A QUORA QUESTION ANSWERED: How to Write???

Why can’t I just start journaling??

My best guest: Because you are trying to do it perfectly.

Because despite being inspired by someone else’s words, loving them, wanting to be like them, when it comes to being yourself, you freeze.

Here’s what turned me around:

When I started out on a new journey in my life, I had some doubts and confusion in my heart. An online friend gave me a coaching session. The game-changing question she asked me was, “Are you a perfectionist?” Yep, I have that tendencey. Her reply?

“When we are a perfectionist, we are full of knowing, and nothing new can come in.”

WOW. That blew me away. It still amazes me, years later.

I decided to trust my heart. To move forward one step at a time, to ask “stupid questions”, to be open to something new.

It changed everything.

So back to your writing block:

Every writer on the planet has—or has had—a writing block at some point in their life. (Okay, PROBABLY every writer.) There are many reasons, but I’m guessing most are afraid of doing it wrong. Afraid it won’t matter. Afraid it won’t be good enough.

I’ll share what often stops me:

Not believing that what I have to say matters to anyone else except me.

Not believing I can sort out my thoughts, and tidy/tie them up into a pretty little package with a bow on top.

Not believing I can figure out where I’m going, let alone how to get there.

And right now, not having a paid work commitment with deadlines, which FORCES me to write SOMETHING, even when I’m having these thoughts.

But what I’ve learned over the years is, this is a time in history, when no one can stop us from having a voice in the world.

Your gender, your color, your religion, your views on life, cannot be used against you from writing, nor from publishing your words online: On Facebook, on Twitter, on Reddit, on your blog. (Unless, of course you use your words to incite violence, to slander/libel, to scam people.) (I’m assuming you don’t intend to do that?)

And then what helps me is to start writing. Even if it’s “I just don’t feel like writing today.”

Because then I go into, “WHY don’t I feel like writing today?” Oh yeah…because of that thing that happened, or what that person said to me, or how I’m feeling ‘less-than’ today.

I write that down. And I keep recording my thoughts, even when I get frustrated and simply write “blah blah blah” a dozen times.

Sometimes I have a point to make, and I get this all sorted out in my head before I even begin.

But sometimes, I have no idea where I’m going, and writing is how I get there.

My goal started from a writing support group that required I write three pages a day, even if it were only several hundred “blah blah blahs”. Now, I just make myself write one page.

In your case, aim for 100 words, maybe.

In my case, I realized I need to get it all out, then edit to get it more clear.

So stop reading “how to” stuff, just for now.

For now, just write down what’s in your head, and listen deeply to what’s in your heart.

If you really do freeze up, write down ONE SENTENCE that describes how your feeling.

Every day.

Be yourself.

Be the scared, uneasy, feeling less-than person you are right now, and be your authentic self.

Write about where you are right now, what you want to do differently, where you want to go, and where you want to be in a week, six months, a year, a decade.

Because YOU are the only YOU in the world.

It’s not about having an audience, it’s about having a voice.

MY QUORA ANSWER TODAY: “What Made You Write That Post Today?”

Today’s answer to a question on Quora:

“What made you write that post today?”

Something happened that triggered me. Maybe in a good way, maybe in a bad way.

It might have been something I read. It might have been something someone said.

It might have been directed at me, or had nothing to do with me.

Or I may be feeling “something” today: Feeling down. Feeling ‘left out’. Feeling ‘less than’.

Or maybe I’m feeling uplifted, relieved, happy.

Maybe I experienced a lovely little miracle, a moment of synchronicity, something that made me pause and go, “WOW!! I needed to hear/see/experience that today!”

In almost every case, writing that post was a way for me to find clarity. Or humor. Or simply peace in my heart.

And whenever that happens, I’ve realized that, if that’s what I experienced today, writing that post was my way of working it through to my highest, best self, again.

And it my words got ME there, then maybe someone, somewhere in the world, would find the same reassurance, the same clarity, the same grounded-ness, for themselves.

Even when I’m feeling down, miffed, angry, sad, scared, left out, unseen, unnecessary, I still want to believe I have a place in the world. That my creative work matters, IF ONLY to help me be a better person in the world.

Sharing those thoughts, those steps, may help someone else feel the same way.

It’s not about the likes, the numbers, the followers, the sales.

It’s not about having an audience. It’s about have a voice in the world.

And encouraging others to have theirs, too.

HOW TO OPEN STUDIO #19: Why Should I Have an Open Studio Anyway??

 

I’ve made very few “people” figures in my art. But my handprints appear all over the place!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Happiness is the only thing that multiplies when you share it.”

I was thinking about my dad today.

Yeah, partly because it was Fathers Day. And mostly because of the grief I’m reading/hearing about how unsuccessful people were with our recent Art at the Source open studio event this month.

My dad was a diligent worker. He took over the family business (a dairy biz, processing milk into ice cream, cream, and…well, milk), incorporating a dariy bar, and eventuallly a family restaurant. (My first job was washing dishes there, when I was in…4th grade??) Then he sold the biz and became a state dairy inspector. (He sure liked cows.)

He also loved flowers. Our house was surrounded by rigid rows of organized, meticulously-spaced flowers. In the spring, he would give each of us kids a soup spoon, and we would dutifully plant daisies, marigolds, and petunias. He diligently watered all our houseplants daily, too.

But when he retired, he also took up woodworking. He spent days in his garage workshop, planing, mitering, sanding, staining. He made furniture for me and all my sibs over the years.

And if you expressed delight or sang his praises, he would also diligently point out every error he’d made in the making. (It helped me to NOT do this with my own work!)

What does this have to do with having an open studio?

I don’t believe he ever sold a single piece of his work.

He’d made his money WORKING all his life. His gardening and woodworking was for FUN–relaxation and enjoyment. He called it his hobby.

Hobby, vocation, and avocation. What’s the diff??

I used to have a distinction between avocation and hobby, but the older I get, I can’t remember. And it doesn’t matter so much to me, either.

Here’s what my dad taught me: Find a way to earn a living. You can be an artist when you retire.

What I taught my kids: Do what you love, and the money will follow. (Robin and Doug, I apologize from the bottom of my heart. Love, Mum)

What I wish I’d told my kids, and what I’m telling you today:

Do the work that supports your lifestyle. At best, it’s work you enjoy. Hopefully, you don’t hate it, or at least don’t dislike it too much. Hopefully, it’s something you’re good at, that you’re proud of, and it’s wonderful if it pays well, too.

But if it’s not the work of your heart, make room for THAT in your life, too. It will help you manage everything else.

My dad never sold a single piece of his woodwork. They were always gifts, or filling requests for furniture–coffee tables, sofa tables, display pedestals, coat racks, etc.–for friends and family.

In my art career, financially, I had some good years, some really good years, and some years that totally tanked. Most of those tank years were obviously the result of events totally out of my control: 9/11, war in the Mideast, inflation/recession, pandemic. We’re right back there, today, and there’s no escaping the consequences that affect our entire planet.

And yet, I was surprised at how much people complained (in an online forum) about their open studio event this year. Surprised at how many people are considering not joining next year. Astonished at how some people are considering actually walking away from their art-making. “What’s the use?!” (Why can’t I make that shoulder-shrug emoji??)

TBH, I was a little down that last day, too. Until I started to write about it. Writing helps me sort out the dust bunnies in my brain, and get to center of my  (he)art.

What helps YOU get centered again? I’d love to hear!

My take-away:

There is no figuring out exactly what will make us rich. I can’t even figure out how to cover the cost of my materials anymore.

Won’t stop me.

There is no single, sure path to fame and fortune.

I’m pretty sure I don’t even WANT to be famous anymore.

It takes time to build an audience, especially when our work is really out-of-the-box.

I tried through shows (wholesale and retail), art fairs, and open studios. I learned that it time and engagement for people to really see what I was doing, what my story was, and how labor-intensive my process was.

Open studios are the best at this! See my workspace, look at my tools and materials, let me show you what inspires me….

I stepped away from wholesale shows, and eventually made all my income from one major fine craft show in New Hampshire, and two open studio tours. They, too, started out slow. My visitors steadily grew, though there were still set-backs, dips, etc.

Then I moved to California, and had to start all over. Again.

How do I feel about that?

I’m actually okay.

Today, I can sell my work online, though it’s almost always to current customers and people who have followed my work for YEARS. (Again: Connection, achieved by outreach and availability.)

Today, I can easily share the backstory, my creation story, my inspiration, process, and animal stories. especially in my studio.

Today, I am reminded of my most recent open studio event, too. Yes, a little disappointed in the number of visitors, and that my sales were low.

And then I remember the blessings in my life:

I HAVE A STUDIO. I can do the work of my heart.

I have people who love my work. Maybe they can’t afford to buy it. Maybe they’ve downsized, and don’t have room for it.

But they can still come and look at it, and marvel, and engage with me.

I can encourage people to make room in their life for what brings them joy.

And I can write about it, hoping to do the same for YOU.

The good part in that forum thread: Some people griped, but when they realized so many other people were feeling the same way–in other words, it wasn’t just them–they got more clarity.

They, too, found the good stuff amidst the pile of disappointment. They got their mojo back. They will continue to make their art. Yay!

I think of my dad. I’m sure he would have been happy to make some money from his late-in-life hobby.

But that wasn’t WHY he did it.

He did it because it kept him busy (he hated doing nothing). He did it because he could make something for people he loved. He got better at it (because he was a bit of a perfectionist.) (DAISIES AND MARIGOLDS ALL IN A ROW.) It was flexible: He could work all day, or he could stop at any time and go for a drive with my mom.

It made him feel like he still had something to offer the world.

In my open studio, I listened to people telling me about their new life paths, their new interests and pastimes, their latest life disruption, their still-painful losses and sorrows.

