I woke up this morning thinking about the life of an artist and I guess I could easily include the life of a writer in this as well. I consider myself both. I love both writing and creating art. Both journeys are pretty much in a learning phase and I wonder if that will ever change. My thoughts sort of went like this:
The life of an artist isn’t an easy one. Not only because most artists are assailed every moment by their inner critic and can be compounded greatly by their feelings of self-worth but also because artists, at least the artists I’m aware of, have a variety of issues that have nothing to do with art. Some may have mental health issues while others may have physical health issues. If any of these issues are severe enough to prevent an artist from employment then their issues maybe accompanied with financial concerns. But, even if an artist doesn’t have any of these issues, they still have to deal with every day life like the rest of the population who might not consider themselves artists and don’t pursue this creative adventure.
Note: replace artist with writer and these thoughts seem to be equally true for both. If one pursues being both an artist and a writer then there is even more to learn and less time to divide up into each adventure.
I, probably, love writing just as much as I love being an artist. I classify myself as a creative being. I didn’t always do so. I had my first real taste of being an artist during school from eighth grade until twelfth grade, thanks to a wonderful art teacher. Then because of needing to work and earn enough money to live off of I ventured off into the digital world of computers and never looked back until a few years ago. (That statement isn’t exactly true, I had moments of trying to pick up a pencil to draw but my inner critic always won and I would put the pencil back down and not try again for years.)
The one thing I never stopped doing was writing because our whole society and workforce requires it. For my personal life I would keep a handwritten journal or as they called it back then, a diary. I, however, was not consistent at it. Usually it would reappear in times of strife. If I really think about it, I never really stopped being creative. I might not have picked up a pencil much to draw but I did do other things, like learning to crochet which my mother started when I asked one day while I watched her crochet. I then took that further and taught myself how to knit since my mother didn’t know how. Knitting and crocheting have been a part of my life ever since with periods of abstinence.
Over the years I ventured into several avenues of creative categories. I tried polymer clay, making my own beads which were then made into jewelry. This took me into taking a jewelry repair class which I absolutely excelled at but never had the money to pursue. The equipment and supplies were just too costly plus no landlord would ever allow the combustible products on the property. Since I have, until recently, only rented the places we lived this wasn’t a viable option for me to pursue. It is still true today since I live in a townhouse complex under strata management. Besides I will not risk other people’s homes. I never checked but I’m sure the homeowners insurance would be rather costly if it included a jewelry repair workshop.
I also ventured into pottery. I learned slab and throwing skills for creating beautiful things out of clay. This is something else I fell completely in love with but when I moved away from the city where I lived, any new place I moved to didn’t seem to have the same opportunities at such a financially feasible cost. I miss it. Again having the equipment in the places where I live just isn’t possible and are quite costly and working with polymer clay just isn’t the same. I really love raku which involves flame/extreme heat which isn’t something you ask a landlord or strata council to approve.
I have always had a secret dream of owning my own home that isn’t under strata management, has a yard and not attached to another person’s home. If the yard was large enough and I had the funds, I have no doubt I would create a massive studio where I could pursue jewelry making and repair, as well as, pottery, and have a portion of it for my art. When I say my art, that can be anything from mixed media, watercolors, oil, graphite, charcoal, pencils, pens and inks of a mixed variety. I want my comfort too so I would need a comfortable sitting area and a screen for watching videos and sound system for listening to music. I have no doubt other artists have similar dreams. And because I LOVE books my home would contain a library.
The dilemma we artist’s face is often financial. Unless one is already well off financially that is. As you can see, after reading my secret dream and what I have learned along the way in my journey, being an artist doesn’t come cheaply. Though it can. Our, or at least mine, doesn’t except when I am forced into such a situation.
Learning to be an artist on a strict budget has been a challenge but not as big a challenge as I had first believed. When I was laid off of a rather well paying job, and not earning any income for a year and half, now finding myself earning only minimum wage in a part time position, I have had to find ways to manage my creative life on a very small budget. Not having so much time to work in the love of my life, helps. It has greatly reduced the consumption of my art supplies. I can write as often as I like on my computer. It only takes up digital space so as long as I have enough hard drive space, I can write until my heart is content. Art supplies, can come cheap, but my artist has expensive tastes and loves the not so cheap art supplies, so those get purchased only when there is room in the budget which isn’t often.
