A simple yet extremely effective practice to ground yourself in your life’s purpose. I’m recuperate from yet-another surgery this summer (my 11th, and it’s my foot). I’ve n…
Source: WHAT ARE YOUR VALUES?
A simple yet extremely effective practice to ground yourself in your life’s purpose. I’m recuperate from yet-another surgery this summer (my 11th, and it’s my foot). I’ve n…
Source: WHAT ARE YOUR VALUES?
A simple yet extremely effective practice to ground yourself in your life’s purpose.
I’m recuperate from yet-another surgery this summer (my 11th, and it’s my foot). I’ve never had my tonsils out, and I still have my appendix. But apparently all my other body parts are either out of whack or get whacked a lot (Tae Kwon Do, Thai Kickboxing, etc.). OTOH, I once twisted my knee very badly chasing a chicken down our icy driveway in Keene, New Hampshire. So maybe it’s just a karma thing.
I’m past the pain and the exhaustion that follows surgery. But I’m still extremely restricted in my activities. No weight-bearing on my foot. No driving. (Which means I haven’t been to TJMaxx, or thrift-shop hopping, or flea marketing in a month. Cruel and unusual indeed.)
But I’ve been listening to more podcasts, watching more movies, and reading, reading, reading. I can’t remember the last time I got to read a book from cover to cover in a day. (Oh, wait, I do remember. My last knee surgery, two years ago!)
Today I found the PinkHairedMarketer, Sonia Simone. I love her business philosophy: Go where your heart follows, do what works for you, as long as you don’t lie, and you don’t hurt people. (More on that below.)
One podcast really grabbed me today. It’s called.A Quick, Enjoyable Way to Sharpen your Vision, Goals, and Values. In it, she talks about the kinds of stress that actually improves our life and our work. She talks about setting goals. And she stresses the importance of including our values when we create those goals.
Values are the things you care about–not necessarily the things you are good at. For example, you might care about family, and yet your family situation could be totally messed up. This snagged me, because in every way, issues around family are hounding me lately. But family is tremendously important to me, though I struggle with how to be a good parent, how to be a good daughter and sib, without compromising my own needs and outlook on life.
Values give meaning to our lives, and our endeavors. When we set goals, it’s important to consider our values. They play a huge part in the way we measure ‘success’. Because the toys and treats and the other signs of success that we usually define as ‘success’, if achieved at the cost of our values, will drain us. There are ways that even a quirky, multi-faceted art-and-writing business like mine could be amazingly profitable. But so far, I haven’t found a way to do that, that would not compromise my values. (Sooooo…..I’m doing something right!)
Sonia made many observations I liked. But the big take-away for me is this:
“It turns out that writing about your values is the most effective psychological intervention ever studied.”
That’s right. Simply taking the time to write down your values–or even articulate your values to yourself, in your head–is the best way to align your goals, to create a vision for yourself, to feel more engaged and more purposeful in your life. Sonia says:
Connecting with your values, on the other hand, is easy and energizing. It’s refreshing. It helps you reframe things. And if the research holds true, it lasts a surprisingly long time.
It can just be a matter of writing out a few paragraphs about your values and why they matter to you. Just take a little time to remember what they are, and think about them with some richness for a little bit.
I would definitely recommend that you feel connected to your values — to the ideas that give meaning to your life — as you work with goals and vision. They’ll give you that “Why.”
See why I like this so much? Yep. The big “Why” there. My favorite tool is the word, “WHY?”
And so today, I start off this experiment by identifying, and writing about some of my values:
Family. Complicated. Not always full of love and respect. But I love my family, above (parents, aunts, uncles, grands), below (my kids), and sideways (my husband, my sibs.) Sometimes there has to be protective distance. But I always hold out the hope that things could be better.
Passion for my art. My artwork and my writing are both the work of my heart. They tell my story, all the way. My responsibility is to get it out into the world. Yes, I’d love some money to come of it all. But I will strive to do it even if nothing comes of it.
