Photo courtesy of the Union Station Mirror Maze, St Louis, MO
As 2022 draws to a close I've take some time to pause and reflect on what I've learned about a life in the arts this year. First and foremost I've learned that the creative life is not for the faint of heart! It is full of challenges and setbacks along with successes and surprises.
Some of what I've learned sound like clichés from an after-school special:
Believe in yourself
Listen to and trust your inner voice
Reach out to other people when times get hard
Let go or be dragged
Patience is a virtue
Time spent playing is worthwhile
Keep your sense of humor
Far from being trite, I think these life lessons show up in stories so often exactly because they are full of wisdom and truth. Let me explain...
Recently I was the unimpressed recipient of unsolicited opinions about my artwork. For example--please note that these are actual quotes:
"You are wonderfully talented, but you haven’t found your niche yet."
"I love the allegory in your work, but it is usually so personal it is over the head of most of the public."
"Have you considered landscapes? They may be more rewarding"
"You know, another name for still life is nature morte--or dead nature. When you are finished with these little still lives you should do city scapes."
Honestly these comments took me by surprise because they felt rather harsh and, as I mentioned above, they were completely unsolicited.
I've taken the month of December off from my studio to think through why these comments stung so deeply, what I am doing with my art, and what I want for my future.
Reaching out to other artists has been paramount in finding my way forward. I was surprised to find that this type of negative experience is quite common. Hearing other artists' stories helped normalize my experiences and shone a light on a path ahead.
Another step forward came from giving myself permission to ignore unsolicited comments. Everyone has an opinion and many people feel entitled to tell you theirs but that doesn't make them right. It just makes them human.
Then an additional step came from taking time to play in the form of "sketching safaris". On a sunny day I'd take the dog on a nice long hike and stop somewhere along the way to sketch something. After 20-30 minutes of playing with color and scribbling with a pen I felt lighter and happier.
A further step came when I removed an artificial timeline that I had imposed on myself. Ever since we moved to New Mexico I've felt pressure to "make it" with my art. I've told myself to make a painting a month, show my work in galleries, enter as many juried shows as possible, promote my art tirelessly, and by all means, figure out the business side of art and get it all right the first time. Well that's just silly isn't it. I've learned that "making it" in the art world is a marathon made up of networking, creating quality art, and planting seeds that may not grow or may show up years down the line. Patience is a virtue!
Yet another step came from my husband who reminded me that instead of focusing on how upsetting I found those comments above to be, I could let go and refocus all that energy to support myself and my artistic vision. Or, as arts enthusiast Giridhar Alwar said:
“Measure your success with your happiness, not with other’s opinions.”
So I've started a new still life in which I am exploring the beauty of our inner voice, our purpose, our happiness (symbolized with a white rose) against all the intense emotions, danger, and fear (symbolized by a shimming red background) we experience in our lives.
And the most amazing thing happened along the way....once I figured out the composition and lighting, well instantly my whole body relaxed. That's how I knew I was doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing--there was no inner strife, no questioning, no doubt. Only calm and relaxation.
Believe in yourself Lucy!
Listen to your inner voice Lucy!
Let go of the pain Lucy!
Be patient Lucy!
Remember to play and laugh Lucy!
And most of all Lucy, believe that 2023 is going to be a GREAT year. 😊