Happy New Year! I am so glad you are here to live 2020. As long as we have breath, we have work to do! Artists are witnesses; witnesses to the joys and sorrows, the justices and injustices, the beauty and ugliness of all that is human, inhumane, biotic and abiotic. Our art is a record of our experience and we have much to communicate. It takes many voices to accurately portray a story, or the stories of a time, and those voices must be the truthful, from all directions, all cultures, all genders, all ages, all senses, and all the telling talents.
It’s an impossible feat, perhaps, but witnessing and recording ‘ourstory’ shapes now and the future. We are never as alone as we may at times feel. Your voice, my voice, the many voices, create ‘ourstory’, a lessonworthy, collaboration that many of us artists are unaware of belonging to.
Life is a collaboration!
Adding to my previous post, here are two more practices that can help to strengthen your artistic identity and align you with prospective collectors.
I know the world I want to live in. I’ve known that world of ‘beauty’ for many years. I look for it in everything, everyone and everywhere. What I look for is what I see, and what I end up painting. As a result, I understand why I create in the style I do and I can articulate that to my audience.
I believe in morning pages and artist dates. Sound familiar? If it doesn’t you really need to read Julia Cameron’s, The Artist Way. Both will contribute to your clarity in their own way; one rinses you clean while the other fills you up.
It is during artist dates that I get really clear on what I look for in the world.
Practice Three begins with The Artist Date.
Then simply notice the kinds of things that draws your attention and make some mental notes about that.
While you’re out there on the date, also try to get clear on Mahatma Ghandi’s quote …’we need to be the change we see in the world’… and what it means to you.
When you get home, go look at the art you make. Look for the themes, the design elements and principles you rely on.
If you’re a writer, and even if you’re not, record some of your thoughts as you try to wrap your head around these three somewhat philosophical explorations because it will help you to unlock the commonalities and connections.
Scribble some notes to these questions:
1. Describe the ‘_____insert colour____’ coloured glasses you view the world through. What are you seeing?
2. What do you passionately care about?
3. Describe the commonalities in the pieces of art you create.
4. How is your art helping to create the world you want to live in?
An artist statement in the making!
You may want to work this statement out over a series of weekly artist dates the first time you attempt to write your statement. Expect and welcome change as you get clarity on why you paint, why you paint what you paint, and what you are trying to communicate to your audience.
Expect your statement to be dynamic. Experiences, responses, unions, the passage of time, it grows us and as we grow so does our art. Revisit your artist statement from time to time.
When someone asks me what I do, I have often answered with, “I paint.” or “I’m an artist.”
Both were skimpy, inadequate answers.
I have since retaught myself to answer, “I am an intuitive artist who paints.” The question is now an opportunity to share one of my beautiful business cards that shows a glimpse of my artistic style, my purpose statement, as well as contact information. Answering this way leaves me feeling professional and worthy of answering follow up questions related to my work. It also allows the person I’m talking to look further into what I do and possibly become a collector. I’ve noticed that it’s relationships that sell paintings. Collectors, purchasers, they want to feel like they know the artist!
Do you carry business cards?
Creating my purpose statement for my business cards really helped me answer the What do you do? question more confidently.
I was super lucky to get help with it over lattes from some wonderful artist friends. They know me. They know my art. We brainstormed. Eventually, the writer among us nailed it.
Don’t have that community yet? That’s okay. Use the work you did in exercise three to get to it. A purpose statement is just a whittled down artists statement. A one liner, unique to you.
You’ve got this! If you need a little help, email me, email@example.com and we’ll set up a coaching session. I’m here!
Because I want my readers to know me as an artist, I don’t often remind you that I was/am also a longtime school teacher, mentor and coach. The thing about me as a teacher is that I’ve always come at it from curiousity and play. What can I learn from these people I’m serving? What happens if I meet X with Y? What will change if we do it this way? How can I do X without causing harm? I never thought I’d teach as long as I have, because I’ve always been an artist, but teaching has provided well for me and my family and it acts as one of my muses. I’ve had the great good opportunity to connect to thousands of people and their stories!
I seek out beauty and it’s what I find.
My purpose statement?
I experience time and place to bring you delight.
These two practices will help you to feel authentic and align yourself with your prospective audience. The first activity is easy, the second requires that you know yourself. If you are not there yet, tune into Plato. He can help.
These two exercises are to create your strong foundation in your artistic practice. the heart of you who are and who you are for.
When I began painting as a daily practice and knew it was my work, I struggled with even labeling myself as an artist. It felt pretentious to say, I am an artist, out loud. In my heart I knew it was true but my head kept telling me, I was something else, something I’d spent seven years in school earning documents and skills to become. Something, anything other than what I was.
Do you stuggle with imposter syndrome?
Do this exercise to courageously strengthen your identity.
Repeat after me, I am an artist. Say it out loud three times. Practice saying it to nobody but yourself every morning and every night while you brush your hair or do your pushups. Attach it to an exisiting routine so it happening. Let it make your body smile.
Now consider your artistic style. What is unique about it?