Compassion. This can be hard, if I refuse to set aside my assumptions about other people, about how things work in the world. But I am determined to be open, and to listen. To really listen to people who have different experiences in the world than mine. To respect their stories.
Service. By volunteering, I step outside my comfort zone. I learn something new. I expand. I’m almost ready to explore such opportunities here in Santa Rosa. Something will call to me. Soon. And I’ve learned that when I’m called, I should go.
In fact, service is also why I write. I want to share what I’ve learned with anyone else who would benefit from it. I’ve looked at ways to better monetize my writing and teaching. But there are some steps I just can’t justify. And so you get a lot of it free, just by coming here. Or over there, at Bold Brush Fine Art Views newsletter.
Openness, and Authenticity. I am an imperfect human being. I didn’t get where I am today by pretending otherwise. I can’t fake it. When I fail, I’ve let you know. And then I pick myself up, and try to do better. If I can do it, you can do it. And if you can do it, well, maybe that will encourage me to try, too.
Growth. The by-product of all the above.
There are more, of course, but who wants to work with all 50 core values? Wait…you think I should??
I just realized that my artwork is a physical manifestation of my values.
What are some of your values?
And how do they relate to your personal, and professional goals?
This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….” For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.
Find the best people to support you in your art-making.
In my first article in this series, I introduced the checklist, the pre-flight assessment that ensures anything and everything about your airplane is in good working condition, doing what it should be doing.
I also mentioned that when there is a co-pilot, there is a process for checking in with each other—one person reads the list, the other verifies. Neither assumes the other has checked already. It’s all about check, cross-check, and verify.
Often, artists consider themselves a one-person business. We think up the ideas, we gain the skills to do our work, we make it, we market it, and we sell it. (Oh, and we wrap it and ship it, too.)
Sometimes we’re fortunate to have a partner or spouse, either one that actually helps us promote our career, or one that has a job with the steady paycheck and health insurance. Even so, it can often feel like a lone endeavor.
Your actual artist support system can be much bigger.
These are the people who offer solace when things get tough. The people who can look at your latest work, and give constructive criticism, feedback, and encouragement.
These are the people who verify and confirm your assumptions, and even challenge them when you’re slightly off-course. People who can hold your feet to the fire, if needed.
These are people who offer another set of eyes on your perceptions, your obstacles, your game plan, and your outlook.
One example: Years ago, I was in a small artist support group. We met monthly to share our latest work, we reported on our progress towards our stated goals, and brainstormed about obstacles we faced.
One member, whose goal was to break into book illustration, brought a rejection letter from a publishing house. After showing it to us, she said, “So I want advice on how to accept rejection and failure.”
Instead, she got an earful on her outlook, and her strategy.
One member said, “Look at the wording, it doesn’t say ‘no, never’. It just says, ‘no, not now, but maybe later’. Why is that a rejection? I say try again in six months!”
Another member noticed that the person who had written the rejection note was NOT the person the letter was addressed to—it was a totally different person in the department, not the actual person she’d been referred to by an author. Not even the traditional initials used by a boss dictating to a secretary. “It’s possible your work was never even seen by the person you wanted to contact!” she said. “Call them back and follow up.” (This was long before everyone had—and used—email.)
I asked how many publishers she was targeting. “Only the one”, the artist replied. “They’re the only one I’d consider working for!” Upon further questioning, it turned out this stance was only supported by her dreams as a youngster, to work for this specific publisher—though there were dozens, if not hundreds, of other companies available—including several local companies. “Why limit yourself, based on what might be faulty assumptions?” I asked. “Right now, working with a different publisher for now, would give you the experience you might need to work with this publisher! At the very least, you could add ‘professional/published illustrator’ to your resume!”
The artist, who had never thought to question her assumptions, agreed with all.
How do we choose our co-pilots?
Ideally, they are someone who has your back—they will tell you the truth. But it’s also crucial you can trust them with your he(art). Because we all know some people will be unnecessarily, even unfairly cruel, ‘for your own good’.
They are good listeners. Deep listeners. They will take the time to listen well.
