Art is not a thing, it’s a way. I remember reading Julia Cameron’s words many years ago and realizing for the first time that here was a woman who felt what I felt about art - that every act of creation was part of something more than the individual work of art; I was creating my life every time I raised the camera, took out the sketchbook, stepped into the darkroom. What an incredible responsibility we have, creating not a stagnant thing but a life and doing it again and again each day.
For a fairly brief time in my twenties, I came perilously close to seeing art as a hobby. With a BFA in photography and a career in marketing, I thought I knew which path was more sustainable. However, once I didn’t have school assignments and a built-in artistic community as part of my daily life, I realized that I have an innate need to create and to be part of a bigger world. I started looking online and finding other artists who were looking for a similar connection. Across continents, time zones, age, and subject matter, we nurtured and challenged each other and I realized how important community is. By the time I graduated with a second degree in photography, I knew creating and living my art was no choice at all. It was my life - just that simple and just that profound. This life, however, is about more than being shut away in a studio, creating works simply because the need is too great to ignore, it is also about the community and the impact beyond myself.
In a nutshell, leaving out the juicy details, that is my journey, but I am getting ahead of myself. The path looks different for everyone and it is truly a choose your own adventure type of journey where the ending isn’t fixed.
First, it takes intention. Think about what draws you to the work that you do. What really motivates you to pick up the camera, the pen, the brush, and create? What keeps you coming back to your work and inspires you to spend even a few minutes making art when you could be cooking, running errands, even sleeping? Are you drawn to the theory behind the work? The new gadgets and how they influence what is possible within the medium? Are you driven by the need to tell a story? Do you want, first and foremost, to create an object of beauty? There is not a right answer, but the answer is personally important because there will be times when you question whether this is worthwhile, whether you are good enough, whether you will achieve those distant goals. Knowing why you create in the first place reminds you to keep returning to the beginning and making. You won’t be able to let the dust build up on those ideas once you really define why you are doing what you are doing and how important it is that you keep going.
Once you define your intention, allow yourself to let go of the fear of whether you are making the right decision and have confidence in the work you do, the life you live. There is nothing as powerful as believing in yourself. You have to believe that this is worth doing, whatever the outcome, and you have to believe you will achieve what you need to achieve. If you have the confidence, there is very little that can stand in your way.
Sometimes this is more difficult to accomplish, and we all go through rocky patches when we doubt ourselves, our work, the reasons we create, so plan ahead. Give yourself the gift of 1 hour a week, 20 minutes a day, Saturday afternoon, an extra hour in the morning, whatever amount of time you can realistically dedicate on a consistent basis. Find another person or a group to share this creative life with so you have a support system and someone who will hold you accountable. Working with other people encourages you to become more familiar talking about your work and sharing it with others, and it also gets your art out of your studio, computer, garage and into the world. This could eventually translate into selling a print, being hired for a job, or inspiring someone else to explore their creative tendencies.
Living the life you want to live requires you to be both gentle and brave. Brave enough to put pen to paper, to open the shutter, to combine colors on canvas. Brave enough to tell yourself you are an artist - to tell others you are an artist. Brave enough and gentle enough to not justify or apologize for the definition. Gentle enough to not judge the creations and try to talk yourself out of this life. Brave enough not to be defined by the rejections - or the successes. And brave enough to accept the responsibilities and challenges of a life of creation.
Ultimately you must know that this is life, your life, and each decision you make creates the way you live in the world. There is nothing more powerful. Choose well how you use this power. Dedicate yourself every day.
And since this process really is a community effort, come here and join the conversation in a more direct way. I am beginning a new section with posts every Wednesday showcase your work and open up a dialogue. This will be a space for art that reveals something about you and your world. So much of what I love about this medium is the connection and communication between artist, subject, and audience and I want to bring you into this conversation in a more direct way.
To begin, send a portrait of someone you know well. Email your images to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Every Wednesday I will post the images on the blog with some initial thoughts on the subject and open it up for discussion.
I look forward to seeing what you create.