My creative space became a safe place to share stories of hope, dreams, sadness, and joy. And healing.

My creative work carries stories of how every person has a place in the world. Including me. Including you.

I just realized my studio is my own unique version of a miniature Lascaux Cave.

The art of the Lascaux Cave was not about achieving fame or fortune.

The Ice Age was coming to an end, and so a people’s entire way of life was, too. They didn’t gather to start a war, or to assess blame. They gathered as a community, hoping to find a way through to the other side. And each handprint represents a single person present.

I can’t even imagine putting a price tag on that.

Today, try not to measure your sucess with only money.

Today, see your true value in the world, made with the work of your hands, and of your heart.

It’s not about having an audience. It’s about having a voice.

WHY YOU MUST SHARE YOUR ART WITH THE WORLD

Continuing with my last post, ART IS A MIRROR, which ended with:

“My next post coming up soon: Why art in a vacuum isn’t what art is for.”

First, no, not THAT kind of vacuum. Second, OMG even our Euphy is dirty!! 

 

I’m a long-time advocate for artists/creatives of all kinds to share their creative work with the world.

I’ve written about the fears that hold us back from doing that, from the fear of being copied to the worry that it isn’t “good enough” for public consumption.

Sharing our art is like tossing a pebble into a lake. We can’t tell where all the ripples go, but they are certainly going somewhere! (You may get tired of hearing it, I get it. But I will never stop saying it.)

I cannot count the number of times people have reached out to me, with comments, or privately, by email, that something I’ve shared (my writing, my posts on social media, my artwork) has given them the insight, the encouragement, the courage to keep doing the work of their heart.

And when I’m feeling down or less-than, someone crosses my path with just the right message: My words matter, to someone, somewhere, in the world.

If only one person benefits, that’s good enough for me.

But just in case you can’t imagine that YOU matter that much, here are some thoughts.

First, I’ve shared how sitting in my first introductory art history class in a large, dark auditorium (like a cave), surrounded by others who might be on the same path (in my community), seeing those huge and powerful images of the Lascaux Cave (so powerful!) made me feel, for a few precious moments, like I was actually in the Cave. It changed my life, though it took years to understand that, and even more to gain the courage to pursue that path.

I’ve encouraged you find your own creation story, and share the power of finding the WHY behind your work.

I don’t have the credentials, degrees, official recognition, etc. that would “prove” you should believe me. Just my own life experience.

If you don’t believe ME, here’s someone with credentials. An article by Carrie Dedon, Modern and Contemporary Art Curatorial Assistant at the Seattle Art Museum, from June 2016.

“Object of the Week: Untitled” is about the Seattle Art Museum’s 2016 exhibition called “Light and Space”, and much credit is given to artist Larry Bell for his powerful quote:

In my opinion all artwork is stored energy. The art releases its power whenever a viewer becomes a dreamer.

That’s the quote I found through author/artist Austin Kleon’s blog post today. It’s #36 if you don’t have time to read them all.

But IMHO, Dedon’s insight wraps up a whole universe of reasons why sharing our art is so important:

For many of the Light and Space artists, an artwork only reached its full potential when it was engaged in this relationship with a viewer—an object in an empty room without anyone to look at it is, in essence, not doing its job.

Art without an audience, even an audience of one, is not doing its job….

It kind of reminds me about Schrödinger’s cat, or that proverbial tree falling in the forest. It may/may not exist, may/may not make a sound, without eyes to see it or ears to hear it.

The same with art.

Art cannot fufill its true purpose in life if other people can’t experience it.

We all have a unique story, one that only we can tell.

We have a purpose, our creativity, that can take many forms and expressions. Not just making “art”, not just in all our current definitions of “art” (2d and 3d work, music, poetry, drama, stories, dance, song, etc.) but in anything and everything we pursue that a) makes us a better person, and when we share it with the world, makes the world a better place.

When we share it, it can lift the heart of others. It helps them understand our story. It encourages others to share their story, too.

Teaching. Healing. Nourishing. Caretaking. Gardening. Restoring/repairing/mending. Building. Hospice. Creating community, sanctuary, peace, connection, understanding, tolerance, love. And study/research that strives for the same.

If I had never found those powerful images of the Lascaux Cave early in my life, I would not be making the art I make today.

If the caves had not been discovered, what a loss that would have been! And even though our very breath and the heat from our bodies have nearly destroyed those images, they appeared at a time in history when they could be photographed, mapped, reproduced, studied. (We visited Lascaux II two weeks after 9/11, and my bucket list now includes a visit to Lascaux IV.)

And the more we learn about those Painters of the Caves ( a wonderful children’s book written by award-winning author Patricia Lauber) the more we learn about ourselves. The assumptions of the years after the Cave’s discovery that have now been proven wrong. The painters weren’t “cave men”, they were (mostly) women and men who were shamans. It wasn’t hunting magic (most cave art images do not reflect the actual animals each community hunted for food), they were communal ceremonies, with sound and movement.

Most importantly, Lauber’s most powerful sentence admits we may never understand the why, the how, the what about these ancient artists of the distant past. She notes the cave paintings are messages that were not addressed to us. It meant something powerful for those people, in their time. But we may never know for sure what that was.

And yet, we feel the power, the mystery, of those paintings thousands and thousands and thousands of years later. Every single person I ever met who actually saw those paintings in that short window of time they were available to us, confirmed that experience. They were in the presence of something deep, mysterious, and powerful, and they did not know why.

When they say see/feel something similar in my work, something that echoes what they experienced, I know I’m doing it right.

In the end, it’s not the sales, the fame, the recognition, the number of likes. All this can be great, I agree. But how will we be remembered when we are gone? And how will even that last?

We are meant to bring our creative work into the world. It changes us. It helps us grow bigger,  in our hearts, in our sense of purpose in the world, in our ability to tell our story, and to connect with the stories of others. It helps us inspire and encourage others to value their own creative work.

That’s why we must explore  ways to let others see/hear/taste/experience see it, whether through gallery representation, exhibitions, books and magazines, open studios, or through social media, and venues yet to be discovered.

When we empower empower ourselves, we will empower others, too.

I am so grateful for Dedon’s words. Art is not created in, nor can exist in a vacuum. It is created in our human hearts. And when others see the work of our heart, when we share it with the world, art and creativity continue to seed, to grow, to bloom and shine, in them.

I’m grateful for Austin Kleon, (“An artist who draws”), whose blog today listed his top 100 quotes about art for 2021, including #36 by Larry Bell, which led me to Dedon’s blog post.

I’m grateful to those shamans, who created work that was important, powerful, healing, for them. And because it survived, in real time, and now in so many media, images, and now highly-accurate recreations, it is still a source for inspiration, mystery and awe in our modern times.

You can follow in their footsteps by sharing your art, too. As I said in my last article, marketing our art involves sharing. But sharing can simply be that: Letting people see it, online, in our studios, in a gallery, in a book, and spreading the power of our creative hearts.

Red deer, aurochs, and horsec the hallmarks of the Lascaux Caves.

 

 

 

ART IS A MIRROR And Other Moments of Insight and Wisdom Today

I wanted to use an image of the movie itself, but was afraid I could get sued for copyright infringement. So here’s that old pic of me and a baby duck again instead.

I know, I know. I keep harping on the importance of sharing our art with the world.

I still hear from people ocassionally who don’t want to. They are private, their art is a private comfort, no need to make money from it, etc. (For the record, marketing involves sharing out work publicly, but sharing doesn’t have to be about marketing/selling.) Or they don’t think it’s good enough.

I get it. It can be a little scary to post images of our work online, enter a gallery show/exhibition, sell it, etc. Some folks are afraid it will be copied (select “copycats” in my categories section for more articles on this fear.) And if it really isn’t ‘good enough’, it might get trolled.

I’ve also written a lot of articles about the power of sharing our art. I was gonna put a link in here but realized almost every single article I’ve ever written is about this!

Now back to this article: On Christmas Eve, me, my partner and my son watched The Matrix Resurrections.

And I’m still thinking about it.

This time around, Trinity turns out to be the superpower, the true hero. It’s finally her turn to shine. Together, she and Neo are unstoppable.(Here’s another terrific article about the true hero of It’s A Wonderful Life by Monica Hesse in The Washington Post.)

But this article in Entertainment Weekly cover story on The Matrix Resurrections reveals a deeper story about the importance of our art.

Next, and foremost, was the personal story of the Wachowski siblings themselves:

Profound personal change has always been central to the Matrix universe. The Wachowskis came out as trans and underwent gender reassignment surgery in the years since Reloaded and Revolutions both hit theaters in 2003. This awakening may have been an unspoken part of The Matrix since the beginning; Reeves remembers an early draft of the original script that featured a character who entered the Matrix world as a different sex. “I think the studio wasn’t ready for that,” he says.

Lilly Wachowski has stepped back from film-making to focus on her own personal, healing l journey, for now. And Lana Wachowski from the very beginning considered the Matrix series as a metaphor for hers.

“Art is a mirror,” Wachowski writes. “Most will prefer to gaze at the surface but there will be people like me who enjoy what lies behind the looking glass. I made this movie for them.”

For two people who took an extreme challenge to become their true selves, I hope this message encourages all of us do the same: To recognize and honor who we are, to know the power of our choices, to share our gifts with the world, and make it a better place for all.

Our art truly is about the story only we can tell.

My next post coming up soon: Why art in a vacuum isn’t what art is for.

You’re Invited! Art Stories That Will Inspire You….

Another Artists’ Reception at Corrick’s This Friday Evening!

I'll be working on new shrines now!

I’ll be working on new shrines now!

