As each day marches on beyond the health ordeal I’ve recently gone through, I begin to see some of the shake down or repercussions of it all. It might be described as having experienced a sifting of sorts, and what remains in the sifter is the pure wheat. It’s an ongoing process though, and I’m just sharing with you as I go along.
I can’t remember if I’ve ever told you about my achilles heel: an inner drive to have a career in Art. I call it my “achilles heel” because it has plagued me for many years now: An overarching desire and longing to have an established career as an Artist in a particular creative path. The thing is, as much as you may not believe it, this career in Art has always eluded me. My definition of “career” has a lot to do with being gainfully employed by a full-time endeavor. I have chased down numerous paths (portrait artist, knit & crochet designer, exhibiting/gallery artist, art & yarn teacher, etc.) and none of them have really “taken off”, or at least met the expectations I have in my mind for what a career in that vein would look like. I do realize the flaws in this type of thinking, but there it is, for better or for worse…I have wanted (and if I’m honest with you, I still do want) an Art Career.
But it has become clear to me in these days following sickness and surgery, that what I truly want far more than a career in art, is a life of art! And though it may not seem to be too different, there are significant differences in how I think about the two. I won’t type it all out here. I’ll let you read through my poorly photographed list I made in my writing journal. Some of these might resonate with you. Some may not. It has been good to put the two “focuses” side by side and see the difference. They seem huge to me. I think the one that most excites me about having an artful life, as opposed to a narrowly focused career, is that I am free to hop in and out of all the things I love to make whether it’s drawings and paintings, or knit & crochet designs, or Genevieve illustrations, etc.
The freedom of this makes me giddy! And whenever the siren song of “must have career” begins to play in my head, I recall that my artful life allows me to be who I am, creative ADD and all! In fact, an Artful Life is really what I’ve had for many years yet couldn’t see it because of my drive to establish a career. Perhaps now I can let go of the career-path dictums, and just enjoy what I have.
I’ll be posting on this topic, An Artful Life, as I continue to flesh out what it means (for me) to live Artfully. I do not in any way mean to say that if you have an Art Career you can’t have an Artful Life! Or vice-versa! But I’m just exploring, for my own benefit, the differences as I have attempted for many years to establish a career in a particular “art”. It has seemed that I ran into roadblocks so many times, or that I had to choose only one art to focus my marketing and selling energies.
**So…do you have this affliction? This drive to establish yourself as capital A Artist in a particular area of the arts? Does it plague you? How do you deal with it? Do you find freedom from having to have an Art career and if so, in what way? I’d love to hear… 🙂 Or, if you do have a career in the arts, do you feel you are also able to have an artful life? Please leave your thoughts in the comments…I might quote you in upcoming posts.;)
0 thoughts on “An Artful Life”
Amazing thoughts, dear one! Wish you were on the faculty at NCSA. KEEP ON YOUR PATH! You are teaching us that God’s CREATIVITY is not just painting or acting or singing or writing but in “relationship”. Careers focus on self. The Artful Life focuses all that I embrace.
I love how you worded that–“Careers focus on self, Artful Living focuses on all that I embrace.” Thanks Dad!
” on” all that I embrace.
You clarified thoughts that have been circling in my head for a while. A while ago I found a book “Refuse to Choose” which explores the difference between si gle-minded (“I’ve always wanted to be a doctor” types) and the Renaissance mindset (“Jack of all Trades” types). It is a fascinating look at the respect shift from the latter to the former after WWll. It is a celebration of exploration of a creative self as you describe so beautifully as “An Artful Life” vs career.
My daughter, a writer struggling to complete her first novel, helps me stay “on track” with my drawing skills. She says, do that ciest, then explore. she’ll call and say: “I love that you want to do a bi-lingual ABC book for Gimevra… polymer clay ornaments… baskets… Paper cutting… Origami… Study Italian. What have you drawn today?
Refuse to choose …and live an artful life. 😉
Your work has blossomed I always look forward to your posts. Thank you
Oh thank you Phyllis for this lovely affirmation! I may have to get that book! I do think a bit of focus is a good thing to see a particular project through to its end, but kept within an entire life of creativity. Thanks so much!!
I love your “two lists” method – I use that for so many things. I love following your blog and seeing your beautiful art. It often inspires me to try things out of my comfort zone. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you so much Linda!!!