My Most Current Art Manifesto:
My art is bold, bright and non-traditional. Its joyful, often amusing, sometimes beautiful, sometimes sad. My art relays information about society, nature, beauty, and ugliness.
I don’t make my art for those who prefer traditional art I make it for those who like a touch of whimsy, or magic; those who still allow their inner child to play and refuse to take this earthly experience too seriously.
I make my art for those who walk to their own beat and don’t want to compete with the Jone’s next door or anyone else.
I want my art to be owned by people who dance outside of any box; people who know how to feel free inside, even if they must be attached to systems.
My art is for the freaks, the children of freaks who embrace freakishness, and all of their freakish friends.
My art is preferably for socially responsible people who stand against mysogny, even in the smallest of ways.
My art comes from a place of curiousity and wonder and awe, that lies deep inside of me. I want my art to be collected by those who appreciate that owning a piece of my soul is more valuable that owning my flesh and bones.
Who is your art for? Have you thought about it?
It is not enought to say that you paint for yourself because you are of this world and here to learn and contribute to the cacophony. This is a party and you need to know who you want to hang out with, literally and figuratively.
Do this exercise to bring clarity to your practice and to your audience.
Create a list of what is unique about your art. Ask creative friends what they think is unique. Think about where your art muse lies. List it. Think about how you are seen by others. If you don’t know, ask a friend to be frank with you and bless them for their honesty knowing that they are probably lighting you up a little because they are your friend. List it. Imagine the rooms or places you’d love to see your art hanging and imagine the people who would live with it. What are they like? Look for the connections on your list. Construct your own manifesto. Let it be known to yourself and others that it is dynamic and revisit and refine it from time to time. We are creatives.
We grow, we change, we evolve and writing down our manifesto brings our awareness and the awareness of others to what you want to be known for.
When you have you maniifesto completed, feel free to share it in the comments below!
It happens to all of us. The nature of life is beginnings and endings, love and loss, beautiful miracles and garbage dump moments. My keys to survival, to thriving, is:
a. strengthening my boundaries
(knowing what I want and how I want to feel)
b. shifting focus onto the beauty
(nature, self-care, practices I love, moments in my memory)
c. practicing daily gratitude and prayer
Here’s Three Activities That will (Probably) Lift you Up
1.Go for a walk in nature with the intent of seeing everything. This is not a speed walk. It is not for physical fitness. It is a sensory walk. Fill yourself up with the smells, the touch of the air on your skin, the whispers in the trees. Look for what you haven’t seen before and look longer at what you have to notice what you previously missed. Take mental notes as you walk. Take a picture or two of what you notice. Say to yourself, I am soul grateful for ….. (what you’ve noticed – try to do it for five different things on your walk) See like an artist. Gratefulness like a lover.
2. Put on the new Coldplay song, Arabesque, on repeat. Turn it up loud. Dance it out until you become a sweaty puddle or your knees just can’t do it again. Dance with your whole body. I’ve heard this called ‘swamping’ but I call it shifting to soul. Good music (whatever is good to you) is soul food. When you move into soul and out of your head its easier to change your thoughts. So when you’re finally a sweaty mess, and you cant hear that song another time, stop and say to yourself, I am soul grateful for…. (the musical artist) (the ability to move wildly) (those lyrics)… Go for five statements. Move like an artist. Gratefulness like a lover.
3. This one is for those you are fearless with maker stuff. Tape a big piece of paper to your wall or table. Tape down all four sides. I like watercolour paper or poster paper. Turn your upbeat tunes up loud. Grab a pencil or charcoal or pencil and write down the garbage. Sometimes I just use the words, sometimes I can’t so I just make marks as I speak or think it out. Done? Make sure you have nothing else to say. Done now? great. Now circle up to five of the words or marks you think are beautiful when they stand alone. Scribble loosely over the rest. Notice what you love about those words or marks. Say, I am soul grateful for….. because… Do each word or mark. Now grab your gesso or white paint and a big fat paintbrush. White out the garbage that isn’t beautiful. Grab your current favourite colour. Work it loosly into the white, following the music…..keep going. No agenda….just let those beautiful words and that fat brush take you away. Stop when you are ready. What you created is not important. Go shower to be completely renewed. Process like an artist. Gratefulness like a lover.
Hope this helps.
Sherri Jean McCulloch
If you’d like to add a piece of my art to your collection, developed or developing, email me, Sherri Jean McCulloch, at firstname.lastname@example.org
I dabble in art journaling. I was reminded by a well meaning soul once that art journaling was supposed to be a two page spread. I had heard that before, and I didn’t buy into it then either.
I remember being at a well attended art workshop. The artist turned around to chat, I didn’t like that, but was kind and listened. The artist then saw a bit of something in the paint, not intentionally there, not a brush bristle but a thin strand of lint now well coated in paint. It belonged to to piece I was working through. She went into my art and pulled it out with her tweezer like nails and told me I didn’t want that there. When she looked up mid intrusion she turned back to her space and stayed that way for the next three days. I’ve been told I have an expressive face.