This Friday, story-telling artists Teri SloatCaren Catterall , and I will present the powerful stories at the heart of our artwork at Corrick’s Stationary, Art Gallery, and Gifts in downtown Santa Rosa, CA from 5-7. If you missed the first presentation in October, this is your chance! I have so many stories, I probably won’t be repeating myself, so even if you did attend, it will still be ‘fresh’!

Second, my studio is once again open by appointment! Contact info below in my email signature. Texting is best, email is second-best. Phone calls are the worst, because I get West Coat and East Coast spam. Ugh!

Or contact me through Studio Doorz, a website for visitors anywhere in the world to find my studio. You can choose for me to call YOU. Yay!

I hope to reopen my Etsy shop this week, too. Wish me luck!

Last, our annual Art Garage Sale at 33Arts and Studio Santa Rosa at 3840 Finley Ave was a huge success! I still have some rubber stamps for sale ($2 each), and I’ve posted several batches on Facebook, too. Er…anyone need a file cabinet? Or a vintage autopsy drawer? (No, there’s nothing weird in it, but the labels are a little weird.)

Rubber stamps!

Rubber stamps!

Mine is this size, with legs, but a wee bit shop-worn.

Mine looks just like this one! Only cheaper, and no shipping charges.

And now for the ifs….

If you know someone who might enjoy this, pass it on!

If someone sent you this newsletter and you found it helpful, sign up for more at my website (at the top of the home page): LuannUdell.com

P.S. If you want to unsubscribe, click the link at the bottom of this email. PLEASE don’t report me as spam!! Thank you!!

Luann portrait

Pandemic hairdo!

(Add six more inches.)

Luann Udell, artist/writer

“Ancient stories retold in modern artifacts:
Jewelry, sculpture, fiber works inspired by ancient art.”

Visit: Studio: 33Arts 3840 Finley AVE (Bdg 33) Santa Rosa

LuannUdell@gmail.com

LuannUdell.com

Luann on Facebook Luann on Instagram

By appointment on StudioDoorz.com

Professional advice: My past columns at Fine Art Views

NEWSLETTERS (AND BLOGS!) 101 #28: Share Who You Are

It's good when your artist story/statement/tag line matches your body of work.
It’s good when your artist story/statement/tag line matches your body of work.

NEWSLETTERS (AND BLOGS!) 101 #28: Share Who You Are

Marketing is about sharing—and KNOWING—our own unique story!

 (3.5 minute read)
Yesterday a friend/fellow artist sent me a link to another artist’s “artist sentence/statement”.
It was slightly crushing, on so many levels.

The first is, they are highly-visible in their field, selling for famous mail-order art catalogs, featured on several platforms, etc. So, a little envy popped up. (Note to self: “Money/fame are not the only measure of our success.”) (See? I have to remind myself, too!)

Second, their “art sentences” was dismaying. Very, very similar to my own tag, which is “Ancient stories retold in modern artifacts.” (Let’s just say the identical word ratio was about 50%-75%.)

But what was really weird is, their work did not reflect this aesthetic.

I fumed, briefly. What should I do? Complain? To whom? Do I “own” these words? No. Do I know for sure they copied mine? No. Do I know who’s been using them longer? No.

I even subscribed to their newsletter, thinking I’d get a feel for who they really are, at heart.

And then it hit me:

Why should I care???

I can make assumptions. I can do research. I can fume all I want.

In the end, I have no control over this situation. Zip.

Even if I did, here’s what I finally realized:

Do I want to waste my precious time and energy taking this on? Do I really want to die on this hill?

 

The answer is, “Nope.”

Focusing on the negative leads to dark places, loss of energy, and distraction.

 

That artist can do “them”. I will do me.

My work has been, um, imitated, from time to time. I’m sure even more than I know! Because the ones I know about are often because the, um, imitator, actually shared that information with me. Polymer clay is a relatively new art medium, and techniques/palettes/projects get shared/copied/reposted constantly. (Oddly, the polymer people who are most protective of their “copyrights” are NOT the people who originally created those techniques/palettes/projects. Go figure.) For more insights on copying and the polymer/any art medium world, check out this article and this one by Ginger Davis Allman of The Blue Bottle Tree.)

I was going to say this is the first time my words have been borrowed. Except that’s not true, either. For a long time, some people would repost my blog posts and articles on their own platforms. Not good. Because invariably, their readers assume they wrote them! (FWIW, it’s more respectful to share a synopsis, or a personal take on how the article affected you, and share a link back the writer’s platform.)

I finally stopped that, too, unless it goes too far.

I am not saying you or anyone else has my permission to copy any of my work.

What I will say is this: People who do this? They yearn for what we have, but either haven’t developed their own skills, story, and personal vision, or have chosen not to.

There we have it. The power of our choices.

 

Today, I will unsubscribe from their newsletter. I will work on my stuff today, and let go of envy. I will scratch my head about an artist story that doesn’t really relate to that artist’s work, and didn’t encourage me to want to learn more.

And I will move on.

I will go to my studio and continue working on my new shrine series. (A customer followed up with me today, asking if I’d contacted the gallery they’d referred me to. Dang! They’re doing better follow-up than I am!)

I will focus on the work that brings me joy, and peace in my heart. I will find ways to share it today, in my social media marketing.

I will continue to only focus on what is under my control, and strive to let go of what isn’t.

And I hope with all my heart that today’s words will encourage you to do the same! (If you aren’t already, in which case, good on you!) (My husband asked me where this phrase came from, as opposed to “good FOR you”. I think it’s a New England thing.)

Your comments are always welcome, often insightful, and sometimes inspirational, too! Shares, the same. You can find more of my articles at Fine Art Views, and/or visit/subscribe to them through my blog.

NEWSLETTERS 101 #17: Share an “Aha!” Moment

My biggest "aha" moment was what put me on the path to becoming a "real" artist. Still powerful. Still works.
My biggest “aha” moment was what put me on the path to becoming a “real” artist. Still powerful. Still works.

NEWSLETTERS 101 #17: Share an “Aha!” Moment

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.

Was there a moment when everything changed for you? Share it!

(4 minute read)

One of the taglines in my Fine Art Views (and elsewhere) is this:

“I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”

Yep, I’m hoping it made you laugh a little. But I am also here to reassure you, that when we have our own “aha!” moment, aka “the Eureka effect”, that miraculous gift of insight where we see what’s really going on, what the solution is, how to move forward from a stuck place, it’s good to share it.

It may be just what someone else needs to get out of a hole today.

Here’s one of my favorites I love to share. It’s about fear. How fear can dominate our lives, inside and out. How it can paralyze us.

And ironically, how shallow it can really be. (Yes, pun intended!)

This story is over 15 years old, and the fear I described was already almost 15 years old. If my husband hadn’t cajoled me to take a dip in the lake on that hot summer day, I might still be holding that fear in my heart.

My intention in sharing this story was to encourage others who are in the same boat. Paralyzed with fear, palpable fear. Impossible to ignore. Only “diving in” (figuratively and literally!) helped me get to the bottom of that scary lake. (Again, pun intended.)

As I linked to the Dublin Lake story, I found another related story in the sidebar, entitled “Breakthrough”. Here is where a bunch of fears, and one random comment, came together into one beautiful solution.

Now my latest insight, that came from revisiting my old blog, today:

Radio Userland was an early blog hosting site (now-defunc) site. I wrote on it from 2002 to mid-2007. (I couldn’t even access it for ages after I left, until my techie husband recoded all the urls into something I could get to easily.) (Thank you, sweetie/love of my life!)

In five years, I got maybe three comments. THREE.

Was it because I was a terrible writer? Or an uninteresting writer? I’ll leave that for you to decide! But I do know the platform had its drawbacks, for me.

It was hard to comment. I don’t even know if I could have responded to those comments. I had no way of knowing how many people visited my blog. I never thought to ask the ones that did, to share it with others.

So: No comments. No likes. No way to measure “hits”. No way to know if anyone ever even read anything. No way to know if what I wrote, helped someone else.

And yet, I wrote. I process hard places in my life, through writing. So I wrote for myself, first. I love having had all those ‘lessons learned’, insights, and free advice.

I love it when I come across them again.

Because I still need them.

As a good friend said a few years ago, “I love all my life lessons! I love them so much, I learn them again, and again, and again.”

And when I share them with the world? Priceless. As in, “free” because you get to read them here at no cost to you.

And “priceless” as in “powerful”, as in “if it helped me, and when I shared it, it helped you, then that has incredible, endless value.”

Is it coincidence that I had this realization so soon after last week’s article, on how the numbers ultimately don’t matter?

I don’t think so.

So consider sharing an insight that helped you move forward in life. An insight that helped you find your way in the dark, towards the light, and a mug of hot milk.

If it helps even one of your subscribers do the same, well, that’s pretty cool.

One suggestion: Stick with the positive, or at least end on a positive note. Not all life experiences are good ones. But when we learn something fundamental, something beautiful because of them, that inspires hope.

Of course it okay to share something we’re struggling with right now, too: Health issues, difficult life events, etc. Believe me, if you’re going through something really hard, someone else out there is, too.

And it’s okay to just gritch now and then. (That’s a word from an old high school friend, a blend of “gripe” and “bitch”, and I love it almost as much as “blort”.) In fact, it might be an opportunity for readers to make suggestions or express sympathy, which may or may not help.

But just knowing they care can mean a lot to us, too.

But don’t be too much of a Debbie/Danny Downer, either. Yeah, we all have our moments, but we also all have enough on our plates.

What is one of YOUR favorite “aha!” moments? Try it out on us, in the comments!

If you enjoyed this article, if you enjoyed this article, share it! Link back to it here on Fine Art Views, or my blog at luannudell.wordpress.com.

If someone shared this article with you, and you’d like to read more in this series, visit my articles at FineArtViews.com.

NEWSLETTERS 101: #5 What Is the Story Only YOU Can Tell?

