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.
(7 minute read)
Sometimes I have tons of ideas for articles. Sometimes, not so much.
I keep a supply of ideas, rough drafts, etc. so when I’m not inspired, I’ll have something to talk about. Today is one of those days.
So here from the “drafts” section is a one-liner that leapt out at me. Awhile back, I found a quote from “A Serpent’s Tooth”, a book by Craig Johnson (whose series inspired the “Longmire” TV show.)
Sometimes we spend our lives thinking we’re doing something, when in reality all we’re doing is waiting.
Underneath this, I’d typed “What are you waiting for?”
I have no idea why that quote hooked me. I’ve come back to it from time to time, and thought, “Why did I write that down?” Then on to other things.
But today, it stopped me in my tracks. It resonated differently this time.
What are we waiting for???
I’ve been trying to assist a loved one in their goal to “really get started” with their life: “I want a real career, but I’m such a loser, I’ll never figure it out!” “I fail at everything, and I’m behind in life!” “I don’t know what I want, and I never will!” “You don’t understand!!!”
When someone we care about is caught in these never-ending loops, there’s very little we can do. Except listen, try not to give advice (especially when nothing we say is considered valuable in the first place), and to simply be present. It’s not easy. It’s hard. Heavy. And harsh.
But today, when I came across that quote, I realize I’m the one in the never-ending loop.
What am I waiting for?? I ask myself….
I am amazed at the clarity that surfaces.
I am surrounded by the detritus from my fourth studio move in five years. Some stuff has been sold off, some has been donated, and some is simply destined for the scrap heap.
But as a mixed media artist (and a highly-evolved hunter-gatherer!), I have learned to see the beauty in everything. A pebble, a bird feather, a weathered stick, a button, all have potential in my eyes.
So, too, those really ugly pearls I bought on impulse that I cannot bring myself to use. The bags of milk paint I was sure would be perfect for painting old wood boxes. The damaged frames piled up in my studio, dinged and danged from too many venues, too much packing and unpacking, not enough bubble wrap. “Maybe I can fix them and sand them and repaint them,” I think to myself.
but then I caught myself:
Is that the highest, best use of my time? Probably not.
When I had to clear all that stuff out to make room for said family member’s arrival, I realized it was time to get brutal. Er….but not too brutal.
That’s where the idea to host an artists garage sale came from, a few weeks ago. The first time I organized one, it sucked up so much time and energy, I didn’t have time to organize my own stuff and get it priced and ready to sell. On the other hand, it was hugely successful! People begged me to do it again next year. Unfortunately, I moved to California instead.
This time will be different. A lot of people in our two buildings are already onboard, as well as the building managers. I can set up a table inside my own studio. I can use my Square to take payments. I will have people helping with posters, publicity, and table-wrangling.
OK…..What else am I waiting for?
I struggled with a few great galleries that’s accepted me as a guest artist. But 2018 through the first half of 2019 was filled with many deaths in the family, many trips for last visits, funerals, support. I could barely take care of myself, let alone my art biz. I dropped the ball on restocking, attending receptions, staying in touch. And I realized my sales in New Hampshire galleries had dropped off to practically nothing. (Some had dropped my work, some had only older work, etc.)
Out of the blue, one gallery asked me to restock. When I did, they followed up with, “Um…these new designs you sent….do you have more??!” Yes, I did, and sent them on.
That inspired me. So a month ago, I reached out to all my League of NH Craftsmen galleries, hoping one or two would pick me up again.
To my surprise and delight, six of them wanted me back in! This past month has been spent creating new work and new designs, creating a cohesive collection for each one, tagging, labeling, creating an inventory sheet. Now working on packing and shipping.
That inspired me to reach out to a local gallery, where my inventory had really languished under my neglect. The last time I visited, I found they’d increased the number of jewelry artists, and my display was woefully inadequate. I swallowed my pride, and asked them if they still wanted my work.
They did! Turns out all the members loved my work (okay, most of them do.) The larger works were great attention-getters, but slow sellers. I took them back. Tomorrow, I’ll be setting up a new display with new work (and higher prices!)
What else am I waiting for?
I’ve been feeling cut off from my friendship network. Was I waiting for people to reach out to me? Yes, I was. And this week, one new local friend did reach out, a small artist support group I started took an important “next step up” (which was powerful), and another friend started a neighborhood women’s gathering. I was going to go. “I’m too busy! I don’t have time! I hate gatherings with people I don’t know!”
But I went, and had a wonderful time. I think everybody did. Afterwards, we all responded to the group text information with words like, “This was exactly what I didn’t know I needed today!”
Sometimes, when we are feeling overwhelmed by life and its myriad complications, in trying to create balance with making our artwork and marketing it, it’s easy to get caught up in “fixing it”. If only I had…..! If only I knew someone….! If only I knew how to…! If only I knew what I really wanted!!!!
We end up waiting. For what?
Do we wait til we’re sure we’ll succeed, before beginning that big new work?
Do we wait til we’re sure we’re “good enough” before we explore gallery representation? (I find the people who are really good who hesitate the longest!)
Are we waiting for a “sign from the universe” before we take on a new challenge? Do we wait until we find the perfect solution to our problem? Have a straight 8-10 hours to start that new work? Do we believe we have to clean our entire studio before we can get back to work after a hiatus, rather than just clear off that one surface we need to start it?
I remember a friend’s wise words one morning a few years ago, when I texted to say I was totally confused about what to do about the stuff on “plate”. She replied, “I sit with uncertainty everyday until Clarity makes her presence known.” If that sends a shiver down your spine like it did mine, you might like to read more about Sheri Gaynor’s life work here.
Today, I sat. I poked around, hoping for a little clarifty.
And there it was, in my own notes, just waiting to be found.
Sometimes we wait for clarity. Sometimes we go looking for clarity. Sometimes it’s right where we left it, just under our noses.
Have you experienced this? Been unable to “fix” an issue that seemed to complicated, too random, with no solution… And then seen clarity what was needed, and what you had to do? How did that work out for you?
Please share! I’d love to hear your story, and I’m sure others will, too.
As always, if you like this article, please share with someone you think would enjoy it.
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Part Deux in how to raise the art of procrastination to a fever pitch, my column in yesterday’s Fine Art Views. Enjoy!