Thank you so much for this post. It is encouraging to me. I can relate to your “Achilles heel” in so many areas of my life. I was born with the drive to draw. It was the one thing I could do with ease, and it helped me to process the input from life around me in a visual way. I never had the desire or ability to do anything other than art with excellence. It has been a discouraging road for me because it seems that everything in life drains time and energy and works against making any real progress, or accomplishing anything significant with this gift. And that leads to a mixed bag of disappointment and guilt for feeling like I have not developed the talent given me and a struggle with resentment toward the energy-draining elements in my life. One time I was expressing this frustration to my mother, who I cared for for 6 years during her end of life decline. Even in her condition, she was able to offer me a piece of wisdom that helps to ease my frustration somewhat. She suggested that maybe my art was more about how it made people feel than about accomplishing some large goal. That perspective helps me to see value in even the smallest creative effort, shared, which makes the recipient happier, more peaceful or to feel more loved. I still struggle with the “Achilles heel” feeling, and I am still driven. I feel alive when I am creating. I feel like I’m on “hold” when I am dealing with stresses, pressures and drudgery. But I am trying to focus more on creativity as a therapeutic process, and an expression from inside rather than a dictate from outside. And, when I remember, I try to think of everything other than my art as resource material and a growth in perspective to feed my art. It is a day to day progress.
I appreciate your willingness to share.
Fay, I am so with you in this journey! Thank you for your openness in sharing this! Somehow, when we know others who struggle in this same way, the burden seems a bit lighter , since we can encourage each other along the way to living an Artful life and letting go of the demands of striving for Art as a career! Thanks to you!
I so wanted a career in art when I was young but had to get out there and get a “proper” job to earn some money. As I could not have a job in art I gave up and stopped creating. I did take it up again a few years ago in my spare time but again I have struggled for the past year as life and work get in the way. I love your description of an artful life which is inspiring as is your lovely blog. I look forward to reading more. Thank you!
Hi Marie! I so understand where you’re coming from. I am wanting to continue to find ways to bring my art INTO the very things that “get in the way”. I’ll be discussing that more in upcoming posts. Thank you so much for visiting and commenting!
I try to remind myself that “your purpose in life isn’t necessarily your job”. We seem to think automatically that our calling is also supposed to feed us.
I like that thought, Pia! Purpose, Calling, and Job are not necessarily one in the same thing! Thanks for commenting!
Thank you Jennifer for such a lovely and thoughtful post. (Thank you too to Phyllis for mentioning the book about refusing to choose – I often feel a failure for being a Jack of all Trades because it feels as if I have mastered nothing, but this might allow a different perspective.) I send many good wishes for you in living the artful life, which – with its emphasis on giving and just being in the moment, allowing art to unfold within and because of whatever limitations our circumstances place on us – sounds a light-filled, wholesome way to live.
Sounds like there are not so few of us closet “renaissance” people around after all! 🙂
Some really deep thoughts and it’s sweet for you to share with us. For me, I love art too much so I am saving the best for last….retirement 🙂
It’s because I want to do it as I would like to do it, no obligation, only expression. If I am doing art for living, I’ll be expressing for others at first…but chances are I will be too customer oriented that I will just end up being a hand with pencils and brushes for others and nothing more.
Well, that’s just my take anyway. I just don’t feel like ruining my hobby by making it the only way for me to earn a living. I mean it’d be great if I can have fun while working, but if I am working for others, chances are I won’t have fun anyway. It’s like I love going to the mall, but if I am working AT the mall, I’d hate going to mall.
Hi Alex! Thank you for sharing this! I completely understand what you’re saying and it seems a very healthy way of thinking about being an artist and the place of your art in your life. I am glad that you continue to draw as you are able given all that has been going on in your life. When you retire, you’ll probably be freer to draw all the family members, places you love, etc. Thanks again for visiting Alex!
Jen I love this blogpost! I’ve been making art for over seventy years now, been exhibited nationally, regionally, locally, won awards, all that. But to me that’s actually not about a “career” so much as about living the life of art.
I’ve also usually had a fulltime day job, and a small business, at times a sick husband and special needs child to support, but the art was my driving force, even when I didn’t have big stretches of time to work on it. It’s always going on in my mind, and whether I sell or not, whether I teach a workshop or not, the art goes on almost without my having any say in it!
I do see a difference, though, in making art as a way of making a living, which is making artmainly designed to sell, and making the art that’s inside you. If they coincide, that’s nice, but I believe they often don’t. And I choose to make the art I need to make.
Having a career in art without making your living at it, that’s very possible! but I do think people tend to mix up the two, and think that sales mean you’re “getting somewhere” when they really only mean you made some sales. Not relevant to the trajectory of your art at all. Your soul is what matters, and at the end of your life knowing that you used the talent that is in you the best way you knew how.
Marvelous observations Liz! This is priceless insight from someone who has lived an Artful Life for over seventy years! Thank you so much for sharing this here!
Oh my, you have really opened a hot topic. I was a professional calligrapher for more than 25 years. There is a lot of stress to “get it right and perfect”. I was able to do this this freelance work at home while I raised our boys. No, the household would not have survived on my earnings. Finally I retired and no longer has the stress of checking for phone calls and filing taxes for my business. Now, I have more freedom to play with different media and enjoy my different interests without the guilt of always trying to master each subject. Enjoy the moment:)
I love hearing from folks who have lived this Artful Life for many years. I do think of Calligraphy as an art! I did some calligraphy for pay when my kids were wee tiny, and I enjoyed it except for the pressure of the deadline. Thank you for taking the time to share this Sandra!