The same goes for art courses. Like several of my artist acquaintances I have discovered I love to collect art classes so at any time when the urge hits, I can sit down and follow along on a class. Following along on a class means I don’t have to come up with my own idea. There are times I need that period of mindlessness to just do something creative, even if it isn’t from my own imagination.
Creating something from my own imagination can be quite difficult at times. That is a topic of another discussion but yes, it is part of an artist’s life which should be mentioned. I don’t think there is an artist out there who hasn’t faced their own issues with trying to create their own piece of art solely from their own imagination and not come up against a wall of doubt and sometimes a complete vacancy of ideas in the mind reflecting the completely blank canvas before them. The more the blank canvas is looked upon the blanker the imagination becomes. Breaking through is hard because it involves letting go and trusting one’s own instincts or intuition. Sometimes, especially in the learning stages of one’s journey, this doesn’t come easy and sometimes we don’t hear the intuitive thoughts at all.
I want to write, “now, back to the life of an artist not being easy” but I never left that topic, though it might seem as though I went off on a tangent, I haven’t really. Being an artist doesn’t necessarily mean you are a painter. I have touched upon a few other mediums artists can work in, there are other’s like wood, metal, textiles and so on. Artists can work in anything, even food, as long as one creates, they are an artist. When you consider it in that way, I don’t know of a single person who isn’t an artist or a creative. After all, we all are responsible for building/creating our own lives. There are just some people who feel the need to take that creativity further into a medium of their choice to create something which physically represents their state of being at the time they created it.
I might find people who disagree with me on the last statement. I would imagine some artists would say their creations don’t represent their state of being. I believe everyone is allowed their own opinion and if this is what they believe then I support them. I used to think this as well about my own creations but have since seen my own reality within those things I create. Sometimes that is difficult to admit, especially when what I created isn’t something I like. Generally if that is the case it is because I’m either not in a good place or I am trying to force it to be something I am not at the time. This is the part of the artist in me which isn’t easy to face. It also isn’t easy to write about. But if I am to be authentic and write about the life of an artist, then I need to include this as well.
Like any piece of art an artist creates, our journey goes through an ugly stage. We don’t often want to admit it. We often don’t want to look back and remember it either. But those ugly stages are when we have learned some very important things about ourselves and our abilities. If we give up during the ugly stage, then often it is because we don’t think we have the ability to make what appears ugly, beautiful. We also can’t look at it and see the beauty that lies within it. I’m not talking just about art. I’m also talking about life.
I think we have all heard a saying that goes something like this “we have the ability to make our lives anything we want it to be” or “our life is what we make of it”. Make means we create it. It also means we can destroy it. It can really be whatever we want ‘it’ to be but we first need to recognize the overall authority we have. Plus, we also need to recognize where we are in our skill level set. Don’t expect a masterpiece if you are only just beginning your journey. While at the same time, if you have perfected several skills don’t aspire to do something at the beginner level. This journey is about learning to create and learning is about improving your knowledge and skill. A journey is about movement not stagnation. Through each level, there will be ugly stages as we learn and perfect new skills.
I’ve been the worst at being hard on myself. Sometimes in my journey I have gone back to being a child and acting as a child or creating as a child. There isn’t anything wrong in doing so. Sometime we have to revisit old skill sets and mind sets in order to remember why we have left them behind. The journey of an artist is such a one and therefore will always be a difficult journey, a life that isn’t easy, because we choose to express ourselves outwardly by creating something that represents where we are in our journey, while others keep as much as possible internal. Those who also choose to put their artist works out in the world for others to witness also put themselves at risk. It is difficult enough to listen to our own internal doubts and self-flagellation all we can think of is that is what we will receive in return when we put our work on display. Sometimes that is true but more often it is not, or at least I hope it isn’t for all artists.
