GRATITUDE

Take a tiny moment to say ‘thank you’, and count your blessings!

I’m an artist. And as an artist, my first responsibility is to make my art. It’s what restores me to my better self, makes me whole and centered. I make it for myself, first.

I know this first-hand, and many good friends remind me of this constantly. For example, the one who sent me a card with this quote:

People like you must create.

If you don’t create, Luann, you will become a menace to society.

(the note also says, “With apologies to Maria Semple, author of “Where’d You Go, Bernadette”. See last paragraph in Part 3.”) (Thanks and a hat tip to Amy Helen Johnson!) (Yes, I bought the book.)

Our second responsibility is to put it out in the world. We mostly interpret this as selling our art, and making a living with our art. Some fortunate, hardworking few can do this. But walking away from the work of our heart, simply because we can’t sell it, is  hurtful. (See “first responsibility”, above.)

There are lots of ways to get our work out into the world. If you make art, you can make it, share it, give it away, sell it, exhibit it, teach it, collaborate with it, write about it, donate it, etc. etc. The same with writing. The internet makes this almost effortless.

Yes, selling is wonderful–unless you get caught up in the selling, to the exclusion of everything else. Vincent Van Gogh’s work was only sold to his brother. (Do you have 3 minutes? Watch this heartbreakingly powerful snippet of a video about this.) (I dare you not to tear up.) And ironically, the most commercially successful artist of our time seems to have lost everything of value in a life dedicated to fame and fortune.

Somerwhere in the middle is where I’d like to end up.

So I recently stepped up my game in regard to selling. This came after realizing I was struggling to sell a $24 pair of earrings to a casual visitor in my studio. Realizing that one gallery hadn’t sold one single piece of my work in a year. Reflecting that most of my out-of-state galleries were struggling to sell my work.  A local gallery that reached out to represent me, finally said they love love love my work (another line that’s fun, but not my “heart” work) just wasn’t selling, and they needed to set me free.

I felt like a failure. (Hey! 2017 was a weird year!)

Then I realized, why should I focus on making $24 earrings??? Why should I base my definition of success on income alone? Why was I falling for the same emotional/spiritual/inaccurate measuring stick I constantly counsel and warn artists against????

So…I upped my game.

I cleared my studio of the fun-but-inexpensive work, focused on the work of my heart.

I realized that just because I’m now writing weekly for an art marketing newsletter doesn’t mean I’m off the hook with my blog.

I reevaluated, recentered, and refocused on my biggest vision for my art. And I cleaned house on my Etsy site, and focused on the work I have on hand, my best work, and moved forward.

I decided to make the work that makes me happy, and not the work I think I can sell.

What happened?

Another gallery in the same town as the one that cut me loose, took on my work two weeks. And they’ve already made a sale.

The gallery in Santa Rosa has been selling steadily, and it just keeps getting better and better.

A gallery that hadn’t sold any of my work in a year, sold a MAJOR PIECE. And another big (for me) piece the same day.

And I’ve had five sales in my Etsy shop this month. (A lot for me!)

But that’s not all. Every single sale has resulted in a message from the buyer, telling me how much they love love love what I do, how it speaks to them, and how even more amazing it is in person.

Wow. Just…..wow.

Today I got home to a beautiful email from a delighted buyer. I always respond, with gratitude and joy.

But because I’m human, because I’m afraid to be too happy, afraid to be too hopeful, I tend to respond well outside. But inside, I hold back. Thinking, “Well, that’s great, but…..” “Don’t get a swelled head, because…..” “Don’t get your hopes up because…..”

But this time, I read that email. And something told me….

Be in this moment.

Embrace this moment. Stop and celebrate it.

This moment is the blessing, the extra gift, that comes for making my work and getting it out into the world.

Take note of this moment.

I remembered, decades ago, a wise woman I crossed paths with, who shared a powerful insight with me.

When we really want something, she said, there is a centering, empowering way to ask.

Stand up, head bowed, humbly. Think of what your heart desires. Breathe in, breathe out. Then stand tall. Expand.

Raise your head, open your arms, and hands. Look to the heavens above.

And simply ask, with all your heart, what it is you desire.

The very first time I did this, I was in an antique store. I’d been looking for years for a wonderful book that was long out of print. (This was years before I finally discovered Bookfinder.com, the absolute best tool for finding any book in the world.)

I thought, what the heck? I did the mantra.

And when I was done, I look up. I saw a bookcase in the booth across the room. I walked to it.

And I found the book.*

So today, before I could diminish my joy, before I could “be logical” about my delight in this sale, and this email note from my buyer, I decided to take a moment to celebrate.

I did my little ceremony.

But instead of asking for anything, I simply said….

“Thank you.”

