by Luann Udell on 12/23/2017 5:24:55 AM
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.
We are now surrounded with working artists! Continuing with the insights I find at the independent gym program at my favorite physical therapy facility….
Today’s insight comes from a delightful young person who is in the final stages of their degree program in physical therapy. On their last day, I asked them the same question I ask every intern, observer, and student:
D thought for a moment and replied with this surprising answer: “Actually, not much. In a good way!”
When I asked why that was so, they replied, “Because now almost all my professors and instructors are still working in the field. That wasn’t always the case. People would teach after, or instead of, actually being in the field. And so I learn first-hand what most people didn’t learn until they were in, or observing, the actual practice of physical therapy.”
Things like realizing different clients with the same physical issues might require different therapies, to meet their unique needs. Things like realizing simple treatments often work as well, or even more effectively, than new, complicated treatments. In fact, almost all the “Gym Lessons” I’ve shared to date were already presented, experienced, and explained in the classroom.
(They also said they’ve learned that, if you listen more than you talk, people will think you’re smarter. (Talk too much, and you might prove them wrong!) But that’s a lesson for another day, and not only because it hits so close to home!)
How does that relate to our art world?
When I was a young hopeful artist, I knew of exactly zippo artists in our small agriculture community. Oh, there was ONE person who made pots, but I never, ever saw their work, or even met them. There were no art shows, no art fairs, and no community education classes, in arts or crafts. It was a barren land, as far as working examples of my dream life. The only art classes my high school offered were rudimentary. My first clay sculptures were ruined when the kiln blew out, and was not replaced. Art supplies were minimal, and the program was fragmentary, right down to being eliminated one year.
I waited eagerly for college, knowing I would finally be among others who wanted to pursue art as a career. But for many reasons I needn’t go into, that was not to be, either. The lack of a portfolio from high school was a factor, but so was encouragement. I majored in art history instead, but my textbook featured three women artists over 15,000 years of history, and thousands of male artists, mostly what I called impudently “dead white European guys.”
What would it be like to be an artist today?
In Sonoma County alone, I am surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands, of artists. Young students participating in public art projects, young people fiercely pursuing their creative life in many shapes and forms. Art shows, art tours, art exhibits, art galleries abound. Yes, many people wait until retirement from their day jobs before pursuing art full-time. But many, many more now find a way to make room for it right here, right now.
It’s possible many art teachers devote most of their time to teaching, and not to making their own art. This used to be par for the course, and I encountered many art teachers along the way, people who had gone from “artist” to “shadow artists”. A shadow artist can be a supporter and admirer of others who pursue their art full-time. But some are full of envy and resentment, and find subtle ways of getting back at those they see as more fortunate in their field.
But though teaching can take away a lot of time, I see people who are also dedicated to making time for their art. Because supplies, classes, shows, exhibits, information, and community are more prevalent, they find encouragement and support from others who love their art. A good friend works full-time as an art teacher. But she still finds ways to make room for her art, and she has found a few venues that work for her. (And for all you folks whose media choices are sneered at, check out the amazing colored pencil work of Nicole Caulfield!) http://www.nicolecaulfieldfineart.com/about-the-artist
Thanks to a growing population who understand the importance of making, creating, showing, and even selling (yay!), we are now surrounded with the “do”. Everywhere we look, we see artists, creative makers, at work. Thanks to the internet, it is easier than ever to take a peek into someone else’s creative world. It’s easier than ever to find supplies, classes, ideas, venues, opportunities, support, and community.
We truly live in an age where the old “Those who can’t do, teach” maxim has been flipped on its head. Now we can truly say, “Those who teach, DO.”
Today, more than ever, we are surrounded by those who DO. I am so grateful for that, and you should be, too!
Creativity comes first. Everything else can wait. Really!
Recently I wrote about finding a new source of ideas about creativity. This 3-minute article by Todd Bisson answers 7 Questions Aspiring Writers Ask That Don’t Even Matter a Little Bit. (Short story: Write first. Everything else, later.) (In case you don’t have 3 minutes this morning.) (In which case, you really do need to do something about that to-do list…)
I loved it, because it’s true. So many folks get hung up on figuring everything out first. They spend so much time spinning their wheels, trying to finess all the marketing strategies, they never actually create a body of work to build on. And of course, in the actual doing/making, you’ll probably figure out most of what else you need to do.
I felt pretty smug as I read the list. I’ve got that all figured out already.
Then I got to my studio to work.
And felt totally unmotivated to make anything.
Fortunately, I did what I do whenever I feel stuck. I pulled out my journal (I call it my “blort book”, for…well. blorting.)
Within a paragraph, I knew what I’d done wrong.
I’d followed my to-do list.
Some of it was time-sensitive. I get the
damn boot off next week. I know if I don’t line up my physical therapy appointments now, I could lose another week or two waiting for slots to open up. (Even as I was on the phone with Megan, slots were taken as we spoke.)
But did I really have to catch up on email? Well. There were one or two that needed a quick response. But the others? No. They could have waited.
Did I have to do my volunteer commitment (Instagramming!) for the art group I’m part of? Yes. Did I have to take care of my own IG account right then? No.
Did I have to do the dishes? No. (God, no. There will be more
in a minute tomorrow.)
Did I have to do the laundry? No. Good god, usually I look for excuses NOT to do it. I tend to stock up on the essentials. I can go for weeks without running out of clean underwear. (Too much information?)
But it felt like I was on a roll this morning, and I ran with it. I was pleased with how much I’d accomplished.
Until I got to the studio and realized I was out of oomph.
I can blame the fact that it’s been a long eight weeks of recovery, a long time spent off my feet (and necessarily so.) It was my priority.
But the day that my priority is to do dishes and laundry and check email is the day I officially declare myself housewife of the year. (Please. No. Remember that 50’s TV show, Queen for a Day? Arguably the oddest game show in television history.) (Yes, it was my favorite game show as a very young-ster. There were crowns!)
(Hint: Truly desperate housewives competed for washing machines, so they could do laundry for 13 kids faster.)
So take a good hard look at your to-do list. They can be great for writing down all those big and little tasks, the ones that wear down your brain when you try to carry them all in your head.
There are extenutating circumstances and exceptions, of course. If you are a mom, especially a new mom, yes, young ‘uns are at the top of the list. So does the work that puts food on the table (if that isn’t also your art work.) Partners and friends get top slots, too
But when you can, put your creative work way up at the top. Even a tiny bit of time, and space.
It may seem like a luxury. You may not always be able to put it in the No. 1 slot.
But it is the foundation of everything else you do.
The work of your heart completes the circle of who you are in the world, and from it comes the strength, the clarity, the energy to carry everything else.
Twenty years from now, no one will remember that your laundry basket was always empty, and your sink was never full of dishes. They will remember the powerful energy you got from the work of your heart, and how it influenced everyone you met and everything you touched.
And if, like I did, you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your kids and/or the other people looking up to you.
How can you want that fundamental wish, the power that comes being in the world with a whole heart… How can you want that for your kids/people, and not for yourself?
And how will they know what that looks like, if you don’t show them?
Go to the studio–NOW!
p.s. I was going to include a photo of my sink. But you don’t need to be exposed to that today.