Shakespeare said it but I never really knew what it meant until I decided to retire from teaching a week ago. I sat on my patio in Florida and looked up ‘Be’ in Webster’s and it said, “to exist”. After pinching myself, I realized I do exist but that was not the information I needed. My friends said that I should just ‘be’ and rest, to refocus and shift my gears. Well, I am an action person, so refocusing to me means change direction, plan, execute the plan and grow.
I have a mirky art plan so it is not well anchored; I have some idea of how I should start but it has shadows at the edges and I need to envision it more clearly. How then can I proceed to the growth stage? In a nutshell, I am back to where I started, ‘to be’.
If you want to learn how to make art, I can teach you. If you want to know how to find your artistic voice, I can show you. If you want to understand how to put together an artist’s portfolio, I can explain it. If you want to know how to write an artist’s statement, I can instruct you. So, why can’t I figure out what I am going to do next in retirement? I guess it will include all of the above that I was going to teach you. Who was it who said,”Round and round we go, and where we stop, nobody knows?”
First, I need to see myself as an artist again. I have been a teacher, a Registered Nurse and I lived in those identities for years. Sometimes, I was comfortable to switch back an forth and still create. This is different. I need to ‘see’ myself as a professional artist. I have all the head knowledge and I even taught it for years. However, the proving ground for me, is NOW. In teaching, we call this part of the learning process synthesis; applying what we have learned. Is this where you are?
Growing in art is like growing from a baby to a toddler and then into puberty and finally to an adult. It takes time and living in it until it becomes yours. This is a decision time for you. Every artist reaches this point of choice. If you just like to play in art because it is pleasurable, then do it. If you really have a passion for it and want to get serious and grow, that will take commitment and dedication but the payoff is big. You will have an inner satisfaction that you are using the gift that the Creator gives every one of us. I truly believe this! I have seen it unleashed in my students and they were amazed with themselves. Believe it is there. Believe you have it and can use it. Trust.
Art is a high calling,
Fear is coincidental.
From ‘Art Without Fear’
“..Becoming an artist consists of learning to accept
yourself, which makes your work personal, and in
following your own voice, which makes your work
If you need to get your head strait, read “Art Without Fear”, a book by Bayles and Ortlund. It deals with fear of non-acceptance when it comes to your art. Friend, this was where I was years ago and it resulted in artist’s block, big time.
My breakthrough came when I decided to head for the hills of No. Carolina and take a workshop with Mary Todd Beam who was making a name for herself in the art world. It was as if she gave me permission “play” in art and just copy what I saw. The result was freedom FROM myself. I could use the colors I liked, not what the ‘local’ color really was. I could ramp the colors up until they became a riot of patterns and shapes. I could leave out parts, invent other parts, combine images or paint them in a circular composition. I could do what I wanted…within reason.
Art still needs to have some basic principles to be of excellent quality. Does the word ‘excellent’ scare you? Relax. For instance, you will need to understand composition and how colors react next to each other. YouTube is a great resource for learning art principles. Only don’t copy another’s work.
Copying other artist’s ideas really hurts the creative spirit. It is permissible if you are learning principles from the masters. Artists will actually go to museums to copy a master painting to understand their concepts. However, this is mainly for educational reasons. Beware! The net is filled with images and copying another artwork and making minor changes does not make it YOUR artwork. I constantly had to explain this to my students. They loved to copy art because it made them feel more secure. So, I gave them the 70-30% rule. That meant seventy percent was to be their idea, enough so that the original artist could recognize it as theirs.
Coming back from the North Carolina workshop was my turning point. I began to get accepted into national competitions and even had my work published in Rockport Publisher’s, ‘Best Of’ series. At that point, I was able to paint eight hours a day and was growing my style until funds ran out and I needed to return to teaching art in the public schools to sustain my art career. Most artists have to be realistic and work. You will need to figure out your personal schedule. If you love to create, you will find a way. Just don’t stop.
I am on voice rest for four days. I have laryngitis, an irritation of my vocal cords. When I answer the phone, people can’t hear me. They do not identify me, even as a family member. You see, our voice is part of who we are and I do not sound like ‘myself’.
Did you know the art we create also has a voice? It identifies us by our style, the colors we use, the forms and symbols we seem to incorporate again an again. I live in Florida and get to often visit to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg,FL. Dali’s symbols were the black ant, a flaming giraffe and wooden crutches and butterflies. I bought a mobile of butterflies there and it hangs in my studio. These were his symbols and it makes me think of him.
I will be referring to Creative Voice in more of my blogs because I realized that many artists do not even “see” their Voice. So what is ‘voice’? It is the quality of your art that seems to repeat itself in every artwork you make. It identifies you. I plan to also blog about why you seem to paint what you paint and how you respond to your preferences inwardly. This will help to define why you make the art you do. So visit often.
How do I reinvent myself after teaching visual arts for 24 years, with an RN degree somewhere in the middle? There was a period when I painted full time and was part of a professional artist group that met for critique once a week. I did a lot of juried shows and won a number of awards. I was also teaching art part time. When schools were cutting budgets in the art programs of the 70’s in lieu of science and math, I decided it would not be long when I would be out of a job. I was not interested in the commercial art field but I had a longtime desire to study the sciences and become a nurse.
One day, this “duck out of water” realized that I wanted back into teaching visual arts again so I quit my job with two great surgeons, and immediately found myself hired as an art teacher. Then it evolved into full time if I wanted to keep a job. Fast forward……High school kiddos can wear you out! My creative juices were gone by the evening and soon I lost my desire to do any painting after work. February 2017 I decided it was time to retire from teaching and try to paint again full time and that is where I am as I write this. I want to find a market that fits ME and the experimental painting that I do. The new art speak word is presently called “intuitive painting”. This simply means I just start with a loaded palette and a canvas and go at it. What colors are the flavor of the day? What concept will I explore? How many under-paintings will I make until I declare definitively , “I’m done. Will anyone like it? Nooo-noooo! Don’t go there,” I tell myself. I have 50 years of art experience under my belt. Just because my venue is changed, I have not!
I decided to trust my experience and knowledge plus the God-given talent that was packed, then squished and then reborn in me. You can begin anywhere in your life span to create. There is no numerical rule. Grandma Moses started in her 80’s. Tell me about your experiences in the comment section, please.