They’ll call you on your stuff. They will discern the gulf between what you say and what you do. You say you need a new website, or artist statement, or time to create a new body of work. But what you do—what you actually use your time for, doesn’t jibe. (This is where they make your feet hot.) They’ll remind you of the goals you set last week, and ask what progress you’ve made. (Yes, there may be good reasons why you didn’t, and you’d better have one.)
They may take over the controls when you need a break. When you are only thinking of the bad stuff, they will acknowledge that you may be in a hard place—good listeners, right? But they will also remind you of the good stuff. (Our brains have evolved to focus on the bad/sad/scary stuff. It’s good to be reminded of the things we overlook—that big sale last month, the new gallery that approached you, your growing mailing list.) They will help you put it into perspective.
They may have more experience than you. They’ve been on the road—er…in the sky–longer, they know there are updrafts and downdrafts, and how to handle both.
They may simply have more information than you. It may be a fellow artist who’s also in that gallery you’re worried about, or that show promoter that seems a little ‘off’. They may reassure you everything is okay, or they may share information that confirms your suspicions.
They don’t necessarily have to be other artists, nor good friends, nor even people you ‘get along with’.
How do you recognize the good check-in/advice/feedback/confirmation from the bad? Your intuition. Your gut. If you feel worse after being with someone, chances are you’ve subconsciously recognized something that’s ‘off’. If it rings true, if it restores you to yourself, if you simply feel better, it’s probably sound. Even better if you find that afterwards, you usually walk away with a good insight, a better way of thinking about something, hopefully, even a plan of action.
They may simply surprise you. I have a family member who, over the years, has been quite critical of my choices. But once, when I sighed about not being accepted into an acclaimed show, she practically channeled Martha Graham’s wise words to me. “Your art is not for you to judge!” she said. “It’s only your job to make it and get it out there. Leave it for others to judge.”
I almost dropped my teeth, but I recognized the truth of what she was saying. This is not the person I turn to again and again, but I love her for this time when she was spot-on. Use the same discernment when listening to difficult people.
There are friends you can lend money to, friends you can ask for money. There are friends who you can hang out with anytime, and friends you can call in the middle of the night. There are artists who always ‘feel sad about their art.’ (Avoid these, please.) And there are artists who raise us all with the rising tide of their wisdom and encouragement.
Seek out a select few who have the life wisdom, the integrity, the insight you need, to ensure you fly high.
So in your art career, who is your co-pilot?
And how do you support your artist friends?
In my last article, I wrote about respecting other people’s artwork, even if it’s not my thing. What if the person asks for your opinion? What do you say??
That day, we were discussing what to say when presented with an absolutely ugly baby.
I may not like your art, but I celebrate the fact that it means so much to you, that you have a voice, a vision, and that you chose to share it with the world.
This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for Fine Art Views. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….” For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.
I have three cats. One I’ve had for over a decade, the other two are very new. (And coincidentally, both are black and roughly the same age.)
Old Kitty is affable, gets along with the dogs, moves like a raccoon, and does not adjust well to other cats. If I laugh out loud at something she does, she does it again. She hates to be held, but loves to be petted. She prefers floor toys to “air” toys.
Middle Kitty is also affable, and also gets along with the dogs. She gets along well with other cats. She will tolerate being held, but hates to be petted. She loves air toys, and is extremely athletic. She, too, is very funny to watch, but doesn’t seem to repeat when she hears me laughing.
New Kitty is anxious. She’s afraid of the dogs, she’s afraid of the other cats, she’s afraid of sudden moves and loud noises. But she is fearless about moving from her ‘safe’ place in our basement up into the living areas of our home. She’s determined to become a part of our household. She loves being held, and loves to be petted. We took her in off the streets, and she is only just now learning to play. She’s not very funny to watch.
Which one is the best cat?
Why on earth would I rate my cats? After all, animal lovers know that our pets are as unique as people are. They have their good points and their annoying habits. They vary in the degree of affection they demand and give. And the value they add to our lives is impossible to quantify. Yes, we can live without pets in our lives, but if you love animals, you know life is richer for their presence.
