EXERCISE FOR SUCCESS Tip #2 Do What You Love!

Luann Udell discusses the benefits of doing art from the heart
Luann Udell discusses the benefits of doing art from the heart,

by Luann Udell

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”  For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines, and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.

When we do the work of our heart, it’s easier to get to the studio!

Second in a new series of exercise tips you can apply to your art biz. I’m not working from an article this time. This all comes from personal experience:

Find what you love to do, and do it.

When it comes to exercise, you either have to do what you enjoy or find the joy in what you do. And believe me, it’s a heckuva lot easier to start with the former.

It was the secret behind my commitment to martial arts—Tae Kwon Do and kickboxing—which I took up in middle-age.

Disclosure: I still love love love martial arts. But due to many injuries resulting from same, I cannot practice it anymore. So. Gym, and maybe more tai chi instead!

But it was perfect when I could practice! It’s intensely physical, with a good mix-up of strength work, coordination, and aerobic components.

Kickboxing especially felt “light”. There’s a bit of mental workout, but not nearly as much as other martial art disciplines. Eventually, though, I found I missed the katas–those longer, choreographed movements that look like fast tai chi. And eventually I went back to Tae Kwon Do.

There were things I was good enough at to be proud of, and plenty of things for me to work on.

Martial arts taught me a lot about myself, too. I learned my biggest enemy was ME. Yup, I’m my own worst enemy. I had to learn to focus on my own performance and improving it a little bit at a time, rather than compare my performance to anyone else’s.

It was hard, as an older woman, to get comfortable with punching, kicking and striking, even yelling. The mindset was extremely foreign to me. I could feel brain cells and ingrained social conditioning fighting me every inch of the way–“Don’t hit!” “Don’t raise your voice!” “Be nice!” I remember raising my hand to hit in a martial arts class years ago and being almost physically, psychologically unable to do so.

I got over it.

The whole thing was challenging but rewarding. I was exhausted when class ended–but also exhilarated.

And the fact that I enjoyed it so much is more important than all of the other reasons I just gave.

Because the enjoyment is where I found the discipline and the courage to keep going. I rarely missed a class, even when I “didn’t feel like it”. And even though I wasn’t that good at it. (That is, I’m not a ‘natural’. It didn’t come easily to me.)

But I’m glad I started with something I love. Especially when even today, I can say with pride, I studied martial arts for more than 12 years, I attended almost every single class, without fail, except for major injuries, major illness or being out of town. (And as I said, eventually the major injuries took over completely.)

I still have hope for the next work-out routine that brings such passion and commitment.

Do the same with your artwork.

The thrill of doing what you love will carry you over many hard times, and boring times, and frustrating times.

In fact, whenever I do a mentor session with client, that’s the first question out of my mouth–especially when someone shows up with a hodge-podge of projects, all different in media, theme and colors:

Start with, “What do you love doing?”

“Where does your heart lie?”

“Which of these is calling to you?”

Don’t focus with “what sells” Don’t even start with, “What’s easy?” This is the hardest, but don’t even start with, “What will make me the most money?” That’s important, but that will come later. It can wait.

Because that powerful connection will help you through all the hard stuff later.

Success in making and selling art, like a productive exercise program, begins with finding what you love so much, you can’t imagine NOT doing it.

Yes, once it’s made and out in the world, there’s the question of marketing and selling, growing an audience, connecting your story with your work, and encouraging others to connect, too. It may not be as much “fun” or as rewarding, or as easy to fall into. (Though I’m amazed how much I love that part of the process, too!)

But loving what you do means when you talk about your work, your authentic connection to it will show through. When you talk about it, you will be speaking your truth.

And that is the most powerful place an artist can be: Telling your story. Speaking your truth.

Consequently, if you are not crazy about where you art is right now, that can make it harder to get to the studio. It’s okay. We all go through periods of enthusiasm and not-so-much enthusiasm. We get enormous energy from a great new project, and then may fall into a period of stasis, recovering from all that activity. We hit walls, roadblocks, and setbacks. That’s life. We get sick, we need a vacation, life whaps us, and we need to recover.

