“You won’t always feel enthusiastic or passionate about your craft.”
That’s a little tidbit I don’t recall any of my art instructors informing me or any of my fellow art students. Neither can I recall ever reading about it in the countless articles of advice I’ve read for artists over the years. Yet it’s what I’ve come to learn. The truth is the artist’s path isn’t an easy one and some days you won’t feel passionate or enthusiastic about it.
I’ve noticed that some of the people I know personally have a rather romanticize idea about what I do. Just recently I was talking to a long time friend of mine who said to me “You’re lucky, you’re doing what you love to do.” I don’t know about the luck but I could tell he was under the impression assuming that I probably wake up ever morning beaming with joy that I get to draw everyday. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Overall, yes, I do experience a sense of satisfaction at the thought that I’m making a life doing what I enjoy doing but that satisfaction varies from day to day. Some days I’m happy and content especially when sales are steady and I’m not worried about getting my bills paid. Some days I don’t feel anything either way. Then some days I’m thoroughly frustrated and have to push through to get anything creative done. But then there are those days were I give serious thought to saying to hell with it all to go get me a desk job. These fluctuations in my passion for my craft have often left me feeling conflicted and baffled. With the plethora of self development information out there, I’ve always been under the impression that if you have the opportunity to spend your life doing something you love you will wake up every morning beaming with enthusiasm and ready to take on the world. Truth is, most of the time I’m on an emotional roller coaster with constant highs and lows. …and that’s okay. But nobody tells you that. You see, for the longest I’ve been under the impression that I’m doing something wrong because I’m not a walking ball of sunshine everyday. I get conflicted inside and wonder if I should be doing it at all. But one day I realized that the problem wasn’t that some days I lack enthusiasm and passion, the problem was that I thought it was problem. There’s nothing wrong with having bad days because trust me, you will have them. You will have days where you’re bored. You’ll have days where you can’t think of anything to create. There will be projects where you will be all excited about in the beginning only to have that excitement dissipate halfway through. And there will be days where you just end up vegged out on the couch with junk food and Netflix. And all of that is perfectly normal. A trick I’ve learned to get through these ups and downs is to make sure I set some non-negotiables at the foundation of my craft. These are key commitments that I keep above all else. For me there are three of them:
1. To do a little bit of something pertaining to my craft each day. That can be working on a drawing for 30 minutes, writing up a blog post or promoting my work, so long as I do something everyday. It’s easy to get wrapped up in other aspects of our lives and put your craft off until the next day. But I’ve seen how putting your craft off can easily become a habit. The only way to counter that is to develop the habit of working on your craft everyday.
2. To always finish at least 85% of my projects. Now if it’s a commission it must be completed but on personal projects sometimes they just don’t turn out or somewhere along the way I lose interest. Most of the time I push through it but every once in a while there are some piece I just can’t bring myself to complete. In this case I just let it go and move on to something I’m more interested in but only if I’ve been consistent in finishing at least nine of my previous projects.
3. No matter what, always do my best. I’ve learned that I can’t let my day to day feelings dictate how I approach my craft, so I need some guiding principles to get me through the ups and downs.
Being an artist isn’t some never ending purgatory but it’s not always glorious either. It just is what it is. Some days your creative energy just flows, your work turns out far better than you imagine and you make a few good sales. And then some days you find yourself on your living room floor throwing a temper tantrum, crying to the heavens wondering why you were cursed to be an artist. Okay, maybe that’s just me but no matter what, always do your best. 😊
Sometimes you have those moments where your mind wanders and you look back over your life and you ask yourself, “If I could go back in time, knowing what I know now, what would I do differently?” It’s one of those questions that many people are sure to ask themselves, I know I have. But for me that wondering would be in a more general sense where I always concluded that I wouldn’t do anything differently. In comparison to where I started from, I feel my life has turned out pretty okay. It could use some improvements in some ways but according to statistics and social scientists, my life should have turned out far worse. So I don’t regret how things have panned out so far. But then I got to thinking, is there anything I would do differently as an artist? And that’s when I started to feel some pangs of regret. While I’m proud of how far I’ve come, I can’t help but think at times how much further I could possibly be if I had of done a few things differently. Here are five things, that if I had a time machine, I would go back and do differently.
1. Own being an artist early on. In all honesty, I wasn’t too proud of having a creative spirit. I had sensed from the environment around me that being an artist didn’t have the same prestige in the community as being a principal, a social worker, teacher or foreman. I mean, people thought it was “cute” that I could draw but it wasn’t something that anyone encouraged me to pursue or praised me for. Even when I confided in a teacher that I was thinking about going to art school, I was immediately forewarned not to go and instead encouraged to go to a university with a diverse curriculum. So, I started off my academic career as a psychology major at the local community college only to later change it to Fine Arts, which required me to put in three years to obtain an Associates degree.