I’ve never been one to need or necessarily appreciate other people’s restrictions. I grew up steeped in them. They smothered me, moulded me, mastered me. Rules clouded my real dreams and my creativity for a long long time.
I snuck out from under the edges of that heavy blanket some time ago. Sure, I still abide a rule if it makes sense to me, but I have a bright inner pilot light that I trust completely.
So, when it comes to my art….no rules. If I break a rule while discovering a new way to get ‘there’, by playing outside of the lines, by expanding my experience, while expressing something that is beautiful or ugly to me, in me, then I succeed.
After a full on morning of painting, I need to take a little break. When I’m away, it’s either a walk, a movie, or an adventure. It rests me up for my next painting session.
Today I ventured off to Abbaye de Flaran. It dates back to 1151 and was purchased in 1970 by the Department du Ger for restoration.
I needed more time, but here’s a taste of what I saw.
Now that’s ‘just’ the main floor of the cloister and church. You won’t believe what I saw in the gallery upstairs!
There was also a gorgeous Monet! Where the phot went I don’t know but it was of the sea!
There are so many wonderful surprises to discover in this part of France!
Hello! It’s been a while again, I know. I’ve been writing just not here. I’ll work on that. I’ve been reading and painting and …. nothing consistently right now. I’m a creative tornado at the moment, interrupted from completing anything by my next big idea. Which I start, because I love starting something new…I just usually finish more starts than I have been this year.
For a moment today the wind seemed to lull and I had the opportunity to talk about Walk Through Walls, Marina Abramovic’s Memoir which I have been in the process of reading for a long time. She’s fierce. I can imagine myself fierce, but I would describe myself as something other than that. Dedicated, maybe. Passionate, at times. Dreamer, always. I find Marina’s ferociousness beguiling. She did not allow it to be beaten out of her. At least that’s how she tells her story.
Perhaps I’ll rewrite mine.
Abramovic is a performance artist. She’s worked with Lady Gaga and James DeFranco, and she’s been emulated by Jay-Z. She’s written books, made films, performed in the most famous big city galleries. She’s done important work and developed important contacts. She’s an intellectual, cultured, exotic, opinionated, heard. She experienced Ulay as her Diego. Marina doesn’t just make art, she is art.
It was interesting to think and explain all of this about a woman artist. Have you noticed that the past is filled with famous male artists? If you ever browse Invaluable, take note of how many female artists reside among the men. Take note also that the bulk of those female artists …Carr, Kahlo, Abramovic, O’Keeffe, Cassatt … did not have children.
What do you think about that?
I know what I think. Time for a fierce discussion about stereotyping.
When I was little, my parents had Alvin Toffler’s, Future Shock in their extensive library. Mr. Toffler was right on the mark in preparing me for change; it’s been the touchstone of my life. Every time I feel like I’ve landed, every time I feel that I’ve arrived, every time I’ve experienced contentment, there’s change to deal with.
I was listening to a podcast the other day about choice. About consciously choosing to limit the decisions we make in a day by eating the same breakfast, by wearing the same outfit, by structuring waking hours the same way.
I’ve always found routine dulling to my senses. In the podcast, the speaker specifically referred to Jobs and Zukerberg. (Black turtleneck and hoodie). Can they actually remain creative in the midst of mind numbing routines? Life as art, right? Wrong? I guess I usually find comfort in Blundstones, jeans and a soft, loose shirt. I guess a good cup of expresso and foamy milk is my usual breakfast.
I have always believed I was comfortable with change, welcoming it, jumping into it, what iffing it into being.
Most recently, because my husband works in a town 41/2 hours from our home, we bought a second one. It has stellar ocean views and it’s smaller than our first home which we bought intentionally to house the six children between us.
We are not mortgage free on either, till the death and all that, right? So, to get the second house paying for itself, we suited and put in a carefully curated AirBnB. So far, so good.
As of late October 2018, AirBnB’s in our area are required to pay occupancy taxes. In Port McNeill, it needs to be registered as a business. We then needed to update our home insurance.
Change! Change! Change!
Now, I need to learn to use some simple accounting software. Now, I need to learn how to carefully track spending.
Seriously? All I really want to do is travel and paint, paint and travel…and hang out with my tribe.
I should okay the sale of our southern house. My freedom to travel and paint and hang lies in that act.
It’s just that, it contains. So. Much.
You know, life’s detritus is in that place. And my studio is there. And stories of the past are in the walls and garden. And proximity to my blood tribe, is there.
Have you noticed that because our present and future are so all consuming the past barely exists anymore? Traditions that used to matter so much seem to have dissolved. I can’t even answer the question of why they were important other than to imagine them as the threads that bound the tribe together. Now we have cell phones. We’re in constant contact anyhow. My kids wonder why it’s so important for me to ‘be live’ with them and I wonder where these changes will lead to next.
Life with tribal gatherings is rich in pleasure, memories, history, herstory, mystory, yourstory, and drama. This is where we share and polish our beliefs and values en mass. I think that’s important to the future.
So change. Letting go. Grabbing on….
Where did I leave my Blundstones? I need to go for a walk.