Yep, I'm a little obsessed with my horses. Because they represent the start--and heart--of everything I am today.
Yep, I’m a little obsessed with my horses. Because they represent the start–and heart–of everything I am today.

NEWSLETTERS 101: #5 What Is the Story Only YOU Can Tell?

Apologies, I just realized I forgot to republish this article here on my blog! This is part of my series “NEWSLETTERS 101” and this one is a biggie!

We may not be ‘used to’ digging so deep. But the gold you find there is worth it!

(5 minute read)

Last week’s article about knowing our creation story sounded simple. But I’m guessing from some of the questions I received privately that most of us don’t find it that easy.

When I work in person with someone, it’s easier. There are questions I can ask, hints in people’s responses I can follow, and body language that tell me I’m getting close. And when people get to their truth, it’s powerful to hear, and see. Their stance gets ‘brave’: They stand/sit taller, their voice deepens, their words are simple, straightforward, and powerful. And often, there are tears. From both of us!

Unfortunately, before people get there, it can be very hard. For me, and for them.

Some people get annoyed. Or angry. Or they shut down, or push back: “I dunno. I dunno. I DON’T KNOW!!! Why do you keep asking me that??!!” (“That” is usually the word “why”, and I’ve written about it for years on my blog and on Fine Art Views (along with other authors.)

I’ve written about five drafts of this article in the last few weeks, and get overwhelmed with everything I want to say. So instead, for those of you who truly want to find your story, today I am assigning you homework. THREE homework assignments, actually:

Check out this article on what makes each one of us special: 10 Things That Make A Person Unique And Different

Read carefully, and think of how you would respond to each of the aspects given.

Next, invest $5 on a copy of Kaleel Jamison’s book, The Nibble Theory and The Kernel of Power. The link actually goes to the best bookfinding tool on the internet called (surprise!) Bookfinder.com.

This book will take you less than an hour to read, but it can be a life-changer. It was for me. The first section is understanding why some people always try to take us down by ‘nibbling’ away at us until we are not a threat to them anymore.

The second section, finding our Kernel of Power, can help you dig deeper into what makes you YOU. Take your time in reading this part, and think carefully about the questions. (Also note that Jamison says how our tears come with our truth.)

Third, this homework assignment is more creative. Remember that meme that went around on Facebook, 25 Random Things About Me, where we were asked to create a list of ‘things’ most people would not otherwise know about us? (Yes, I did it, and it led to another blog post. Of course!) (And also ‘of course’, I did an entire series of articles on how 25 Random Things can help us write a stronger artist statement.)

Last, there is an unspoken element in all these assignments:

The power of our choices.

Mine came when I realized I didn’t have to be “good enough”. I simply had to make the work of my heart. It was the beginning of everything with my art.

Many people say there was no ‘turning point’ or creation story with their art. They never ‘chose’ their art career. They always knew they were creative, and simply followed that path.

If that’s the case for you, then those three exercises may give you clarity. Because ‘just following a path’ still entails many, many tiny choices along the way.

I’ve written about this process—finding our central truth, our creation story–many times. I wish I could do it in person with each of you who are still searching. I also realize, I’m a writer. I constantly write my way to my truth. (To all of you who have signed up for my newsletter or subscribe to my blog, that’s why you get emails every week instead of once a month! Can’t apologize anymore, it’s part of who I am!)

I shut myself in my studio that day I wrote my artist statement. I was frustrated many times, but would not let myself leave until it was done. And I knew when it was done.

I know there’s still nuance in it. Most people call it a poem, and I agree. I elaborate on it once people, visitors, collectors, let me know they want to talk about it with me.

But it still resonates, and it still speaks my truth: I am here, now. I am only here for a short time on this planet. I want to have my voice in this world. Writing and making little plastic horses is part of that voice.

Yep, I’m a little obsessed with my horses. Because they represent the start–and heart–of everything I am today.

I found that looking for humanity’s roots in ancient times gave me hope that we can all do better at being a good, compassionate, generous, creative human being. Including me. Again: The power of our choices.

There are many other ways I am unique. Like loving melted ice cream. Like not liking watermelon. Like taking up martial arts and my art in my ‘40’s, dyeing my hair for the first time in my ‘50’s and sitting with the dying in my ‘60’s.

All of these are choices.

You’ve made choices all along the way, too.

Think about them. Do the homework. Let me know if you have questions. I’ll do my best to answer them.

On one hand, no, none of this will be on the test. (There is no test.)

On the other hand, you already have all the right answers. They’ve been there all along.

Let them out. Let them breathe. Let them shine. Just like YOU.

If you enjoyed this article and know someone who might enjoy it, please feel free to forward this to them.

If you received this from someone, and liked it, you can subscribe to more artists’ views at the Fine Art Views blog.

And if you’d like to read more of my stuff, you can subscribe to my blog at LuannUdell.wordpress.com.

NEWSLETTERS 101 #7: Why Your ‘WHY’ Is So Important

Do we all have a deep mystery to discover?
Do we all have a deep mystery to discover?

NEWSLETTERS 101 #7: Why Your ‘WHY’ Is So Important

NEWSLETTERS 101 #7: Why Your ‘WHY’ Is So Important

(Hint: Because it is the heart of everything you do, every decision you make, and everything you make!)

(6 minute read)

Welp, somewhere along the line, this series shifted from “how to create an email newsletter” to “how to find your creation story”. I would apologize, BUT –

In my defense, knowing our creation story is the foundation of everything else we do.

Yes, we may end up making our creative work for years before we find it. Yes, it may not be a story you are comfortable sharing with just anyone.* Yes, it can changed or modified, to align with a new series of work, or for a special exhibit, etc.

But that story is in us, even if we can’t find it – yet. It is what drives us, guides us, in a thousand small ways, every day.

Knowing our creation story is a form of self-empowerment, a direct conduit to the inner passion that drives to make the work we make.

Someone reached out to me recently about this, with really good questions we may all have:

Do we all have a deep mystery to discover?

Yes, we all do. Everyone. Everyone has a story that gives some sense, some insight, into the choices we make.

Of course, many of our choices become such a habit, we forget the reason we made them in the first place. Hey, I’ll go first!

Why do you sleep on that side of the bed? (Me: I want to be closer to the bathroom in the middle of the night!) (Which is also why that changes every time we move.)

Why do I hate tuna fish casserole? (Me: I used to really hate ‘mixed’ food, I hated strong flavors like tuna fish, and my parents gave me grief every time I tried to bow out of eating it. Almost every dinner was a fight about food. Tuna fish casserole brings up bad memories, and mentioning it is a running joke between my hubby and me.)

Why do you make your artifacts out of polymer? (Me: Because I want them to look ancient, worn and damaged by time, over thousands of years. I can recreate that look with a faux ivory technique in polymer clay. Also, there’s no need to harm animals to make them, in this day and age, so polymer is more ‘life neutral’ for me. And how cool that this material began to soar in popularity as an art medium in the world at the same time I took up my true art?!)

Why the Cave of Lascaux? (Me: I have always yearned for a horse to love, I have always dreamed of riding a galloping horse, moving freely forward, flying in the wind, at one with these marvelous creatures. They were a metaphor for my longing to be an artist from my youth. The mysterious Lascaux paintings fed this longing. Now that we know more about the makers of those paintings, the synchronicity is even more astonishing!) (Recent findings on women as shamans in prehistory; that all members of this community participated in the ceremonies; that these paintings were created during the onset of swift, debilitating climate change.**)

I think I am waiting until I am an authority on (making my art) to try to look for the why.

This is not necessary to find our ‘why’. We are just postponing asking ourselves this difficult, but ultimately empowering work. Remember: We are already ‘good enough’, there is no diploma for ‘being human’, and we are all a work-in-progress.

Where does passion for working come from?

From our heart. The desire to be seen, heard, loved in the world. To be seen as an individual, and to be part of a community. To be remembered, long after we are gone. We want to make our mark in the world. Many factors guide/hinder us along the way, from how we were raised to what we perceive is valued in our culture. That’s why finding our way to this work can take time and effort for many of us.

Although I do like the idea of being a powerful force for good in the world. Who, me?!

Yes, YOU! And me! And about 98% of the rest of the world. (I’m leaving out the sociopaths and narcissists of the world, although sometimes even they often create good work in the world in their pursuit of their passions.) (Just don’t date or marry them!)

Here’s my favorite metaphor for “do I matter?”:

When we put the work of our heart out into the world, it’s like tossing a pebble into a large lake. We may not see where all the ripples go, but they are there and they go SOMEWHERE. (Look up The Butterfly Effect.)

Our art is like that.

It may take time for it to be seen. Maybe not even in our lifetime. Van Gogh died in despair, craving to be seen in the world. If only he could see his own validation now! Or it could disappear eventually. But what is left is how it affected US, and others in their own good time.

(Again, the power of the internet, and the legacy of the art we leave behind.)

The cave paintings of Lascaux were a powerful message that was not addressed to us. But that cave deeply, deeply impacted all the people who were able to see it before it was closed, and even long after. And it changed my life.

For millennia, we have had some very strict rules about who can be an artist, and who can’t. Rules about what ‘real art’ is, and what isn’t.

Rules and laws have kept women, people of some religions, people of color (outside of their own origins and present communities), people of ‘other-than’ gender, in a box, and usually not a very pretty nor kind box.

But things change. We are not in a perfect, accepting, loving world yet. But it is even more possible to have our voice in the world. The current shelter-in-place orders may force us to stay home. We may feel paralyzed, overwhelmed, anxious about the state of the world right now. But the internet, and social media marketing***, allows us, and our art, to roam the world. Access to a smart phone, a computer, a library (eventually!) give us this perfect freedom.