2. Take a few creative writing classes. I’ve always wanted to write and illustrate my own stories. Actually I wrote a 50 page short story back when I was 14 years old that I still have ’til this day. Since then I’ve only written two more that I’ve kept to myself. But once in a while I’ll do a drawing based off of a story that I’ve kept in my head. I’ve always imagined my art being coupled with stories or poetry and sometimes even songs. But to write and to draw, especially with the type of drawing that I do, seems to be a tall order. The time it would take to write the story and write it well along with the time it would take to do the drawing sounds exhausting. And with technology seemly shortening my attention span, I’m not sure if it would even be worth the effort. There is this thing called “Flash Fiction” that’s known for it’s brevity. I’ve entertained getting into that from of writing but it’s only a thought. Who knows, maybe I’ll find some way to weave writing into my art in the future.
3. Stayed in a smaller city. I moved from a small town to a big college city and I have to say getting my foot into the art scene here is much more challenging compared to when I was staying in a small town. In the town I was living in it was easier for me to develop a personal relationship with people. The manager at the local gallery was approachable and I could talk to her without having to make a pitch or bring a portfolio just to get her attention. Yearly there was a local art fair. Applications were $25 and a table was $50. But I was young and thought a bigger city was the place to be. So I didn’t invest too much energy into trying to get known as a local artist since I was going off to a university after I finished community college. To my surprise the art scene where I live now is nationally known. People from all over the country come to the yearly art fair and for a local artist just to have a table can run you up to $1500 but first you have to serve on the art jury for a year before you can get your own table.
4. Don’t underestimate the value of a community college education. Everything I learned that has been useful to me ’til this day, I learned at community college. From drawing, to web coding and graphic design. It was practical, useful and industry based. When I transferred to university, everything became based not on practicality but theory. Even the art classes. Out of my five years there and changing majors three times, the only courses I took that are still useful to me ’til this day were Economic Botany and Traditional Cartography. Looking back I feel that much of university education is more hype than anything else. So don’t look down on community college. I’m glad I attended both and was able to experience the difference. Don’t get me wrong, going to university was great for the experience and networking but looking back I probably could have done just fine without it and not have the debt I acquired. (I was able to pay for community college with my part-time job)
5. Invest in myself. Some people seem to have this unwavering belief in themselves and what they are doing. Me on the other had, I’v always had a tendency to second guessed myself and because of that I always put more value on the opinion of others rather than upon my own hopes and dreams. I always assumed everyone else knew better than me what was the best course for me. So for some time I followed the status quo until I found out the hard way that there’s no guaranteed security in the status quo just as much as there’s no security in carving out your own path in life. It’s eye opening when all that you thought was secure gets pulled out from under you due to corporate down sizing. In the process I’ve gradually learned how to live with uncertainty and developed more confidence in my ability to handle things.
So those are the five things I would do differently as an artist if I could go back in time. How about you? What are some things you would do differently as an artist or creative if you had a time machine?
This year the hubby and I are having what I’m calling an “off year” for growing. It wasn’t something we planned or decided on. Rather, due to weather and a bit of procrastination, it just kinda happened. First off a late frost threw us off schedule. Then we got a lot of rain through May and the early part of June. My favorite thing to grow are herbs and jalapenos. While the rain wouldn’t have bothered the herbs much, it would have made some “duds” out of the jalapenos. Too much water effects the capsaicin, the compound in peppers that give them their heat. Hot, dry climates create a beneficial stressor which activates the capsaicin. The more water a jalapeno plant absorbs the more it will taste like a green bell pepper rather than spicy flames in your mouth.
It hasn’t been particularly hot and dry in our neck of the woods so we held off getting starters to do any planting. By doing so we missed out. This year we went to our usual gardening center to get starters only to discovered it had been picked clean. Fortunately the hubby was able to get a few tomato plants from a co-worker since his thing is growing tomatoes.
So as I mentioned before, I like to grow herbs, particularly those from the mint family, which tend to come back on their own. But as I’ve discovered, they can be pretty invasive. Last year my garden bed had lemon balm, chocolate mint, apple mint and anise hyssop. This year the lemon balm turned into pac man and completely took over the whole bed. It now looks more like a shrub than an herb plant. Luckily I managed to get a good cutting of the apple mint before the lemon balm devoured everything. So for this growing season it’s just two tomato plants, some apple mint and this monster of lemon balm.
Actually not doing much this year is a welcomed break. Last year we went overboard and grew way more than we could possibly use. We were up to our eyeballs in tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapenos, lettuce and herbs. Lets just say my poor hubby heard a lot of fussing from me. There’s only so much salad, salsa and tomato jam a woman can eat. So this year we’ve decided to keep things small from now on for both our sanity. 😊
Is there a remedy for cookie hangovers? It’s my birthday and I’ve eaten way too many of these things… topped with ice cream. (Yes, I know, I’ve completely regressed into a 12 year old kid.) Dear Double Chocolate Chip cookie…”I wish I knew how to quit you”. 😳
…though at times I feel a bit guilty for wanting…no, needing, solitude. Without solitude I would be a nervous wreck for too much stimulation and social interaction fries my nerves and exhausts my energy. Solitude is a necessity for me. It’s how I recuperate, regenerate and create. Yet I always feel a tinge of guilt whenever I pass on a social gathering. It’s not that I don’t like socializing, I just don’t need it as often or to a great intensity as others may need. Fortunately being an artist gives me an excuse to spend time in solitude but I wonder, are people who are creative more prone to desire solitude or are those who have a natural disposition for solitude more likely to develop creative pursuits?