Another 5×5 canvas with many previous lives (read: layers). Added some Pentalic Woodless Pencil 2B, collage, and Golden Regular Gel (Gloss). Feels like it’s starting to come together.
#wip #artinprocess #artistsofinstagram #mixedmedia #mixedmediaart #creativity #creative365 #creativeprocess #creativesandbox #abstract #abstractart #abstractexpressionism #livingacreativelife #yes
#artinprocess #wip #abstract #abstractart #abstractexpressionism #mixedmedia #mixedmediaart #acrylic #livingacreativelife #creativity #creative365 #creativeprocess #creativesandbox #15minutesaday
Lately, I’ve been battling the demons of self-doubt. (Yep, creativity instigators deal with the same crap as everyone else!) I figured it was a good time to pull a classic from the archives, originally published on August 21, 2011.
Oh gentle, creative soul, have you been beaten down by the prevailing cultural programming that says that art – that your making your art – isn’t important?
It’s a lie, my love.
I don’t care if you make a penny from what you do. I don’t care if you do it for pay, as a gift for someone else, or purely to nourish your own soul. The Universe wants you to create.
The Universe needs you to create.
What you do has value and meaning and critical importance.
Just the fact of your creating it makes it so.
I don’t care if it’s profound or fluffy, somber or silly. If it’s in you to create it, the world needs you to do so.
In my job as a Creative Instigator, I work with brilliant and talented folks of all stripes (though they rarely characterize themselves this way). I have 1:1 clients and Creative Ignition Circle members (and friends and acquaintances) who make their living from their creative efforts…
…and end up so focused on bringing in income that they stop creating to feed their own soul.
This was my own story too.
What happens when you stop feeding your own soul?
It begins to starve. It begs you for nourishment.
You may be able to silent it for a time, but ultimately you end up walking around in a state of low-grade misery.
This is not what the Universe put you on the planet to do!
Did the Universe put a fish on the planet to hike? Or a hawk on the planet to swim? Or a horse on the planet to fly?
Of course not! Fish have an innate talent for swimming; hawks for flying; horses for running. This is what they were made for. This is what they were put on the planet to do.
Anyone with any sense wouldn’t try to prevent them from doing that thing they were born for. That would just be silly. And cruel.
You, too, were born with a unique set of gifts and talents, the things that make you feel alive when you do them.
The purpose of your life is to use those gifts and talents.
Anyone with any sense wouldn’t try to prevent you from doing what you were born for. That would just be silly. And cruel.
Still not convinced?
Art is more powerful and important than our ridiculous society would have us believe
Here’s an example.
A few weeks ago, I got a call about a calligraphy commission. A recent widower, who’d lost his wife in a sudden, unexpected tragedy a few weeks before, wanted a broadside (a “poster,” as he called it) for her memorial. Could I do it?
Now, I’m very selective about the commissions I take on these days. This one was a rush job, which meant my life would be rather more stressful for a couple of weeks, but it was a job that felt meaningful and interesting to me. Money was not an issue (I’d be well-compensated for my time); I’d get to play with letters in a way I rarely do these days; the man was extremely appreciative and admiring of my work – he truly valued my talents; and as he put it, “This is the last thing I can do for my wife.”
He took me to lunch, told me the story of how they’d met, and how she died. He said he knew I was the person to create her memorial piece; he had no interest in working with anyone else.
I got to work.
Working to a client’s specifications is a different animal than playing in the Creative Sandbox. If that’s all I did, I wouldn’t be happy. But when the client saw the finished piece, stopped in his tracks and almost burst into tears, I got a bit choked up myself.
“You’ve made an old man very happy,” said this man who’d recently suffered the worst loss in his life.
I couldn’t imagine that anything would make him happy right now, only weeks after losing his best friend, partner, lover, mate.
Yet my art gave him comfort, and yes, made him happy.