In these days of “Be careful what you wish for”, in these days of “Yeah, but….”, in these days of, as Anne Lamott succinctly put it, “…compar(ing) our insides to other people’s outsides”, in these days of internet fame and viral prodigies, in these days of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), in these days of wondering, “Will I ever be a successful artist?”, without ever stopping to think of what “success” means to YOU….

Take a minute to give thanks.

To count your blessings.

To feel the full joy of having a voice in the world.

And the unexpected delight of having someone else hearing your song.

Now…go to your studio and make stuff.

 

*David and the Phoenix (Illustrated) by Edward Ormondroyd, if you want to know, and it’s been reprinted since then.

(OH,  and you can see my Etsy shop here.)

 

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17 thoughts on “GRATITUDE

    • Rosie, you are smart to see this in your own experience!
      Some people have a knack for knowing what sells, and make accordingly. Or they simply don’t have the conflict from doing so. That’s fine. For THEM. There’s room in the world for that path.
      For others (me! And you!) chasing that elusive goal feels like a game we’re not good at, and constantly losing. It sucks the joy out of everything we do.
      Years ago, a world-reknown artist wrote me the cruelest email I’ve ever received, accusing me of making the same “tired old work” using the same “tired old techniques”, and not being true to my heart with my art.
      I know exactly where that letter comes from, looking back. At the time, I was baffled.
      But I did the write thing. I wrote back thanking them for their concern, and saying…
      “I’m not done telling that story.”
      Over the years, the story has gotten richer, and deeper, and even more powerful, for me, and for others. I’m so glad I had the courage of my convictions, and my story. I hope you will, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Thank you for this, Luann! I am right on this cusp of having to follow my creative heart, and yet feeling like I need to play it safe, and it’s making me crazy. Your piece resonates and the timing is perfect. Thank you!        Lucy Golden

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lucy, good to hear from you!
      It may or may not be a smooth ride. But I can almost guarantee YOU will feel empowered. If the new work of your heart is vastly different, your audience that loves the old work may drop off–or not. But you WILL find an audience for the new.
      Let me know how it goes!

      Like

  2. Thank you, I needed to read every word your wrote more than I even knew. As I have been mulling over the one page “Personal Painting evaluation” from my teacher/mentor, I have been banging my head on an invisible brick wall of my own making. Reading GRATITUDE gave me a singular moment of clarity that I needed to remember who I am and why I do what I do. Thank you, thank you, thank you. This. Touching another human heart with our words, our art, our actions. This is it. Pure and simple.

    Like

    • Lynn, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting me know my words helped you walk back to your sacred creative self.
      I have to tell you, when I wrote this, I thought, “What am I doing??” But it was exactly how I was feeling, from a place of joy, knowing I had the luxury of making my art, and sharing it with the world.
      I came home from a show opening with a very different frame of mind.
      And then I read your words, and all that joy comes flooding back….to me!
      Thank YOU!!!

      Like

  3. Luann: This posting for me could not have come at a better time. I get conflicted between the “let’s make something to sell so that it could bring in some additional money” and the “create what speaks what I am”. But after reading this, I have decided that we, as artists, are truly more creative and happier when we create what is in our souls not what we think we can sell because funds are tight!

    Every time I have made some quick things to sell-they don’t! And you are right in that some people can judge the market very well and make quick sellers.

    And the asking with your heart is truly scary! I tried it and it worked not completely like I expected but it did work!

    Congratulations on the major piece that sold!

    Kirsten
    ps I moved to NH almost 3 years ago and this winter has been truly miserable-cold, snow, ice, and wind-generally all at the same time!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Kirsten, WOW!~! I’m so happy this article resonated with you, and at just the right time! And it’s the perfect example of following your heart, from me being in the moment and sharing that, to you coming across it at just the right time when you needed it. THANK YOU for letting me know. Sharing your experience encourages ME to stay the course, just as my words did for you.
    Ah, New Hampshire….so beautiful, full of wonderful people, and SO FREAKIN’ WET AND COLD! :^D

    Like

  5. I love this blog. Absolutely perfect for me to hear. I decided at the end of December to stop making jewelry that I think people want to buy and to just make what I love, give it away, maybe sell a piece here and there and see what happens. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Years ago, I wrote about this thinking (which shows you how many times I have to “fix” the same issue!!) and a friend said, “OH, GOT IT! I’ve been focusing on ‘vanilla’ and what I really want is ‘strawberry cheesecake’!”
      Sometimes “sure sellers” are great. They help us hold our bottom line while we explore/play/dig deep with our work. And if you need that steady income, I would never tell anyone to give that up.
      But the times I took that too far, it felt like a desert. Whereas getting big, going bold, feels like dessert!
      Oh, and THANK YOU for your kind words! They remind me why I do what I do.

      Like

  6. So enjoyed your blog. I am more inspired to continue with my clay creations. Yes I too will work with more determination but stop to be still and grateful. I have so much to be thankful for. Many thanks

    Like

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