But if you really can’t muster any enthusiasm for long, long periods, consider a change. Maybe your focus has shifted, and your joy has been slowly leaking away.

Take a class in a new technique. Create a (kind and gracious, but firm) critique session with fellow artists, to see if there are gaps in your style or process. Are you ready for a bigger change? Explore a new subject matter, or perhaps even a new medium. Heavens—maybe even another form of creative work! (It happens!)

Constantly explore, and focus, on what brings you joy, and go from there. It’s your measuring stick and compass needle in life.

I still love carving stamps, and when I need a break, I pick up my carving stamps and hit the rubber! (Literally)

EXERCISE FOR SUCCESS Tip #1: Put on Your Gym Shoes!

Luann Udell shares tips on how tiny actions can lead to big accomplishments
Luann Udell shares tips on how tiny actions can lead to big accomplishments

 

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.

Micro-steps are TINY actions that can help us overcome BIG mental obstacles.

This is an exercise tip I picked up years ago, back when I was exercising regularly. (Oops—did I just admit that’s not a ‘thing’ anymore??) It has inspired a series of articles, designed to encourage you to get to your studio.

Can you think of a jillion excuses not to be in your studio today? Besides the fact that it’s SATURDAY and maybe you should get out and look at the hills, or the sky, flowers, some birds, and maybe an ocean or two…

Do you find yourself unable to block out that three hours you know you need to put into your next project?

Does it seem like there’s always something else you need to take care of before you settle down to work?

Have you tried micro steps lately?

I read this in one of my books awhile back, and will give it full credit as soon as I can figure out which one.

The problem involved a woman who needed to start exercising regularly, but wasn’t.

She knew intellectually she should. She just couldn’t seem to find the time to do it. She and her trainer would create wonderful plans and programs and schedules. But when push came to shove, there was always a great excuse not to do it.

Exasperated, the trainer suggested they back up and start over. “Maybe this is too top-loaded for you”, she said. “Let’s try to break this down into more manageable steps. This week, don’t even think about exercising.”

“Just put on your work-out clothes.”

That’s it. The client was not to do anything more. Just put on her sweats.

The next week, the advisor asked how it had gone.

“Great!” said the client. “I worked out three times last week!”

Turns out that little itty bitty step was manageable. Extremely manageable. Something so innocuous, the woman couldn’t even come up with a good excuse for not doing it.

So she put on her sweats.

But then, she found herself thinking, “I’m all ready to go–why not work out?” So she did.

Making time for exercise was just too daunting. Getting READY to exercise was not. And that little step was all she needed to get herself in the right mindset.

Try this the next time you feel studio-phobia.

Forget all the “I should’s”…. “I should get that new catalog put together.” “I should get those next orders ready to ship my gallery.” “I should design new work for my next show.”

Instead, just decide you’ll take a few minutes to look over your new images. Or you’ll just grab the boxes you need for that gallery shipment. Or get your pencil and sketchbook out and ready to go. THAT’S IT.

For years, I would set aside time to make up a dozen or more “ivory” animals at a time. Then I hit a rough patch recently. I did not have time or energy to spend hours in the studio.

But what DID work was committing to making ONE animal: A horse. A bear. I could handle making one, or sanding and mudding one I’d made and fired the day before.

This is what happened one day when I committed to making one little horse!

Instead of falling into despair and feelings of “not enough”, even this small action kept me feeling like I was productive. The plus side? Even “one-a-day” adds up pretty quickly! Soon my inventory of “parts” I could use for sculptures, jewelry, or installations was back up. When I was ready to actually get back to work, I really was ready!

You may find those tiny little tasks are all you need to find yourself in the work zone once more. Try it the next time you are feeling overwhelmed, under-inspired, or simply too worn out to take on a major project.

Start with tiny steps, and soon you’ll be well on your way!