“I will look at this every day for the rest of my life,” he said, exuding gratitude and appreciation.
And they tell us art isn’t important?
“But that was something someone paid you to make,” you argue.
True. But the art that I make while playing in the Creative Sandbox, art that nobody commissioned and paid for, makes me happy.
And I get emails and tweets on a regular basis from people who have been moved and inspired by the creations I (used to) send out in my not-quite-daily ArtSpark newsletter and the videos I post here and on YouTube. And when I perform in public as a jazz singer/songwriter/Uke Diva, people invariably thank me.
I’m not saying this to promote myself, but to encourage, embolden and empower you to get to that creative thing that’s calling to you.
You have no idea whose lives your work might touch, what difference it might make to them.
You do know one person it will make happy, though: you.
The Talmud says “if you save one life, it is as if you had saved the whole world.” I suspect the rabbis who wrote this were talking about the physical saving of lives; the difference between life and death. But I’ll go ahead and take the liberty of applying it a bit more broadly.
If you save one life from low-grade misery – your own – it is as if you had saved the whole world.
Is that not enough?
Tell me, what are your unique gifts and talents, and how are you going to use them to save your own life?
PS – If you liked this post, please tweet, share, like and/or send it to a friend you think might like it too. You might just be saving the world.
Today I have an answer to a doozy of a question, one that plagues virtually every artist/writer/maker/creator out there. I suspect very strongly that it plagues you, too, and I think my answer will be helpful.
First, though, some background:
You may or may not know that, in addition to the business I run here at Living A Creative Life, I also co-run an online course and community for emerging artists at the beginning stages of selling their work, Art Empowers Me.
(Note: My partner over at Art Empowers Me, Cory Huff, runs his own excellent blog, The Abundant Artist, to which I contribute articles periodically. And the two of us also co-host a podcast, Creative Insurgents.
This confuses a lot of people. I’m not sure why it’s so confusing, but it is. So if you’re one of the confused, here’s a breakdown of what’s going on:
Living A Creative Life = Blog, owned and operated by me.
The Abundant Artist = Blog, owned and operated by Cory, with articles by guest bloggers (including me on occasion).
Art Empowers Me = Private membership course and community for emerging artists, owned and operated by both me and Cory
Creative Insurgents = Podcast, hosted by both me and Cory (and our mascot, Minnie).
Got it? Good.)
Now, a couple of times a year Cory and I open the doors to accept new members over at Art Empowers Me, and one of the ways we raise awareness for the program is by hosting a series of free video chats over at Google+ Hangouts. For one of the video chats, Cory, who has monster creds as a marketing whiz, talks about the five things every artist needs to sell their art online, starting with Thing #1:
Make great art.
So that’s the first part of the background.
The second part of the background is this: A couple of weeks ago, Sandy asked how, if we’re following the directive from my Imperfectionist Manifesto to “make crap daily,” do we get from crap to great? I answered that question here.
This officially ends the background portion of this post. Now I will get to the actual question.
Yesterday, Sandy sent me this follow-up question:
I just can’t get this thought outta my head!! The convo we had bout the making great art.. and making crap?? Well…. Who decides if your art is great? Who makes that call? I just keep wrangling this round my wee brain… Thanks for any insight…
(Note: You may have noticed that Sandy’s questions have gotten a lot of attention in these Question Time posts. This is because she takes the risk to actually ask them. If you have a question, send it to me here and you may find yourself featured in a future Question Time post.)
Great question, Sandy! Here’s the short answer:
The way I see it, whoever is judging makes their own call. Your job as creator is to decide whose authority you care about.
When someone bought four paintings from me the other day, she was the one making the call. She decided that my art was great, and not just that, but that it was exactly what she wanted for her walls, and worthy of parting with her hard-earned dollars to own.
When I entered two paintings in an art show recently (including the one at the top of this post), the jurors were the ones making the call. They decided that my art wasn’t what they wanted for the show, so my entries were rejected.