Great thoughts on something I have always wrestled with. We let others define success as money and the ability to pay the bills, but that is not success in art or creativity. I have gotten things clear in my mind at times, that I am blessed to be able to make stuff and enjoy the process, then get side-tracked when I think or others comment that I could sell this or that and make money. I need to reply, to myself and others, and kindly, that it’s not why I made it. Such a hard lesson for me to learn. Thank you for your ability to put into words these things we all struggle with. Your writing is a blessing. (And you could make money from it—JUST KIDDING!!) No, really, your need and desire to write about this is part of your process and art. Thank you for sharing this art with us.
Thank you for your lovely comments Linda! I seeme to want to turn any of my creative endeavors into money-making ventures. I think I have a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit, but cannot seem to tame it into only one focus. I am enjoying being set free to simply create, whether it is drawing, painting, knitting, or even writing! (‘Cause I really do love blogging”:) Thank you for continuing to visit heree!
Oh Jennifer! It is as if you are writing what’s either in my head or has been at some time. I’ve written about this on my blog at some point, or at least skirted around it. I have recently gotten divorced, moved, started a new job, and am getting married in 3 weeks — all in less than 3 months!!!! This has had almost the same effect on me as your hospitalization has had for you. I am a different person with a totally different perspective on just about everything. I’ve learned what matters most – the people you love and trust and LIVING life. Afraid to live and accept that God wants good in my life, afraid to make mistakes (more mistakes) I hid. I hid away and ran from the love that was being lavished on me. It was as if by suffering and being alone I could make myself safe or free. That “freedom” turned out to be the worst kind of bondage. In the process of moving I have pared down my tremendous amount of art supplies and as I took things out of one house and put them into the new house, I was able to do this slowly and contemplatively. Paring down as I went. The old house represented my old life, and as I move stuff and go back to the old house less and less of what was there seems important to me. I’m letting go of books – so many books, and I’m letting go of this need to prove myself a “real artist”, I’m letting go of using art as an escape from having to deal with an angry controlling and verbally abusive husband. I’m embracing this joy that is welling up in me – this feeling of safety and security and freedom that I’ve never known could be possible! I’m allowing myself to be loved and cared for. I have been given this beautiful sunroom with a table and a bookshelf and some storage for my art supplies. And I’m focusing on my journals and sketchbooks – writing, and water-coloring, and drawing, and taking hikes and walks and drawing or just gaining inspiration for future sketches. My husband to be as of August 3 is a photographer, a very spiritual man who loves the Lord Jesus and who loves me and my daughter and our doggie Tucker so much that he has opened his beautiful home to us and welcomed us with a love we have never dreamed possible. We are safe. I am safe to be me. Creative or not, a “real artist” or not. I’ve lived 43 years striving and struggling and trying to “be” so many things I was not. I’ve realized that God never gave me my art to make a living at it, he gave it to me as a gift to worship Him, to enjoy, and to share the way He leads me. I will continue to do what feeds my soul, filling sketchbooks, writing, and expressing what is inside me. Thank God for this one wonderful life! I want to live the rest of it loving and being loved and being who I am – one day at a time. I actually think if I “made it big” as an artist, I’d be quite miserable. And if I didn’t have my wonderful job as an executive secretary – a state job that allows me to have money for what I need and much of what I want – insurance to buy medication – leave to spend time with my family – then I would be stressed and even more miserable. I know there are lots of artists who have careers. I follow Joanne Sharpe – an amazing artist who travels the world over now teaching and participating in all sorts of artful endeavors. Her recent booming success just leaves me with my mouth dropped open in awe of her. She has boundless energy it seems. She’s been featured in many publications recently. She is so inspiring… but if I had to travel like that and keep that kind of a schedule – I would have a severe nervous and physical breakdown in about a week. She is suited to that lifestyle. I know that I am NOT. I am a homebody who leads a very quiet life really, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. So that is my long comment to this. Thank you for inspiring me. Don’t go back to that way of thinking. It truly is rather self-defeating I’ve found. I wish you all the best.
Wow, Deborah! You have really been through some major life changes!! I am so thrilled to hear of where you have landed and that you are in a much better place! And I’m so glad you are happy in your creativity! That’s the best! I hope you continue drawing and painting your happy pages and sharing them when you feel like it! And I’m glad you keep popping in here and taking te time to comment! Thank you for sharing about your life!! Many blessings to you in your new life!!
Thank you Jennifer! I am happier than I have EVER been. I want to get back into my blogging and sketching, life is busy right now – but hopefully things will adjust soon. I’m enjoying these times so much! Your art and your Letters to the Artist are such a tremendous inspiration to me. Please keep writing and sharing. I hope to be back into my blog soon. Thanks for sharing all these thoughts on the Artful Life – I think you are RIGHT ON target!