Artists don’t just have to face the battles of every day life, they have to face their inner battles over their work, not just to create it but also whether to let others see it, and if they do then to face their own inner demons again in making it public, then possibly again when someone chooses to say something unkind about their work. Artists take such comments to heart because their artwork is a reflection of them which is something not everyone understands.
It takes a brave person to live the life of an artist and an even braver one to put their work on display. I, however, think the world is a better place because of these brave souls.
This is always in the back of my mind whenever I display my own work. I don’t necessarily feel very brave, though some have said I am and also brave in writing about my art journey. I watched a movie recently titled “The Circle”. It deals with transparency. This is a very controversial topic which the movie does an excellent job in bringing out. Transparency is how I like to be in regards to my art and my journey as an artist. If what I write about can help an artist to have the courage to either be an artist or even show their artwork, then my time and work in writing about my art journey is worth it.
Since my last post, I worked on a few things. I worked more on the abstract flower page. I think I have reached the point where I am done working on it. Yes, more could be done with it but it is has served its purpose. It has helped me learn more of what works for me and what doesn’t. Plus I’m learning my own style of abstract flowers.
I then watched week 30’s videos for Life Book 2017 and chose to do the bonus lesson titled “Practicing Radical Acceptance” with Samie Harding. I’m not usually into this type of art but in the end, I enjoyed it and like how it turned out. It might be something I do more of and would be in my private journal if I do. This class was more about learning to accept things in life even if you don’t agree with it so it can bring out a lot of emotions which some would want to keep private.
Sometimes when I work on a class, I don’t realize the emotions that are brought up. When this happens, I usually feel the need to work on something that can center me and is something within my comfort zone. Working with mandalas and tangles do that for me. When I find myself resistant to doing another class or a harder piece of art is when I realize I need that comfort zone for a bit before moving on. So the next thing I worked on which took several days is this one:
Abstract art which feels comfortable to me generally includes geometric shapes. This one started out with using a compass to draw circles of varying sizes and overlapping. Once I had the circles in place, then I proceeded to either make smaller circles within them or add in lines to divide the circles into parts like a pie and to connect the circles. Then it just took adding a few more lines to create a tangle I wanted or adding tangle patterns in the smaller circles. For the largest circle I altered the smaller circles so they became a spiral, then created the pattern.
This was a fun and soothing project. I was glad to have it to work on over several days while I worked my various hours at my job. I could work on it before I went to work or after I came home. It helped me to wind down after work and relax and I could work on it while streaming Netflix. I had discontinued our cable service as one of the things to cut back on expenses after being laid off of work. I am surprised how little I miss it. Netflix and CraveTV are our solutions to no more cable TV. I consider this part of the artist’s life because I choose to spend my money on art supplies instead of cable TV. Streaming programs I love while working on art then becomes my zen zone.
My final step in this one was to add some shading. I like this piece. I especially like the bolder lines and the stippling I did in the spiral. I am also understanding more of how repeating a pattern can improve the appearance of the overall piece. I often found myself questioning my first choices, or my intuitive thoughts. I have learned when those intuitive thoughts persist to just go with them. It is easier than trying to resist them. As I do this more and more, following my first intuitive thought is becoming easier so I find myself resisting less and less.
After writing all of this, a question just appeared in my mind, “What is my goal as an artist?” It wouldn’t be what many might think it is. It isn’t to sell my art, though at one time I thought maybe I would and I might still but that isn’t my goal. My goal is to create a harmonious life. That might sound strange to some but for me it makes perfect sense. I find peace, joy and contentment when I do something creative. This means as an artist I experience these things even with things I don’t like. I might find angst as something I also feel when something doesn’t turn out the way I like it but I’ve learned for even those things I don’t like, there is also contentment, joy and peace because I learn from them more than I probably learn for those things I do well and love.
When I wasn’t doing my art, my life wasn’t very harmonious. Facing difficult times was even harder. And my inner landscape felt like I had abandoned part of it. Now, as long as I’m doing something creative, my inner landscape feels whole. Don’t confuse whole with finished or complete. There will always be room for improvement and growth but at least now I feel like I’m working with the whole plant including its root and not just with pruning it’s branches.