Different judges, different calls. None of which ultimately have anything to do with me.
The person who buys my art thinks it’s great. Other people who didn’t buy it may not agree. Or they may agree, but not prioritize spending the money on art.
Different judges, different calls.
When my art is rejected from a show, I can’t actually know the exact reasons for my rejection. It could be that they thought my art sucked, and this is where so many of us automatically jump when we’re rejected: “Oh, I suck. My art sucks. I should give up.”
But the reason my entries were rejected could just as easily be that they thought my art was great, but in a field of equally great entries, my art didn’t fit their overall vision for the show. Or it could be some other reason entirely.
Again, different judges, different calls.
The important thing, as far as I see it, is to focus on why you’re creating whatever it is you create, and for whom.
After a lifetime of being chained to the approval-seeking treadmill, I’ve only recently broken free of those chains. For too long I was paralyzed by perfectionism, afraid to make a move unless I was sure it would garner me praise.
Ugh, ugh, ugh. This is not a fun way to live!
I have worked very intentionally to free myself of the desperate need for validation and approval from others. Now I focus on creating for reasons that truly fulfill me:
- First, for me, because it gives me joy to do so.
- And second, for the people who will be touched or impacted by what I create.
I choose to enter shows sometimes because it gives my art a chance to be seen by more people, if it gets exhibited. I choose to submit my writing to bigger venues sometimes, because it gives me the opportunity to impact more people with my writing, if it’s accepted for publication. I understand that when I submit my art to judging by those with the power to accept or reject it, I concede to their authority for this specific purpose.
But I do not give the jurors the power to determine whether I create or not.
Just yesterday I taught an entire session for Your Big, Bold, Creative Life Academy that dives into this very topic. I call it Finding Your North Star: Accessing Your Authentic Voice and Getting Off the Approval-Seeking Treadmill.
This is your job, as a creator — to find your own North Star. Until you do this, you’ll be buffeted about by fear of criticism and/or a “frozen need” for external validation, either of which is a recipe for perfectionist paralysis.
So where does this leave us with the directive to “Make great art”? This is where my partner Cory and I diverge a bit in rhetoric. We’ve just seen that “great” is in the eye of the beholder, so what’s an artist to do with that?
Simple: stop aiming for great, and aim instead for authentic.
It’s your authentic voice that will ultimately make your greatest work in the end anyway, so stay true to yourself, your curiosity, your passions, what calls to you most strongly.
When you can aim for authentic and create from your deepest, truest place, you may still feel a sting when your work is rejected, and you may still feel delight when your work is lauded, but neither of those things will drive or paralyze you, and that’s the real goal as far as I’m concerned.
So make crap daily, aim for authentic, and go get creating!
PS — Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!
When I was 13, I stopped doing art.
Not that I gave up on all creative pursuits. I played viola in the school orchestra, and at 16 I discovered dance, my first Bliss, which I pursued with a manic passion, until I was permanently sidelined by an injury a few years later (long story).
But drawing? Painting? Making cool stuff with my hands? That, it seemed to me at the time, was the purview of other folks.
Meanwhile, while I was focusing on other things, my friend Karen was honing her already-significant drawing and design skills. A visit with her to the art classroom in high school, where other classmates’ works lined the walls and shelves, seemed to offer irrefutable evidence that art was something other people had a monopoly on.
They were the artists. Therefore (or so I believed), I wasn’t.
I forged ahead, through college and grad school, with a rather zombie-like doggedness, and pretty much gave up on my creative spirit. (Academia has a way of sucking creativity out of you.)
The inner creative child cannot easily be suppressed forever, though, and thankfully, finally, at 28, I “re-discovered” mine. She was not dead, as I’d almost come to believe, but just needed some permission and play to spring fully back to life.