We do the work we feel compelled to make, and hope someday, somewhere, somehow, someone else will feel its message.

And when WE know our message, we are empowered now, no matter what happens later.

I told this person they’d inspired this article! One person’s words, even shared with self-doubt, shared with courage, and with the hope that I might answer, lit up my heart.

I hope my words today light YOUR heart, and theirs.

*You can share the gist of your creation story, if the details are too personal or uncomfortable to share. Just knowing it is huge!

**And as a side note, everyone who says, “My art speaks for itself”, the story of the Lascaux Cave paintings for years was, men-and-boys-practicing-target-shooting. New evidence now shows that “story” is completely wrong, on so many levels. We were seeing these images through the lens of our own time, with all the cultural prejudices that can block our “view”….) (To which some will counter, “Cave art is about survival!” and I reply, “So is a cathedral.”) (The power of our choices.)

**”Social media marketing” of course, is simply using the internet to get our work in front of other people, who may love it, be inspired and uplifted by it, and hopefully, even love it enough to buy it!

NEWSLETTERS 101 #6: My Creation Story’s Creation

NEWSLETTERS 101 #6: My Creation Story’s Creation

How I Poke(d) People Into Telling Me Their WHY

Yet still she persisted….

(8 minute read)

I know I’ve told this story a million times. But I can’t find it to share with you, and so I’m telling it again.

Soon after I heeded the call of my art, I entered my work in a group exhibition. The group was the Women’s Caucus for Art (the New Hampshire Chapter) and this was my very first art exhibit. I was already on fire with my newfound life mission, and it showed.

The show organizer asked for volunteers to present gallery talks. I volunteered, but wasn’t chosen. Which I carried NO resentment for, and when I asked, courteously, telling them I just wanted to know for my own education, they said they picked people they knew would be up to the task. And they didn’t know me yet. (Which shows the power of gentle inquiry in finding out in a way we can LEARN from, instead of simply assuming the worst.) (TWO life lessons for you today!)

Having never heard a gallery talk, let alone actually giving one, I went with eager anticipation, hoping to hear the story behind these artists’ work.

It was a long drive, we only had one car at the time, and one of the other artists offered me a ride. We hit it off and had a lovely talk on the way up. (Keep note of this!) The exhibit was beautiful, the typical run-of-the-mill artist statements were displayed, and after an hour or so, the selected artists’ presentations began.

It was abysmal. THEY were abysmal (the talks, not the people.)

The first speaker shared a lot about their process, a much-maligned medium (digital art) at the time. Perhaps to compensate for the expected push-back (digital art was not considered “real art” at that time), the artist understandably spent a lot of time on the “how”. Their talk had a good reception, though. The work nowhere near “simple” to create. Their subject was inspired by a Greek island the artist had explored in their academic research, where a priesthood of women in ancient times had resided. Those recently-discovered images were the foundation of her work. Their presentation was quite academic in nature.

But then it was time for their question-and-answer session, and that’s where it almost fell apart.

The first questions were fairly mundane: What software had they used? Who did their framing? Etc., etc.

Then I posed my question.

WHY?

Okay, this was almost 30 years ago, and I can’t remember exactly how I phrased my question(s). It took about a dozen tries on my part. The more I persisted, the more defensive the artist became, again understandably. But my intent finally got through.

I simply wanted to know why this particular island was so important to this woman. And, to be blunt, why it should be important to us, too. (More on this at the end.)

I said, “There are thousands of islands in Greece.” (Just looked that up. There are around 6,000 Greek islands, though fewer than 300 are inhabited…) “Thousands. And people have lived on them for millennia. Why THIS ISLAND? And why THIS POINT IN TIME?”

Aha! The lightbulb visibly lit up in their head.

They unfolded their arms. They stood up, straight and proud. Their voice deepened, slowed down, became firmer:

“Because on this island, in this time all-too-brief moment in time, women were revered and respected. They could walk the streets, at night, in safety, alone and unafraid.”

Boom. Mike drop.

The entire room did that gasp thing, where everyone else suddenly gets it, too.

It was a powerful moment. Still is.

The rest of the talks went the same way. When everyone was done asking the run-of-the-mill questions, I would ask the “why”.

Now, this was hard for me. I do not welcome confrontation. I usually run from it as fast as I can. It was hard for the speakers, too. They had clearly never considered the “why”.  And no one had ever held their feet to the fire to do so.

Afterwards, every single speaker came up to me. I would start to apologize: I was new to art-making, I was on fire with my art. And I wanted to know what the fire was in my newly-found community of artists.

Every single artist said, “No. I want to THANK you!” (THAT took courage, too.)

My fellow artist/speaker/driver said the same thing. I was worried that after our intense, deep conversation on the way up, that I’d wrecked it. Their work was titled, “The Hidden Story”. And I was the only person who actually asked what the story was!

“No,” they said, “I know who you are. I’ve never told that story before today, and I’m glad you asked me about it. I looked at your face in the audience. I felt safe, and I felt SEEN. I told you my story, and I’m glad I did!”

An article about the exhibition ran in the state’s largest newspaper, and I was mentioned. Not by name. I was the “persistent person in the audience” who encouraged every speaker to tell their powerful story.

Persistent.

Yup, that’s me.

I don’t do that much anymore. I’ve done a similar process with anyone who takes me up on my offer to help them find their story. It’s easier, in some ways, to do it in person, or in a workshop. I have to show them my (persistent) intentions are honorable. Even so, there is always someone who simply can’t do this. They aren’t ready. Or the years of experience they already have keeps them from wrapping their heads around this. Obviously, this isn’t something that happens much in art school, I’m guessing, though maybe times have changed.

And even when it’s someone I know and love, it’s hard for ME. It DOES feel confrontational when I won’t let some lame response fill the bill. I keep going until I know that person is speaking their truth, because I see the same signs when it does: Posture changes, defenses come down, voices strengthen, and slows.

Truth is told.

And even when others see this, it can offend them, make them defensive. I gave an impromptu presentation when asked at a gallery exhibit a few years ago. I know my stories, and somehow I know which one will “rise to the occasion” when I talk. I’ve told them many times, there are always new ones in the work, and I rarely lack for something to say, when asked. (This from a newly self-identified introvert, remember!)

But the very next person asked said angrily, “My art isn’t verbal!” and clammed up. (Too bad, because their piece was one of my favorites in that show.)

So if you did the homework assignment from last week, with full attention and intent, and are still stuck, try this:

Is there someone in your life who you would trust with your tender, creative heart?

They don’t have to be an artist, nor a collector, nor even a fan. They simply have to be someone who you trust to act with integrity and kindness. Ideally, someone who is also willing to persist.

You keep talking, and every time you pause, if the story hasn’t appeared yet, they keep asking you that question about your artwork: Why?

Why this medium? Why this subject? Why this composition? Why these colors? Why, why, why.

They need to pay very close attention to what comes too easily from you. What feels like a no-brainer for you:

“I just love color!”

“Why? Why do you love color? Why did you choose THESE colors? What do they represent to you? What mood are you striving to create with them? Why that mood? Where does that mood come from in this piece? Why?”

I don’t have any sure-fire tricks here. Every time I do this, I worry I’m doing it wrong, if that helps. When the person gets defensive, it REALLY worry: Have I just killed our relationship???

But that defensiveness is exactly the clue that we are on the right path.

Our closely-held assumptions, our protective coloration (sorry, couldn’t resist!), our cherished (yet often superficial) beliefs about our work are being challenged. That can feel like an attack. Hence, the defensiveness.

But if you truly want to get to your creation story, which you can choose to incorporate into your artist statement or not (your choice), this will be well worth your time and momentary discomfort. (It might help to have a bottle of wine ready when you’re done…?)

You can also try this in writing, by yourself. I did. When I locked myself in my studio, determined to get to the heart of what I do, I started with, “Why this cave?” And after I’d write my answer, I would write, “Why?”

Until I got to my true answer.

Last, here is why the “why” is so hard:

I’m really asking you why I should care.

And here’s why you need to find it, even though it’s hard:

Everyone has a creation story.

Every creation story is a hero’s journey.

No matter where you are on your journey, there’s a story.

You are not alone, with your story.

Everyone is struggling with something.

Everyone is healing from something.

Everyone wants to be “seen”.

Everyone wants to have a voice in the world.

Everyone wants to know that they matter.

And when we share our story, there are people who are going through something similar, or know that it’s something they WILL go through, someday.

Your story will not only resonate with someone, it will uplift someone, encourage someone, inspire someone. It may comfort someone, it may give someone hope. It make clarify their own intentions, wants, and desires.

Your story, at the heart of your art, your creative, is a powerful force for good in the world.

That alone is a pretty good reason to dig deep for it, don’t you think?

NEWSLETTERS 101 #6: My Creation Story’s Creation

Your story, at the heart of your art, your creative, is a powerful force for good in the world.
Your story, at the heart of your art, your creative, is a powerful force for good in the world.

NEWSLETTERS 101 #6: My Creation Story’s Creation

How I Poke(d) People Into Telling Me Their WHY 

Yet still she persisted….

How I Poke(d) People Into Telling Me Their WHY 

Yet still she persisted….

(8 minute read)

I know I’ve told this story a million times. But I can’t find it to share with you, and so I’m telling it again.

Soon after I heeded the call of my art, I entered my work in a group exhibition. The group was the Women’s Caucus for Art (the New Hampshire Chapter) and this was my very first art exhibit. I was already on fire with my newfound life mission, and it showed.

The show organizer asked for volunteers to present gallery talks. I volunteered, but wasn’t chosen. Which I carried NO resentment for, and when I asked, courteously, telling them I just wanted to know for my own education, they said they picked people they knew would be up to the task. And they didn’t know me yet. (Which shows the power of gentle inquiry in finding out in a way we can LEARN from, instead of simply assuming the worst.) (TWO life lessons for you today!)

