I participated with Leah Piken Kolidas on her Art Every Day Month on Creative Every Day. I created a daily painting for thirty days. They are all universal themes we encounter in life. I’ll be using them in a new product line I am creating called Exploring My Options. The images will be used to help people identify themes in their lives and work with them more effectively. Here is the whole month of paintings.
I’ve danced with being a professional artist for many years. I’ve always made income from some aspect of my artwork, but it has never been successful enough to be the only thing I do. There are a couple of things about being a studio artist that have never worked for me. One is being alone in my studio, and then having the thing I do when I go out is try to sell. I’ve done galleries, craft shows, studio sales. A big part of it is listening to people criticize your work. It’s too expensive, their kids could have done it, it’s not a particular style that they like, its not the right color to match the couch. Most artists can list a similar litany. Standard stuff.
Art school prepared me. I went to class where teachers and fellow students told me everything that is wrong with whatever I had done. At the end of every semester we had to hang all our work in a room so the faculty and imported critics from New York could discuss what we had done. I remember watching classmates come out of those rooms in tears. I remember walking out of those rooms in tears. I remember nothing that was said or what we were supposed to learn from it.
I have a recurring nightmare where a team from my art school come to revoke my degree because I don’t do work up to their standards. I graduated 27 years ago. Might have a few scars?
Posting on Facebook and Twitter
I created a gallery on Zenfolio where people could order prints of VisualsSpeak photographs and the artwork from Exploring My Options. It has the ability to post links and photos on Facebook and Twitter. I had already been painting every other day for six months, so to add some extra challenge for myself, I decided I would post links to the painting I had finished the day before.
I discovered some interesting things right away. Several people who know me fairly well didn’t know it was my artwork. Even though I define my self as an artist first, other people didn’t. To them I am a facilitator, trainer, educator, even a blogger.
Two of my art school roommates are friends on Facebook. I haven’t been in touch with them until recently. I found myself wondering if they would turn me in to the art school we attended for doing unacceptable art. (This has nothing to do with my roommates, and everything to do with their association with the old place.) I’m pretty sure that doing art to facilitate conversation wouldn’t be real popular. Too utilitarian. Certainly too affordable. Not acceptable high art at all. Part of me knew it was not rational. Then the dream came back again. They are coming to get my art degree.
People are only saying nice things
Right away people started clicking the like button on Facebook. Leaving encouraging comments. Others retweeted the links on Twitter and added comments there. People left comments on the Zenfolio site. Sent emails. 36 different people commented 159 times on Facebook. 29 more commented 47 times on the gallery. Lots more on Twitter.
I don’t have any illusion about everyone liking my work. I know it has a particular style and is not going to be for everyone. Which is fine, normal, expected.What was unexpected was not having any idea how to respond to all the nice comments. I had never put my work out anywhere before and received just positive feedback. I’m sure the other comments were there, but I didn’t get them. People don’t seem to go to the trouble to make nasty comments very often online.
I started to realize the impact of the years of criticism. There is a place in my core that had hardened and frozen in response. The professional me that learned to suck it up and deflect it elsewhere. Halfway through the month, one of those college roommates started commenting on my work. The anxiety around the imagined diploma repossessors started to ease.
The last day of the month
It was just an off day. Full moon, too much to do, I could come up with stories and reasons. Underneath it, I was grieving the end of this time where I was feeling consistent encouragement. Then I got an email from a friend who liked my work and asked about prices. Later another friend bought a print.
Toward dinner time, my friend and creativity colleague Barbara Martin sent her newsletter with this piece of wisdom:
you must believe in your own heart and mind, with your entire being, that time spent on your creativity is essential. Non-negotiable.
She even includes permission slips…. I realized I could continue to create my own priority. Continue to post my work just because I wanted to, just to share it with the world.
After dinner, I got a note on Facebook from my freshman roommate, who shared my textile major throughout the rest of my time there. I’m sure she had no idea how profound her note or timing was.
…I enjoy looking at your artwork. How do have the time do do it all? They are very nice….Nice job Kiddo.
It was like a dam broke and I couldn’t stop crying. It released pieces from the years of enduring harsh comments, the pain I still carried from so long ago. I had no idea it was all in there. The frozen pieces started releasing with a torrent of emotion.
My husband came in and turned on the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. I watched it through my tears, relating to the Grinch in a whole new way. Seeing how I have embodied and hardened pieces of the creative in me. Feeling how kindness and simple reaching out had softened those places and created new openings.
I feel a huge amount of gratitude for all the heart Leah put into creating the Art Every Day Month. Especially this year when she had a number of challenges in her own life. I discovered some incredible artists who participated, and look forward to getting to know each of you and your work better.
I also want to thank all the people who took the time to post comments and encouragement on Facebook, Twitter and the gallery. Words don’t express how important it has been, how powerful for me to receive them. Special thanks go to Tim and Amy, my roommates from long ago. I’m so glad you aren’t sending the diploma repossessors!
I plan to continue to post artwork. I’d like to find a bit more balance, since I couldn’t quite find the focus to write while producing so many visuals. It’s a process of discovery. Of re-balancing. Stay tuned.