Life Lessons Art has Taught Me (Part 2)

To Leave the Beaten Path. Art allows me to leave the usual path. I could paint what everybody else is painting, I can do the popular thing. But how will I make my mark as an imitator? How will I be different? Leaving the beaten path allows me to discover new ways to create, allows me to take risks and to learn new things about myself. When I am on the road not travelled, I am alone and have only my own creative thoughts to depend on.

To have an open mind. To leave the well travelled road, forces me to have an open mind. I carve out my own style. I paint the subjects I want to paint. I experiment with different paints and use various found objects in my work. Opening my mind leaves me available and open to new things which will enrich my mind, my art and my life.

To let go. If I am going to have an open mind, I have to let go. It’s much easier to do this in art than in life. But as I said, I am using one to inform the other. We all have perceptions that we hold dear; we are slaves to our culture, our family, our friends, our ancestors and we could go on. We are all colouring within the line but what if we coloured outside of it? What would we discover within ourselves and within our world?

All I need to do is start. I don’t need to be intimidated by a blank canvas. The empty space is waiting on me to make my mark. The canvas is yearning for me to use it to bring a story to life. I don’t always know what I will paint but I stand before the canvas and I think about what I can create that will be impactful. As soon as I start, the path starts to reveal itself. The reveal is not always quick but if I persist it becomes sure.

There is always another way. If I start and I realize that my creation is not going the way I envisioned it, I can change midstream.  I have created works that I did not like. I gesso them over and create something new. These paintings are always the better ones because they have been through the fire of failure and came out popping. There are many ways to fill an empty canvas – different colours, different textures, more pop. This is the reason we should not be afraid to start. We have the ability to adjust.

To surround myself with people who understand my dreams and encourage it. This is the final one and it is a big one. The business of art is already challenging so I do not surround myself with naysayers who sap my energy and diminish my creativity with negative thoughts. I sever any cord that would tie me to discord, to anything that will let me lose focus, to anyone that feed self doubt. Self doubt can mean death to a creative. I surround myself with light; with people who encourage and help me to find my path. This is a very important life lesson – hold fast to dream builders; let go of dream killers. Light in; darkness out.

Art Chooses Me

I meet many people everyday who used to do some form of art. And they usually ask me how I keep doing art because for whatever reason they did not continue. I guess that they are really asking me about dedication, time or passion. And I guess that they assume that art, for me, is a choice.

It is not a choice. It is a calling. Art is constantly calling me to make something. It insistently wakes me up at nights, interrupts my days, and holds my mind and soul hostage with ideas that it wants me to translate to canvas. If there are other artist reading this, I know that they understand what I mean. They have experienced the constant gnawing, yearning, and need to create.

It is a kind of bitter sweet pursuit. There is the fulfillment of creation – bringing an idea from conception to fruition. But art is not food, at least not in the common sense. People need to eat, sleep and have a roof over their heads but they do not need art. If people do not have a piece of art, they will not die, again not in the normal sense. But what a drab, bland and utterly colourless existence people would have without it in their spaces and lives.

So while I am aware that it is difficult to succeed as an artist, it has no bearing on why I create. Creation for me is a means of survival. If I do not do it, I will die. If I do not give in to the urge, I will go mad. Paradoxically, I might go mad giving in to the urge but that is another story. My only point now is that making art is not a choice, when art chooses me.

People say things to me all the time like, you know you may not make any money from art until you are dead or you know there are few artists who make any money from art. I smile and nod. Noted. I don’t argue. There is some amount of truth to what they say and some amount of falsehood too. There are many living artists who are making a great living and there are many great artists who are not. But I don’t argue because I will have to explain that art is not a choice. Art chooses me.