People ask me why I write for artists? The artist's life is woven with 1000 threads and I think only another artist whose been through it can help untangle the lines and put them in order from left to write sentence by sentence. Here's how I started the typical unorganized artist who found ways to slowly weave a beautiful artist's life with creativity not as a distraction but as my asset. It all started just like any artist's story.
I'm a pretty typical artist. I can make pretty much anything and so I had this mindset that I thought might help me be an artist:
I looked for a way to help other people with their ideas in a creative way.
I put all my art, creativity, and dreams in the future tense, while I looked for ways to make my life more stable so I had time to make art. I kept my art studio at home in the "basement."
My story sounded like this: I was once a stay-at-home mom and a pastor's wife. My dream was to have a ranch with a few goats, and someday, in my retirement, write picture books, maybe have a nice art studio, and make time for my rose garden. Meanwhile, I did everything people with art degrees do: I taught preschool, volunteered in a clothing center, worked as a nanny for triplets, worked in the stock room of a clothing store, sold makeup, became a barista, sold art supplies, taught art classes, learned to quilt, became a youth group leader, worked at a grocery store, taught Sunday school, became a janitor, volunteered for free, became a church secretary, interned, walked dogs, painted murals for free, sold art at craft fairs, volunteered with teens, painted portraits, taught VBS, worked as a migrant farmer, took gig jobs, babysat, taught summer camps, lived at a seminary and audited classes, sung in a band, traveled with a drama group, served as adult daycare, joined committees, became a maid, volunteered, stood in food lines, and went back to school for a master's degree in writing. (These are a bit out of order, of course).
One day, I woke up homeless and broke, a single parent. I had no money, no place to live, and very shortly, lost my job for being distracted and distraught while at work, or having to take family leave day. (That might have been two different times.) It was pretty tough. So with the support of my family, I decided to take three months off for a bit of healing. I'd just be a full-time artist and get my head back together. I became New Thing Art Studio. I took an old moldy space in a warehouse that was about to be torn down.
Some people laughed, but that's when something wonderful happened... People started coming to visit my studio. They loved it. They loved talking to me about art. They loved seeing the shows and having classes. They began commissioning me for projects. A man walked by my studio door one day in a beautiful yellow shirt and he said, look at the colors in your studio. My office space needs this kind of energy, will you come to paint a mural for us?
In only a few weeks of being a full-time artist something unusual happened. One of my neighboring studio mates became ill. Some of us visited her in the hospital but when she went home, she didn't recover, she passed away. At her celebration of life, dozens of people shared about how much this artist meant to them. They described what life had been like with an artist around: having dinner parties together; art shows, knitting nights, painting parties. Their community had become a family. The bright-colored paintings so full of life and love were still there, but the artist was not. To me, this was the first time I understood what art was about. It wasn't merely the actual art by itself as I had supposed, it was the artists' life. It was the creativity and energy that the artist gave to her community.
I asked myself. Where did the artist get that energy? It was pretty clear that the artist was energized from making art, from her faith, and her community the people around her.
I began to focus on creativity in a new way. I decided it's not about what I make, what I sell, what I give away-- it's about sharing creativity in a community and living in a way that makes creativity possible for me, whatever that looked like. Then once I had room to be creative in my own life, I could share that insight and energy with others.
I changed my attitudes about art and creativity:
I put my ideas first, treated them as treasures, and honored those ideas by trying them. Whether that was a sketch, a conversation, or actually doing the work. I focused my creativity and imagination on my own personal work first.
Instead of believing that my work came second because it felt unformed or uncertain, I chose to believe that my work was important. Soon it was a priority to share that work, believing that it could inspire someone else, that it was meant to be. That was hard, but I kept at it. This led me to connect with other creatives. Eventually, I learned my skills in writing and talking about art that could empower other artists and creatives who were just like me.
In the last few years those attitudes produce more results than I thought possible:
I won an award for my master's thesis on dreams and the creative process.
I spoke at an international conference
I opened an art studio
Helped found an art gallery/ emerging artist movement
I went from having one art show to coffee shop shows, to galleries, to national and international art shows.
Became a college professor
Started to give lectures
Authored four books, with two more on the way
Opened a publishing company
Spoke on the Radio, then started my own live Radio Show
Edited and Published 12 books
Began coaching authors, poets, and artists
Began curating at multiple galleries & worked with arts advocacy
Started public speaking
and it keeps going...
Did I learn all these skills after I became a full-time artist? No. I had a lot of that knowledge already. But I had been hiding it while I helped others, thinking my skills weren't as important. Soon, the experience of being a visual artist in the community, listening to others, trying new things, collaborating, made each new thing possible.
Today I speak about creativity, art, and writing, lead workshops. With over ten years of writing and editing experience, clients find my ability to be right in the center between artist and editor to be extremely helpful.
Invite me to speak about creativity or writing at your arts-related event.