what I believed others expected of me.  It was quite the shock to find out that those others didn't really have those expectations... I was creating them all by myself.  I was being far too hard on myself.  I had been the one expecting perfection... an absolutely unattainable illusion.  There is no such thing as perfection.  What there is, and what is attainable, is being who you truly are, embracing your "imperfections", and letting go of all that other bullshit. And, trust me, three quarters or more of it is all bullshit.

With that realization came the question... "Now what?".  I mean... seriously... if I didn't have to be perfect, what could I be? What do I want to be?  Do I have to limit myself?  OMG, if I have no limits... what can I do???  Just let me tell you what I can do...

I can be imperfect, and I can love, love, LOVE my imperfections. They are, after all, what make me... me.  They are what make me different than you.  I can play, and explore, I can make messes.  I can look at the world differently, I can see beauty in every tiny little thing.  I can be mesmerized by the moon, and I can take an afternoon off and spend the whole of it doing nothing but looking at the clouds if I want.

And, here's the best part... I've always wanted to be an artist... so guess what?  I can be an artist.  Oh, I am not a Michaelangelo or a Rembrandt... nor am I an expert in all of this... but I don't want to be.  I can define art differently, I can create bright, garish, wonderfully fun creations that are my own art, not the art of someone else.  I am me... and I am an artist.

I have two goals for this blog.  1. That if you want to be an artist, but still haven't found the perfect artist hat to wear... you will find the encouragement, the belief, and the faith in yourself as you read through my experiences, and the experiences of others who share them here to realize that YOU are an artist, and can wear that hat proudly.  2.  That this blog will honor all of those wonderful people who have supported my journey, who have walked parts of the path with me, and who encourage me to continue to walk this path, even when the undergrowth is a bit thick, because the journey really is all that matters.

So, join me... come share this path for a bit... I think we're going to have lots of fun!