I gave my inner creative child art and creativity classes in every form and genre I could find — writing, painting, drawing, ceramics, calligraphy — and that last one, calligraphy, bit me hard. I was quickly hooked, immersed myself in the pursuit of mastering this art form, and gradually, over the years, I turned it into my livelihood.
The “Not An Artist” title, I discovered, had never been an accurate one, although I should say that it took me a number of years to fully claim the title as “Artist” (a fact which deserves, and no doubt will get, its own blog post another time).
Now I can only shake my head and laugh sadly at the pain those years of denying my creative spirit caused me. I now refer to the time from age 13 to 28 as “my 15-year hiatus.”
The Persistence of Resistance
I’d like to tell you that I and my inner creative child lived happily ever after from that point on, but I’d be lying.
As I share in the video above (and in this post), the reality is that, after I had finally reconnected with my creative spirit, it didn’t take long for the demon of Resistance to rear its ugly head and try and separate us once again.
What helped? That time around (because, dear reader, I hate to tell you, but Resistance comes in a multitude of costumes and is nothing if not persistent), what brought me and my creative spirit together again was the book The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, now known the world over as a classic in the realm of helping people reclaim their innate creativity.
Julia gave me permission to play. To experiment. To discover what was inside me to discover. To be okay with and embrace my own, unique way of dancing with my inner muse.
I still think fondly of that time of re-emergence, and Julia Cameron has my undying gratitude.
If I were to do it all again, though, this time around I wouldn’t go it alone. I’ve learned how powerful it is to go through a transformative process in community with others on the same path.
The really cool thing is that I do get to do it all again. We all do.
I don’t mean re-reading and re-doing The Artist’s Way (although that’s certainly an option!) I mean allowing my creative spirit to grow, re-emerge, shed its skin, become more truly me and shine ever more brightly.
And the best part of all is that now, oh-so-many years later, I get to guide other people on their own journeys of creative re-discovery. That’s my main focus here, in the Circles I run, in my coaching practice, and in the courses and workshops I’m brewing up.
Playing Around Online
Speaking of which (see how I did that?), I’ve got just such a course coming up in about a month, which I’m super-excited to be co-teaching with my brilliant partner and fellow artist and coach, Kelly Hevel. It’s called Playing Around Online, and it’s our way of introducing ourselves, and our new joint venture, to you.
(It’s also our online version of what we’re brewing up in “3-D”: creative immersion vacations in inspiring locations around the world! Coming September 29-October 7, Playing Around Istanbul — a week-long creativity retreat in (wait for it…) Istanbul! Yeah, you seriously want to mark your calendar and start saving your pennies for that one. But back to Playing Around Online…)
For 12 weeks, from March 14-May 30, we’ll gently lead you in an ongoing “playdate for the big kids,” where you’ll get to shed your inhibitions, try out new techniques, inject your personality into your art, writing, and creative crafts — and learn to use your unique life story as inspiration!
I’ll be sharing more about Playing Around Online over the coming weeks (including the “grand opening” of our website). For now, I invite you just to notice how your body and soul respond to the idea of 12 weeks together, attending to your creative spirit.
Excited? Scared? Raring to go? Resistant?
Any one of those reactions could be your inner creative telling you it’s time for this.
No need to make any decisions right now — just notice. And pay special attention to that voice of Resistance, which might be saying something like “You’re not an artist!” or “You don’t deserve this!” or “You don’t need this!” or “What a ridiculous waste of time!” or “What a ridiculous waste of money!” or “You’re not good enough!”
Um, yeah. (All voices I’ve heard in my own head, by the way, when seeking to dance more fully with my own inner muse. And pretty reliable indicators that whatever is making them shout so loud is probably exactly what I need!)
Ready to battle that Resistance demon? Mark your calendar and fill in the form below to come to the free tele-party* that Kelly and I are hosting on Wednesday, March 7, from 10:30-noon PST, Living the Creative Life: Fact vs. Fiction. We’ll be sharing the stories of our own creative journeys (including how we’ve battled the Resistance demon!), exposing the myths and truths around what it means to live a creative life, and inviting you to join in what we hope will be a lively conversation.