Having never heard a gallery talk, let alone actually giving one, I went with eager anticipation, hoping to hear the story behind these artists’ work.

It was a long drive, we only had one car at the time, and one of the other artists offered me a ride. We hit it off and had a lovely talk on the way up. (Keep note of this!) The exhibit was beautiful, the typical run-of-the-mill artist statements were displayed, and after an hour or so, the selected artists’ presentations began.

It was abysmal. THEY were abysmal (the talks, not the people.)

The first speaker shared a lot about their process, a much-maligned medium (digital art) at the time. Perhaps to compensate for the expected push-back (digital art was not considered “real art” at that time), the artist understandably spent a lot of time on the “how”. Their talk had a good reception, though. The work was nowhere near “simple” to create. Their subject was inspired by a Greek island the artist had explored in their academic research, where a priesthood of women in ancient times had resided. Those recently-discovered images were the foundation of her work. Their presentation was quite academic in nature.

But then it was time for their question-and-answer session, and that’s where it almost fell apart.

The first questions were fairly mundane: What software had they used? Who did their framing? Etc., etc.

Then I posed my question.

WHY?

Okay, this was almost 30 years ago, and I can’t remember exactly how I phrased my question(s). It took about a dozen tries on my part. The more I persisted, the more defensive the artist became, again understandably. But my intent finally got through.

I simply wanted to know why this particular island was so important to this woman. And, to be blunt, why it should be important to us, too. (More on this at the end.)

I said, “There are thousands of islands in Greece.” (Just looked that up. There are around 6,000 Greek islands, though fewer than 300 are inhabited.) “Thousands. And people have lived on them for millennia. Why THIS ISLAND? And why THIS POINT IN TIME?”

Aha! The lightbulb visibly lit up in their head.

They unfolded their arms. They stood up, straight and proud. Their voice deepened, slowed down, became firmer:

“Because on this island, in this all-too-brief moment in time, women were revered and respected. They could walk the streets, at night, in safety, alone and unafraid.”

Boom. Mike drop.

The entire room did that gasp thing, where everyone else suddenly gets it, too.

It was a powerful moment. Still is.

The rest of the talks went the same way. When everyone was done asking the run-of-the-mill questions, I would ask the “why”.

Now, this was hard for me. I do not welcome confrontation. I usually run from it as fast as I can. It was hard for the speakers, too. They had clearly never considered the “why”.  And no one had ever held their feet to the fire to do so.

Afterwards, every single speaker came up to me. I would start to apologize: I was new to art-making, I was on fire with my art. And I wanted to know what the fire was in my newly-found community of artists.

Every single artist said, “No. I want to THANK you!” (THAT took courage, too.)

My fellow artist/speaker/driver said the same thing. I was worried that after our intense, deep conversation on the way up, that I’d wrecked it. Their work was titled, “The Hidden Story”. And I was the only person who actually asked what the story was!

“No,” they said, “I know who you are. I’ve never told that story before today, and I’m glad you asked me about it. I looked at your face in the audience. I felt safe, and I felt SEEN. I told you my story, and I’m glad I did!”

An article about the exhibition ran in the state’s largest newspaper, and I was mentioned. Not by name. I was the “persistent woman in the audience” who encouraged every speaker to tell their powerful story.

Persistent.

Yup, that’s me.

I don’t do that much anymore. I’ve done a similar process with anyone who takes me up on my offer to help them find their story. It’s easier, in some ways, to do it in person, or in a workshop. I have to show them my (persistent) intentions are honorable. Even so, there is always someone who simply can’t do this. They aren’t ready. Or the years of experience they already have keeps them from wrapping their heads around this. Obviously, this isn’t something that happens much in art school, I’m guessing, though maybe times have changed.

And even when it’s someone I know and love, it’s hard for ME. It DOES feel confrontational when I won’t let some lame response fill the bill. I keep going until I know that person is speaking their truth, because I see the same signs when it does: Posture changes, defenses come down, voices strengthen, and slows.

Truth is told.

And even when others see this, it can offend them, make them defensive. I gave an impromptu presentation when asked at a gallery exhibit a few years ago. I know my stories, and somehow I know which one will “rise to the occasion” when I talk. I’ve told them many times, there are always new ones in the work, and I rarely lack for something to say, when asked. (This from a newly self-identified introvert, remember!)

But the very next person who was asked, said angrily, “My art isn’t verbal!” and clammed up. (Too bad, because their piece was one of my favorites in that show.)

So if you did the homework assignment from last week, with full attention and intent, and are still stuck, try this:

Is there someone in your life who you would trust with your tender, creative heart?

They don’t have to be an artist, nor a collector, nor even a fan. They simply have to be someone who you trust to act with integrity and kindness. Ideally, someone who is also willing to persist.

You keep talking, and every time you pause, if the story hasn’t appeared yet, they keep asking you that question about your artwork: Why?

Why this medium? Why this subject? Why this composition? Why these colors? Why, why, why.

They need to pay very close attention to what comes too easily from you. What feels like a no-brainer for you:

“I just love color!”

“Why? Why do you love color? Why did you choose THESE colors? What do they represent to you? What mood are you striving to create with them? Why that mood? Where does that mood come from in this piece? Why?”

I don’t have any sure-fire tricks here. Every time I do this, I worry I’m doing it wrong, if that helps. When the person gets defensive, REALLY worry: Have I just killed our relationship???

But that defensiveness is exactly the clue, the proof, that we are on the right path.

Our closely-held assumptions, our protective coloration (sorry, couldn’t resist!), our cherished (yet often superficial) beliefs about our work are being challenged. That can feel like an attack. Hence, the defensiveness.

But if you truly want to get to your creation story, which you can choose to incorporate into your artist statement or not (your choice), this will be well worth your time and momentary discomfort. (It might help to have a bottle of wine ready when you’re done?)

You can also try this in writing, by yourself. I did. When I locked myself in my studio, determined to get to the heart of what I do, I started with, “Why this cave?” And after I’d write my answer, I would write, “Why?”

Until I got to my true answer.

Last, here is why the “why” is so hard:

I’m really asking you why I should care.

And here’s why you need to find it, even though it’s hard:

Everyone has a creation story.

Every creation story is a hero’s journey.

No matter where you are on your journey, there’s a story.

You are not alone, with your story.

Everyone is struggling with something.

Everyone is healing from something.

Everyone wants to be “seen”.

Everyone wants to have a voice in the world.

Everyone wants to know that they matter.

And when we share our story, there are people who are going through something similar, or know that it’s something they WILL go through, someday.

Your story will not only resonate with someone, it will uplift someone, encourage someone, inspire someone. It may comfort someone, it may give someone hope. It make clarify their own intentions, wants, and desires.

Your story, at the heart of your art, your creative, is a powerful force for good in the world.

That alone is a pretty good reason to dig deep for it, don’t you think?

YOUR ARTIST STATEMENT: It’s About Y*O*U!!

Warning: Snark zone ahead!!!!

I’m offering a service for artists and craftspeople…heck, for anyone who needs a ‘mission statement’. I’ll rewrite your current artist statement for a small fee $100.

I’m not putting the dollar amount in stone yet. That’s because I charged my first paying customer $25. And then spent five hours arguing back and forth in dozens of emails, until I finally called them and snarled for 15 minutes, (which I hardly ever, ever do) laying out all the reasons why mine might work better than theirs, that they could add whatever they wanted to it, just don’t tell me to do it, and if they didn’t like what I’d written, then throw it away and write their own.

So I made $4/hour AND had to listen to a lot of complaining and what I’d ‘left out’. So, setting boundaries. Lesson learned.

In my defense, I contacted a friend of mine who works in the same medium, and read them what I’d written. “Holy crap!!” they yelled, “If THEY don’t use it, I want it!!! That’s terrific!” (Thank you, thank you.)

I actually learned two things from this experience. I need to be charging more than $25 I need to make it clear I am not a work-for-hire. I am a consultant. I will rewrite or suggest a different way to present yourself as an artist. You are then free to use this information–or not.

I also learned I must be crystal-clear on what I’m offering. Or rather, what I’m not offering.

What I write will have very little to do with how long/how many years you’ve been doing….whatever it is you do.

I do not particularly care who you studied with, nor where you went to art school. (That’s for your bio/resume/cv, though why we brag about who we’ve paid to teach us something counts as a credential is beyond me.)

I’m not interested in the galleries you’re in, the awards you’ve won, or the shows you’ve been in. (See above.)

I don’t want to read your single-spaced two-page artist statement in a 10 point font. (Come on!)

I don’t especially care how you do what you do. (And this is where I ran into conflict with my first paying client. For them, it was all about process–the how. Yeah, I might want to know down the road, but honestly, I can probably Google it just as quickly.)

I want to know the WHY.

I want to know why you chose this medium.
I want to know why you use it the way you do.
I want to know why it gives you joy.

Why it resonates with you, why it ‘fits’ you, why it provides you your voice in the world.

I don’t want to hear that you ” just love color”. Or texture. Or anything else that literally everyone in the world likes.

I don’t want to hear that your prefered medium is “alive”. It sounds like you might segue to other living things as your medium of choice down the road. Like…people. After all, that wood is not “alive” after you cut it, slice it, carve it, paint it, is it? (Wood people–please take note.)

And if I hear, “Because I want to make people happy” one more time, I am kicking you to the curb. (Just kidding.) (NO I’M NOT.) People will be happy if you drive around in a car and throw money at them as they’re walking down the sidewalk. That is not an artist statement.

If you’ve read anything I’ve written for the past twenty years, if you’ve ever taken a class from me, if you’ve ever seen my artwork/visited my booth/talked to me in person, you will understand.