(If you don’t care for animals, substitute ‘children’. Or ‘friends’. I was going to say ‘or spouses’ but I’m not going there.)
Why, then, do we so easily discuss artists in terms of who’s good, better, best?
I do it. You do it. We all do it. We’re competitive by nature, and our human culture stresses that competition.
Who’s the best student in the class? Who draws the best horses? Who won that race? Which baseball team won the World Series last year? Who makes the most money, and who’s the smartest person in the room? (Notice I am deliberately not including politics.) (Oops!)
And yet, it’s also human nature to embrace individuality, and inclusiveness. We strive to help those who have less than we do. We try to create a level playing field for people who live with disabilities so they can thrive. We applaud those who fight for the underdog, the underserved, the overlooked, those who are ignored ridiculed, or even attacked for being different in any way.
And yet we are so quick to judge the work of other artists, and even our own.
We argue about the difference between what is art and what is craft. Some people believe any work of 2D art is worth more than the finest example of handcraft. We talk endlessly about what a ‘real artist’ is. We even create levels of respect for the medium we work with: Oil is ‘better’ than acrylic, acrylic is ‘more respected’ than watercolor, anything is better than colored pencil or sketching, and this is often reflected in the price people are willing to pay for these categories. Consider a clay sculpture that is then used to create a mold for a bronze sculpture. Which will call for the higher value—the original clay piece? Or the cast item that can be made into multiples?
Who’s the most skilled? That’s a can of worms. Next!
Who’s the most famous? Who sells the most? Shaky ground. You may be a ‘successful’ artist (and we’ve had many discussions on exactly what that really means, you may be in all the fine galleries and in all the art books and magazines. But put ten people in a room, ask them who is the best artist out there right now, and I can almost guarantee there will be at least one person who disagrees).
Years ago, I participated in a workshop called “The Picasso Principle”. The instructor examined Picasso’s undisputed fame, yet listed many artists who are historically considered ‘better’ than Picasso at drawing, composition, color, painting, etc. But no one was better than him at marketing. And so today you can ask any person on the street to name an artist in history, and most will say “Picasso!”—even if they cannot name a single work by him.
Yes, there are standards and measures of technique. There are competitions, there are honors awarded, there are noted ‘masters’ throughout art history. (Though again, I will also point out that entire genders, race, and countries were systematically left out of the so-called definitive textbooks of art history.)
And yet all of this is based on opinion, personal, professional, and historical.
I bring this up because of several conversations I had recently with other artists. In one, someone mentioned a gallery run by two artists. “Now, Joe Blow is a good artist!” they said. And pointedly did not mention the other.
In another group conversation, a fellow artist walking by, and I jokingly said to the others, “Now there’s a real artist!” A person took it personally, and reacted badly. Lesson learned. (My jokes are bad.)
The last was a discussion about artists who have been in a guild a long, long, long time. “Their work is stale, and some haven’t even created new work in years!” one person exclaimed. “They shouldn’t be included anymore!” I disagreed. It costs us nothing to include them, they contribute to the demographics and our finances, they have their following, and their body of work. Who knows why they aren’t making new work? Health issues? Financial problems? I would hate to have anyone judge me based on my occasional fallow periods. “If they were good enough to get in, they should be allowed to stay until they decide to leave. If and when they try to re-jury back in, then we can judge.” And the others agreed.
It all boils down to this:
I may not like you, and/or I may not like your art. I may not like your medium, or your process. You may not meet the standards of whatever group you’re trying to join; they may be wrong, or they may be right. You may be ‘successful’, or you may feel like you’re not doing it right.
But if you are doing your best to make your art
If you have something to say with your art, even if it’s only ‘look what I made!”
If you have a vision of the world, and you share that
If your work connects emotionally, spiritually, metaphysically with others, even one person (notice I did not say ‘physically’ unless your medium is glue.)
If you strive, as you can, to make it better, to improve your skills, your marketing, your relationships with your audience
If all you do is make the world a better place for even one person
Then you, and your art, have a place in the world.
And you are a ‘good enough’ artist for me.