Plus you’ll get a chance to win a free spot in Playing Around Online — how cool is that?
If you’re even the slightest bit interested, just fill in the form below (or if you’re reading this on email and the form isn’t working, just click here to fill out the online form) and we’ll keep you posted on how to register for the free tele-party and the chance to win that scholarship spot.
I hope you’ll join us on March 7th!
What forms has the Resistance demon taken in your life? How have you succeeded in battling it?
PS – Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!
* What’s a tele-party? It’s like a party of creatives (including “wannabe,” and think-they’re-not-creatives), over the phone. We could call it a teleseminar, but that sounds so “markety,” dry and academic — which we definitely are not!
Trust – your answers are inside you
Walnut ink, Ziller ink, steel pointed pen on paper
3.85″ x 1.85″
Sometimes you just need a reminder that you really do have all the answers inside you.
In the Collection of:
PS — Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!
Thanks to my life coaching session with Susan on Tuesday, I’ve been making art every day — yay me! Check out my latest creations: the beginning of my Yogini Irresistible Woman line.
Or should that be Irresistible Yogini?
Regardless, watch for them soon on my Zazzle shop as prints, cards, T-shirts, mugs, etc. (Plus a second version of Virabhadrasana II that says “Woman Warrior.”)
Enjoy, and let me know what you think!
Yes, I am. You are too. Embrace it. Do a dance about it. Sing out loud about it. (You can do this in the shower, or in your car on the freeway, if you’re worried about it bothering the neighbors.)
Your happiness is your own choice!
(And if you really want to let the Universe know you’re on board chasing after your evolving Bliss, and you want to buy stuff at my Zazzle shop, I’m not going to stop you. ;-))
It’s been one of those frustrating days, in which I’ve barely made a dent in my to-do list, and am feeling, as a result, like I’m an utter failure and I’ll never achieve my goals.
And now I’m migraining, which seriously does not help.
BUT, two good things:
1) I know this is just a feeling, and feelings are transitory (as are migraines)(thank god),
2) I did manage to complete one of the 12 items on my list*, and it was a fun, creative item (!) – a new piece of art!
I haven’t added it to my Zazzle shop yet, but I’m oh, so pleased with myself for just getting something done.
Let me know what you think, dear imaginary readers!
Now, if the Universe will just throw an HD video recorder my way… I’m itching to capture the process of painting and calligraphing, so you can see the reams of paper I go through.
*(Oh, plus I did get out for a walk just before nightfall, so actually two items! Yay me!)
Today marks the start of a commitment to myself to really GO AFTER the life I want.
Compared to Cubicle Nation, I’m already doing that, making my living from my own art & design business, working at home, setting my own hours. But the truth is I’ve been dissatisfied for a long time. Years even.
I figured out how to create a viable business from my art, and I did it. I’m no mogul – business and finance are foreign languages to me – but I built something from nothing, I make a living from my art, and I’m proud as hell of it.
For the past couple of years, however, I’ve been beating my head against a wall trying to build this business. “The Economy” hit me hard, and I took on the challenge of learning to beat it right back, with limited success. And all along a tiny voice was asking if I was climbing the right ladder (to use a Stephen Covey metaphor).
If I got to the top of the ladder, was that where I really, truly wanted to be?
I did my best to ignore the voice. FOLLOW THE MONEY, I thought! I’ve got something built already, I’ve got to GROW IT and MAKE IT BETTER.
But the truth is, I don’t want to scale my business. It’s great, I love it, I’m proud of it, but I got into it because I like making things, and I spend most of my time processing orders and most definitely not making things.
A succession of recent life crises made me face facts and really ask myself, “What do you want? What will make you happy?”