And even though I break some of my own rules in my own artist statement, I still believe it has power and it says enough.

How do I know?

Because after people read it, they do exactly what I want them to do.

They go back and look at my art, again. They look deeply and reverently. And then they turn to me and ask a question.

Former art marketing and display consultant Bruce Baker taught me the wisdom of this first question from our exhibition/booth/gallery/studio visitors. It is a sign from your visitor that it’s okay to talk to them about your work. The question may seem silly, or mundane. It may be profound and thoughtful. Whatever.

They have connected with your work, and they want to know more about it–and you.

You have said something in your writing that speaks to them, that resonates with them. And they look at your work again, seeing something deeper, something powerful, something they might otherwise have missed.

Believe me, please….. If your artist statement is all about your credentials, about your schooling, about your techniques, then you will have to start at the bottom to connect this person with you and your work.

Come on, folks. Thousands and thousands of artists have graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design. Tens of thousands have taken workshops with a well-known painter or ceramist. Tens of thousands have worked in the same medium you do. Hundreds of thousands of hours have been spent by people perfecting their craft. Millions of people wanted to be an artist when they were little. And billions of people (aka “everybody on planet Earth”) “just love color.”

But there is only one ‘you’ in the entire universe.

And yet, that is the one credential most people are afraid to talk about in their artist statement.

Oh, most people talk about themselves in some way, shape, or form. (See above.)

But in my humble experience, most of us are truly hesitant about sharing what really matters to us, in our art, in our lives, in our hearts.

What happened to that person’s artist statement? About a year later, a magazine ran an article about them.

And what I’d written for them was center stage. I think it was the best part!

P.S. And if you’re still not convinced, if you are a true fan of art-speak, fancy-schmancy words, and something vaguely art-acadamese-sounding, help yourself to this amazing website: ArtyBollocks, the best artist statement generator. Check it out! Or this “art-speak generator“.  I haven’t tried it yet, but it sure looks promising!

P.P.S Apologies, I’ve just finished my volunteer assignment for a local art event that entailed reading about 140 artist statements, and I am totally fried.

NEWSLETTERS 101 #4: Know Your Creation Story

 The moment you chose to live your life and make your art with intention is the heart of everything you do, write, say.

(4 minute read)    

Last week, I shared how introverts can shine in the world, thanks to email art marketing newsletters.

Today, I had a long article planned. But, lucky you! I realized it was about two different topics I had squished into one:

Your Most Important Story of All

Before we get to suggestions about this, let’s talk about the most important topic of all of this:

The Story of YOU.

Here’s the biggest obstacle when it comes to every aspect of marketing and selling our art:

Sooooo many people don’t know their own story!

Let’s back up a little. There are two powerful stories in every creative person.

The first is what I call the ‘creation story’.

The second is our artist statement, which I’ll tackle next week. Because it helps to know your creation story first.

What’s the difference?

Your creation story marks your first step, the moment you knew you were meant to be an artist. It’s that aha moment when we realized we had to be an artist. The moment where we completely embrace what we want, regardless of whether we even know how, or why. It’s the point in your life where your deepest intention occurred.

Dave Geada, FASO’s marketing guru, talks about this story in almost every webinar I’ve watched so far. He phrased it perfectly: After a near-death experience, he vowed to live his life with intent. With INTENTION. I’ve called it our “hero’s journey story” for years, and Dave calls it that, too. (Whew! I love it when the experts and I are on the same page!)

That’s what your first step was: Your intention to make your art. Here’s mine. It’s what made me take the leap, and it still resonates with me today.

Unlike your artist statement, it doesn’t have to be public (though there are ways to modify it so it can, so don’t rule that out.)

You DO have to know it. Because once you realize it, it will provide the foundation of everything you do, write, make, talk about, going forward with your artwork. It will ground you when you are lost. It will reassure you when you are discouraged. It will lift you up when life gets hard.

Knowing it will help you lift others, too. Because when we speak our truth, it not only resonates with others, it can inspire them to see theirs.

Years ago, I created a workshop designed to help people write their artist statement. It was powerful, and eye-opening. I got to hear how several dozen people got their start, and why. My favorite was the artist who started with, “I had a baby. I nearly died. Everything changed…” I exclaimed, “THAT’s your artist statement!” What I meant was, this was the foundation of her artist statement.

To frame this better: That may or may not be what she decides to use, publicly. But it was that point in time where “everything changed.” It would inspire her artist statement, however she chose to frame it. It was her creation story, it was powerful, and she knew it.

Another great creation story was one I’ve written about before, which illustrates that our creation story will evolve. It’s about long-time artist who lost their sight late in life—and everything changed. Did they stop making? Nope. But it’s different, now. Because everything changed. But it was compelling enough for me to go back to that ‘weird crappy’ piece of “art” hanging on the gallery wall, and find something beautiful in it. Courage. Perseverance. Letting go of what was, and embracing the new ‘what is’.

Your homework: What is your creation story? Write it out, if only for your private use.

If you enjoyed this article, and know someone else who might like it, too, feel free to pass it on. And if someone sent you this and you did like it, see more of my articles at FineArtViews.com, other art marketing topics at Fine Art Views art marketing newsletter, and my blog at LuannUdell.wordpress.com.

 

 

NEWSLETTERS 101 Tip #3: Introverts, This Is Your Moment!

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.

You get to ‘use your words’ in a way that’s socially-calming.

There’s a pandemic going on. It’s changed everything.

Some of the changes are harsh, some are strange, some will be permanent. And frankly, some work for me.

I’ve always described myself as half-introvert/half-extrovert. I’m comfortable talking with people, but after intense socializing, I have to go lie down in a dark room for a while.

But when I realized how comfortable I was with NO socializing, I looked up the signs of introversion. Aha! THAT’s why I hate making phone calls, and even answering the phone. I am an introvert! (With good camouflage skills) Good to know. No wonder I love to write!

A lot of artists tell me they’re not comfortable talking about their art. They don’t like artist receptions. They don’t know what to say to the jillions of questions people ask about us, our work, our medium, etc. They’ll say, “My art speaks for itself!” (It doesn’t, just so you know.)

There are work-arounds for this.

Years ago, Bruce Baker was a traveling workshop/presenter on marketing skills for artists, sharing tips and insights he’d gathered from other artists, and his own experience with selling at shows, running a gallery, and booth display. One stuck in my head. “If you get a lot of people asking the same question, and it’s getting boring answering it over and over, to the point where you feel a little grumpy about it, MAKE A SIGN.”

I never tire of answering questions, because it’s a way of meeting people where they are and connecting them to my work from their particular point-of-view.

But I did notice some people preferred to browse quietly, looking, listening to me talk to other people. They took their time to speak up. I made signs for THEM, and it’s worked really well over the years. So signs work well for introvert visitors AND introvert artists.

So consider this thought:

Your email art newsletter is like that ‘sign’ in your studio.

That’s a great way to ‘reframe’ your newsletter.

Last week’s suggestion was to write a newsletter as if you were talking to a good friend, simply catching them up on what’s new/different/exciting/ in your life.

This week, realize that “talking” by writing a newsletter is a lot easier for an introvert than talking in person.

For the next year, until it’s safe to go back in the water, we can skip those preview exhibits (unless they ‘ZOOM’). We won’t have any studio visitors for a while (or far fewer, at least.) (I actually thought I wouldn’t have to clean my studio for the rest of the year. But then I realized I need to create some video studio tours. Ack! Bring in the vacuum cleaner!!)

As you sigh in relief of how much less TALKING you’ll have to do, put that energy, extra time, and effort into writing a newsletter.

My gift to you this week is a short column. But your homework is to use this extra time to jot down ideas you can write about for your next email art newsletter.

Because next week, we’ll talk more about just that. I’d love to hear all the thoughts you come up with. I’ll have my own, but I want to hear yours, too! Remember, even ‘bad’ ideas can be edited/transformed into good ones, so don’t hesitate to share.

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to pass it on to someone else. And if someone sent you this article, and you liked it, too, see more of my articles at FineArtViews.com, other art marketing topics at Fine Art Views art marketing newsletter, and my blog at LuannUdell.wordpress.com.

NEWLETTERS 101: #1 Tips and Tricks to Help You Connect

Oops! Forgot to publish this last Tuesday. So now you’ll get TWO articles on writing email newsletters this week! Because tomorrow is my NEXT Fine Art Views post…..

NEWLETTERS 101: #1 Tips and Tricks to Help You Connect

(6 minute read)

Someone wrote back to me today, telling me how much they enjoyed my email newsletter. They said it gave them hope that they could make theirs better. Yippee! I love it when I can encourage people to take one step forward. I know it will lead to many more.

I’m not the perfect newsletter writer. But I’m happy to share more insights on what might work for YOU.

What’s my secret sauce?

  1. Be authentic. I write like I’m talking to a good friend. (You can now skip this entire article if you’re out of time, because that’s the heart of my advice.)

 

  1. Be positive. So, not the friend where I cuss and swear about something frustrating that happened to me at the supermarket. I stick with positive news. No politics. No complaining.

 

  1. Don’t be boring. And not like the letters we had to write for elementary school English class. (As in, “Hello, how are you? I am fine! Today I had a sandwich for lunch. What did YOU have for lunch?”) I share something I’m excited about, something interesting I’m working on.

 

  1. Don’t be pompous. If making people feel smaller works for you, okay, I guess. But I prefer reading about the people who make me feel like I have a voice in the world, too. (Again with the ‘friend’ thing…)

 

  1. Act like you care. I write as if I’m talking with someone I care about. Someone who hasn’t heard from me in a few weeks, someone who really likes me, and who loves my work.

