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.
When we do the work of our heart, it’s easier to get to the studio!
Second in a new series of exercise tips you can apply to your art biz. I’m not working from an article this time. This all comes from personal experience:
Find what you love to do, and do it.
When it comes to exercise, you either have to do what you enjoy or find the joy in what you do. And believe me, it’s a heckuva lot easier to start with the former.
It was the secret behind my commitment to martial arts—Tae Kwon Do and kickboxing—which I took up in middle-age.
Disclosure: I still love love love martial arts. But due to many injuries resulting from same, I cannot practice it anymore. So. Gym, and maybe more tai chi instead!
But it was perfect when I could practice! It’s intensely physical, with a good mix-up of strength work, coordination, and aerobic components.
Kickboxing especially felt “light”. There’s a bit of mental workout, but not nearly as much as other martial art disciplines. Eventually, though, I found I missed the katas–those longer, choreographed movements that look like fast tai chi. And eventually I went back to Tae Kwon Do.
There were things I was good enough at to be proud of, and plenty of things for me to work on.
Martial arts taught me a lot about myself, too. I learned my biggest enemy was ME. Yup, I’m my own worst enemy. I had to learn to focus on my own performance and improving it a little bit at a time, rather than compare my performance to anyone else’s.
It was hard, as an older woman, to get comfortable with punching, kicking and striking, even yelling. The mindset was extremely foreign to me. I could feel brain cells and ingrained social conditioning fighting me every inch of the way–“Don’t hit!” “Don’t raise your voice!” “Be nice!” I remember raising my hand to hit in a martial arts class years ago and being almost physically, psychologically unable to do so.
I got over it.
The whole thing was challenging but rewarding. I was exhausted when class ended–but also exhilarated.
And the fact that I enjoyed it so much is more important than all of the other reasons I just gave.
Because the enjoyment is where I found the discipline and the courage to keep going. I rarely missed a class, even when I “didn’t feel like it”. And even though I wasn’t that good at it. (That is, I’m not a ‘natural’. It didn’t come easily to me.)
But I’m glad I started with something I love. Especially when even today, I can say with pride, I studied martial arts for more than 12 years, I attended almost every single class, without fail, except for major injuries, major illness or being out of town. (And as I said, eventually the major injuries took over completely.)
I still have hope for the next work-out routine that brings such passion and commitment.
Do the same with your artwork.
The thrill of doing what you love will carry you over many hard times, and boring times, and frustrating times.
In fact, whenever I do a mentor session with client, that’s the first question out of my mouth–especially when someone shows up with a hodge-podge of projects, all different in media, theme and colors:
Start with, “What do you love doing?”
“Where does your heart lie?”
“Which of these is calling to you?”
Don’t focus with “what sells” Don’t even start with, “What’s easy?” This is the hardest, but don’t even start with, “What will make me the most money?” That’s important, but that will come later. It can wait.
Because that powerful connection will help you through all the hard stuff later.
Success in making and selling art, like a productive exercise program, begins with finding what you love so much, you can’t imagine NOT doing it.
Yes, once it’s made and out in the world, there’s the question of marketing and selling, growing an audience, connecting your story with your work, and encouraging others to connect, too. It may not be as much “fun” or as rewarding, or as easy to fall into. (Though I’m amazed how much I love that part of the process, too!)
But loving what you do means when you talk about your work, your authentic connection to it will show through. When you talk about it, you will be speaking your truth.
And that is the most powerful place an artist can be: Telling your story. Speaking your truth.
Consequently, if you are not crazy about where you art is right now, that can make it harder to get to the studio. It’s okay. We all go through periods of enthusiasm and not-so-much enthusiasm. We get enormous energy from a great new project, and then may fall into a period of stasis, recovering from all that activity. We hit walls, roadblocks, and setbacks. That’s life. We get sick, we need a vacation, life whaps us, and we need to recover.
But if you really can’t muster any enthusiasm for long, long periods, consider a change. Maybe your focus has shifted, and your joy has been slowly leaking away.
Take a class in a new technique. Create a (kind and gracious, but firm) critique session with fellow artists, to see if there are gaps in your style or process. Are you ready for a bigger change? Explore a new subject matter, or perhaps even a new medium. Heavens—maybe even another form of creative work! (It happens!)
Constantly explore, and focus, on what brings you joy, and go from there. It’s your measuring stick and compass needle in life.
I still love carving stamps, and when I need a break, I pick up my carving stamps and hit the rubber! (Literally)