I’m a basically happy, cheerful person, but if I’m honest, the job that I have – running the business that I’ve created – is not what I’d be doing if I won the lottery. (Which, since I never buy a ticket, I have only a slightly lower chance of ever doing than those who actually play.)
When I got into this business I would have paid money to do what I did. But now? Not so much.
So what do I want to do? What do I want to be when I grow up?
I want to create. On my terms. What I want to make, not what a client wants me to make.
Wow. What a concept.
Until a few weeks ago, this seemed like a crazy, impossible notion. Only the very lucky few ever get to do this, right? And who am I to reach for the stars like that?
But then someone (thank you, narcissistic, integrity-challenged ex-boyfriend) forwarded a link to an amazing site called The Art of Nonconformity, and I was presented with a model of living that ROCKED MY WORLD. Chris Guillebeau is doing it, and thanks to the internet, a whole bunch of other people are doing it.
In other words, it’s possible, therefore I’m going to give it my damned best effort to do it myself.
Reminds me of when I was 19, and three of my friends had auditioned for, and gotten into the dance division at the Juilliard School in NYC, the creme de la creme of dance conservatories. I’d only been dancing a few years myself, but I was passionate about it, I was good at it, and when my dance teacher gave me a stern talking to and told me I should be going to Juilliard as well, I had to make a decision.
I remember thinking I could go back to UC Berkeley, live my safe little life, dance in the UCB dance company, and never reach for the stars. Or I could take a chance.
I remember thinking “I don’t want to turn 40 and wonder ‘what if?'”
The year at Juilliard turned out to be one of the hardest, most awful years of my life, but you know what? I’m hella glad I did it! And when I turned 40 I had no regrets, no thoughts of “I coulda been a contenda.”
I reached for the stars. I followed my Bliss. It didn’t turn out anything like I thought it would, but that’s okay. In fact I actually think it turned out better, injury and lost dance career and all. Life is like that.
So here I am now, post-40, wondering how I’m going to feel at 60. I owe it to my future self to reach for the stars NOW, even if I fail trying.
To that end, I’ve made the following commitment to myself:
- I will create a new piece of art for myself every week
- I will post on my blog twice a week
- I will do everything in my power to follow my evolving Blisses, which means actually doing the things that make me happy on a regular basis.
I also commit:
- to be gentle with myself when I f-ck up
- to get regular exercise
- to get adequate rest (my biggest challenge)
- to work on my areas of challenge (in addition to the rest thing), including clearing out the excess stuff in my life and organizing my space
- to accept and allow that it is not possible to do ALL OF THIS ALL THE TIME (did I mention I have pretty unrealistic expectations of myself?)
So that’s my commitment. It’s scary to put it out there in public (even though nobody actually knows about this blog, so it’s not really public), but I’m doing it in the hopes that it will help me stick with this commitment. I want to live the richest, fullest life I’m capable of living, and just trudging the same old path is not the way to get me there.
The first step is to listen to my dreams. The next step is to actually follow them, which takes work, but what are my other options? I’d rather work hard at creating the evolving life I really want than work hard at climbing a ladder I’m not interested in reaching the top of. So there.
Today, I’m proud to say, I kept my commitment. Not only have I been writing regularly, but I put aside all the external demands on my time to MAKE ART today. Soon to be for sale as products in my Zazzle shop, here’s what I made:
She’s #2 in a series I started a couple of weeks ago that I’m having so much fun with! I’m fired up, I’m creating, and that makes me happy! (It also makes me insomniac, which is not so good, but unfortunately that seems to come with the territory sometimes…)
I’ve got several more in the works. Watch for them in the coming weeks!
Will you join me on the journey, my imaginary audience? I like to think that my brave attempt at really living a creative life will inspire you to do it as well. I’d be happiest if what I do creates net gain for others.
But regardless, I’m doing this for me. My rambly, online journal, helping me to process, hopefully helping to keep me on track.
Wish me luck.
PS – Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!