 

  1. Share your news. Then I tell them what’s up. What I’ve done, what I’ll be doing, and oh, you might be interested in this thing I made/wrote. And I ask them to let me know what they think. (More on this in the weeks to come.)

 

  1. Think about what YOU like to hear in emails. I think about what I like when I get other people’s emails. So in the next few weeks, take note of what newsletters YOU get. What do you like about them? Which ones do you stop and read right away? Why?? What’s in them that makes you happy? Inspired? Thoughtful?

 

  1. Don’t make it all about the money. I consider the things I DON’T like to see in other people’s emails. Repetition. Always about sales. Acting like a TV commercial. Creating false urgency. (Even a call to action does not always have to be about buying something.)

 

  1. Remember that when people sign up for our newsletter, it means they WANT to know more. They want to know what makes us tick. How (and why) we do what we do. How we found our way forward, and how they can, too.

 

Otoh, I think about the people who put me on their email list without checking with me first. DON’T DO THIS!

 

  1. Be casual. Perhaps this advice is not ‘professional’. Perhaps people who are famous artists do it differently. After all, they may have a prestigious clientele, people who would willingly pay $25,000-$100,000 or more for their artwork.

 

But that’s not me. So I do it differently.

 

  1. We’re visual artists. Include pictures! This would be so much harder if we were musicians….

 

  1. Remember, all customers are fans, but not all fans are customers. I’m writing to people who may not be able to afford my work. And people who have collected my work for decades. And everyone in between. In my newsletter, everyone is worthy.

 

  1. Let people know who you are. The people I’m writing for are people I saw regularly back in New Hampshire, and people who may have never met me. People who come to every open studio, and people who have never been to my studio. Some of them are on the East Coast, some are on the West Coast, and some are in the middle. So we can’t even talk about the weather! But what they all have in common is wanting to know more about us, about our work, about our journey.

 

  1. There’s too often, and not enough. Too long, and too short. Etc. (You get to choose.)* Because I don’t want to inundate people with my writing, I used to limit my email newsletter to ‘events’, just like I did with my snail mail mailing list. Here’s my booth number at that fair, here are the dates of my open studio, etc.

I subscribe to quite a few blogs and artist newsletters myself. Some write every day. Some write once a week, and some write once a year. Some are so long, I never stop to read them. Some are so interesting, I drop whatever I’m doing to read them.

When I unsubscribe from a newsletter, it’s because a) I’m no longer interested in what they’re sharing with me; b) I’m not buying what they’re selling; c) I never signed up for their newsletter in the first place.

My point here is, there is no single right-or-wrong way to write a newsletter. Except, too boring, too repetitive, and waaaaaay too long. (I’m lookin’ at MYELF here…)

You might be disciplined enough to send one every week, or every month. Or you might be like me, skipping a month or two, then sending three in a week.

If people like what you’re saying, they won’t care. If they don’t, they’ll find any excuse to unsubscribe. And like people that say mean things to us, it’s more about them than it is about us.

  1. Email newsletters are soooo much easier/quicker/cheaper than snail mail mailings to stay in touch with our followers. Back then, it was expensive to mail thousands of people, even just a postcard. So I never sent a newsletter for any other reason.

Now, all I have to do is type, and add some good pictures, and hit ‘send’. Yay! I just saved $600!!

Last, here’s something I’ve learned this year:

  1. Newsletters level the playing field between extroverts and introverts. More on this to come!

 

*Now my caveat: There are people who offer different advice about newsletters. They have more expertise than I do, and perhaps even statistics to back them up. Please, feel free to skip my advice if/when it conflicts with theirs.

But if this appeals to you, stay tuned for more columns ahead, where I’ll share some ideas about things we can write about, and why newsletters can be a powerful tool for introverts.

Share your own stories in the comments! What newsletter did you create that got the best response from your audience, and what do you think was the reason why? Where do you get stuck when creating a newsletter? What’s your greatest fear? (Hint: Getting our work out into the world is a hero’s journey. Newsletters are much less strenuous!)

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to pass it on to someone else. And if someone sent you this article, and you liked it, too, see more of my articles at FineArtViews.com, other art marketing topics at Fine Art Views art marketing newsletter, and my blog at LuannUdell.wordpress.com.

LEARNING TO SEE #10 (and LESSONS FROM THE GYM): Hidden Places are Powerful Spaces

It’s been months since I’ve been to the gym, and I miss it terribly. Not the workouts! I’m pretty lazy at heart. But I do miss the friendships made there, and the wisdom I’ve gained from overhearing conversations between those professionals and their clients.

Today I’ve been thinking about what to encourage people to write about in their email newsletters and other online media.

We know what we’re ‘supposed to’ talk about: Our awards, the honors we’ve accrued, the famous people we’ve studied under, the prestigious shows we’ve done and the respected galleries that represent our work. The medium we prefer, the subjects that inspire us, the schools we’ve attended, etc. All fine and good.

For a lot of people, it’s harder to share what people really want to know about us, and our work: Who we are, and why we do what we do.

Then I brushed my teeth. (Bear with me here!)

Something clicked. (Not my toothbrush. My brain.)

I once overheard a therapist at that facility tell a client (and me!) that all humans have a quirk that unites us all:

We tend to focus on our ‘fronts’. That is, we unconsciously focus on what we can see in the mirror: Our face. Our (outer) teeth. The front of our body.

For example, when we brush our teeth, we spend more time on their outer surfaces. (My dentist confirmed this!) We spend less time on the insides of our teeth, because…well, nobody (except our dentist or dental hygienist) sees that.

The therapist said something similar. We tend to focus on strengthening the body parts we see in the mirror easily. Our biceps (but not our triceps.) Our pecs (but not our lats, or delts.) Our stomach (but not our calves.)

Yet the ‘front view’ is only 50% of who we are. And what goes on inside our bodies—breathing, digestion, blood circulation, etc.—is immensely more complicated that what we see on the outside.

We artists often focus on the outer things people “see”: Those diplomas, those awards, those events and galleries listed on our resume. We know our chosen medium is important. There’s a hierarchy in 2D art, and those who work with the most respected ‘naturally’ get more respect themselves. When we host an open studio, our first instinct is to clear the mess, arrange everything beautifully, and fill every surface with work people can actually buy.

And yet, the most powerful human connections are those that connect our ‘insides’ to each other: The “rear views” and inside workings of our (figurative!) heart that reveal who we really are in the world.

Social media suffers from this anomaly. The ‘influencers’ show their perfect lives, filled with constructions of perfection, showcasing their perfect environment, their perfect wardrobe, their perfect bodies, messages about their perfect lifestyle.

Even when we know this is a structured, highly-curated persona, we can’t help but compare our own imperfect, messy, ‘unattractive’ lives to theirs. We hesitate to post anything that might come off as ‘less-than’ to our online audience.

This can be a death knell for our art.

Because all of the choices we make about our art—what we make, how we make the way we do, why we use the materials we use, even the stories we tell—are our unique, imperfect, very human story.

When we have the courage to share our personal ‘why’ behind those choices, we reveal something deeper, something with integrity, something imbued with our own unique human preferences. We show who we are, and who we want to be in the world.

Some folks treasure presenting the illusion that they are perfect, that they have it all figured out, that they have a talent and skillset that no one else has, that no one else will ever have.

In a sense, that’s true. We are all unique, from our background, upbringing, personalities, likes and dislikes, innate characteristics, and those we’ve acquired: education, skills, etc.

Striving to appear perfect, though, only appeals to some. Because learning who we are, what we are here for, what the work of our heart is, making our art, means making mistakes. No one is born knowing how to play the piano. What got us to where we are today is making mistakes, lots of mistakes—and persevering because we wanted to learn. We wanted to get better. We wanted to be the best we can, and we want to continue to improve. We want to make the work that is important to us, the only ‘me’ in the world.

The WHY of who we are is what makes us human.

Sharing those vulnerabilities, our mistakes, our twisty life path, and the insights and ‘aha moments’ we’ve learned along the way, can actually make it easier for others to connect with us, and with our work.

Now, I’m not saying we should point out all the mistakes in our current work! Most people would never even see them unless we point them out.

But it’s okay to share the struggle of fixing the composition of a still life. It’s okay to share that we don’t have a prestigious degree because we took up our art late in life, or that we’re self-taught. You might encourage someone else who can’t go to art school, who doesn’t have access to those prestigious workshops, who wants to make work that is like no other.

It’s okay that our story is personal, filled with sidetracked interests, twists and turns. It’s okay that we share our own stumbling blocks. Someone else may get the support they need to get through theirs. It’s okay that we sometimes share our own doubts and feelings of ‘less-than’. Others may realize we’re all in this together (and my favorite rejoinder, “…and no one gets out alive.”)

Showing others how we solved our roadblocks, and the insights we gained, may encourage others to hold their ground with their own work.

Because all of these things we go through are what makes us human. And it’s our common humanity that creates a need for our art in the world. If it uplifts us, it can uplift others. So might our own experiences.

Our art may not be for everyone. Mine certainly isn’t. That knowledge early on gave me the courage to persevere in the face of every roadblock, obstacle, rejection, and self-doubt. That knowledge is what drives me to encourage everyone in the world to find their own creative work, without giving in to the very-narrow definition others live by.

Social media can be a gift to creative people. It gives us free, easy access to the world’s attention.

But if everyone focuses on presenting the “outsides” only, it can distort our perspective, erode our own self-confidence, and cause us to doubt the value of our own life, and art.

As Anne Lamott said in her amazing TED Talk, “Never compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.”

Be a little willing to share your “insides” on your favorite platform today! (Except, please, not what you ate for lunch!)*

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

–Mary Oliver

 

*Okay, you can post a pic of your lunch. But you could share who you were with, why you choose that eatery, and what you loved about that dish. Share the experience!

 

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