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.
It’s been a year. A lot of death, a lot of loss, a lot of grieving.
Just when I thought it was safe to go back in the water…. (Cue “Jaws” music.)
After yet another emergency trip to the East Coast in mid-March, this last crisis seemed almost too much to handle. Our dog Tuck, our first dog, and the one who inspired not only my dog artifacts, and my dog story ***, but also this article that ran in the magazine formerly known as The Crafts Report became critically ill last week.
He stopped eating, he was misdiagnosed by our newest vet, and he ended up being hospitalized for acute pancreatitis and diabetes (as a permanent complication.)
The good news is, he has received excellent care, and may even be able to come home tomorrow.
The bad news is, this cost nearly as much as I made all last year in my art biz, including writing these columns.
I was afraid the high cost of emergency care would force us to make a painful decision. But my husband, as usual, gave clarity. “He’s part of our family,” he said firmly.
I was so relieved. We live fairly frugally (except for living in California!), so though this isn’t an easy budget item, it won’t destroy us. My heart goes out to people whose financial situation would force them to do otherwise.
Why am I writing about this today?
Because I could not stop thinking about this: The financial cost could have superseded all other factors in our decision. And yet, the devastation of losing our pet would have last for YEARS….
Love, and hope, vs. money.
In many ways, I cannot be counted as a “successful artist”, especially if money is used as the only measure of my success. Even at the height of my art biz career, I made less than minimum wage today.
I am not famous. Although I love it when someone stops me in mid-conversation and says, “Wait a minute….You’re Luann Udell?? THE Luann Udell?” it doesn’t really happen that often. (Don’t let that stop you from saying that, though!) :^D
So what is the “true value” of my artwork, my writing, my presence in this world?
Frankly, who can say? Who cares?
What really matters?
My art, my words, my actions, have given me a place in the world. The size of the return doesn’t matter.
My work has given me a voice in the world. The size of the audience doesn’t matter.
They have given me solace, an outlet, and much joy. What they do for others is an important, yet ultimately secondary effect.
The past 12 months have been filled with loss, exhaustion, despair, the feeling of not belonging, not being “good enough”, and not being valued. Even when I’ve traveled to be with those who are grieving, my only “gift” was being present. I could not “fix” their grief, or give them the answers they seek. I could only be a mom who cares.
But even now, I still rejoice at the prospect at getting back to work in my new studio. I know I will be restored to my better self. I know the healing power of my own art.
My words will probably never bring me wealth, or fame, nor will they end a war.
All I can offer, myself, with my art, the work of my heart, is this….
A small place for hope.
A safe place for grieving.
A little money to help those who are worse off than I.
A listening ear.
And sharing my stories, hoping someone, somewhere, they will help someone who needs to hear them today.
If you make tons of money for your artwork, I celebrate with you. I’m truly happy, because it means there’s a chance I will, too, someday.
If you have gained fame and fortune with the work of your heart, I hope you use it to make the world a little better than how you found it.
Although I usually tell artists not to “water down” their art by relying on sales of cards ($4,000 paintings, $4 cards??) I have to admit that such a card, sent by a friend recently, with their beautiful work on the front, lifted my spirits. A lot!
My hope for you today is that you feel the power of what you do. That you have faith in the power of what you do, no matter how much, nor how little, you can see.
And here are a few side notes on what the first vet, and the animal hospital did right, that also inform our art-making/marketing:
When the vet realized the condition was much, much worse than they thought, they immediately contacted us and referred us to a more experienced resource. Lesson learned: When your work gets in a rut, when things seem too hard, step outside your box and explore new options. Kick it up a notch! A class, a new body of work, perhaps even a new medium, can be just the uptick you need. Start that email newsletter! Clean up your website. Try Instagram?
The hospital saw us immediately. And every day, we not only received updates twice daily, we were allowed to visit Tuck. Which put our hearts at ease, and his, too. Lesson learned: Your audience wants to hear from you, too! Use your website’s “Events” features, your email newsletter, and other social media to let them know what you’re up to. You’ve created a relationship that goes beyond just sales. You’ve created a real human connection.
Most important, be grateful. Be grateful to those who know the depth and power of our love, for our family, for our pets, for our art. They will raise you up when things get hard.
Be grateful you are able to make room in your life for your art. So many people feel they can’t, that they aren’t good enough, that nobody wants their work, that they aren’t “successful” enough. It’s okay to want more recognition, to want more skill, to make more money. It’s also okay for “making” and “making it” to be enough, for now.
Hold on to your dreams. Know the power of love. And keep making your art!
And when we do lose Tuck (that day will come), I know we will still welcome another pupster who needs a loving home into our lives. “All dog stories begin with laughter, and end with tears.” Keep the laughter coming!
How has your work lifted the hearts of others? How has your work helped you get back to your happy place? I’d love to hear, and I bet others will, too!
*My art tagline is, “Ancient Stories Retold in Modern Artifacts. But my blog tagline is, “Muddling through life with the help of art.” (Some of my subscribers call themselves “Muddlers”. I love that!)