Monday, January 19, 2015

Creating a Safe Place

Hello, fellow creative souls! Today we begin!
How are you feeling? Excited? Nervous?
Rest assured that first day jitters are totally normal.

The theme for the week is creating a safe place for the artist in you to come out and play.

I am going to ease into this process myself and stick to the very basic tasks. Of course, feel free to do more. This is go-at-your-own-pace-choose-your-own-adventure experience. Remember? You can't mess this up as long as you do it. You can do it!

The important action item for this chapter is protecting the artist you are so that your early efforts are encouraged. Julia says judging these early artistic efforts is artist abuse! So NO JUDGEY! Go gently and slowly. Find an encouraging and accepting audience, if any at all.

Chapter One Debrief
Chapter one explores safety and fear. Julia starts off sharing various stories of "shadow artists," people she knows who were too afraid to pursue their art because they did not receive the proper encouragement so instead become art collectors or art teachers or art therapists or who marry/date artists. Shadow artists go into advertising, become illustrator/photography reps etc. etc. etc.

Often, we block an aspect of ourselves because it feels safer. This is very true for me. I was one of those people. I've been in advertising and marketing for the last 20 years! ;P Conversely, that must mean that being/becoming an artist felt unsafe to me for some reason.

My morning pages and reflecting on this really helped me to identify the negative ideas/beliefs I have had about artists. It was a mystery to me since I was one of the fortunate ones. I had a family that actually celebrated my art! My grandmother enrolled me in art classes all summer long all through my childhood. I had a great art teacher at my elementary school. My family really wanted me to get my MFA and were kinda disappointed (I think) that I decided to go into advertising instead. My aunt was the one who gave me The Artist's Way all those years ago. So in my case, the problem was not my family and friends.

I discovered that my negative beliefs about artists came from art school! Here's what I "learned" in art school:
artists are weird
artists don't have ordinary lives
artists have to suffer to make art worth making
artists are poor

Let me paint the picture for you (pun intended). My painting instructor was Ed Paschke. One of my T.A.'s was Audrey Niffeneger. They are both totally weird! And I say that with the deepest respect, considering that Ed was the first living artist to have a retrospective at The Art Institute of Chicago. And Audrey... she did write a NYT bestseller that was made into a movie. Also, I'm pretty sure that they both would wear "weird" like a badge of honor!

There was that. And then there was the graduate student in my program who was so brilliant and amazing and I wanted to be just like him until I found out he was homeless and bathed himself in the sink in his studio.

So it was a math problem:
A = artists are weird/crazy/unstable
B = i don't want to be weird and/or unstable
A + B = i am NOT an artist

Considering I had organized my entire life around becoming as normal as possible and around the avoidance of suffering (I know, crazy me), becoming an artist did not feel good to me.

So. Advertising.

What's happened? What changed since then?
I aged... I grew up, might be a kinder way to say it.
20 years happened.
And marriage, kids, divorce.
People I loved died.
You know, life!

But seriously, I spent up until my mid-30's doing the "normal" thing and that didn't really work out so well. I've spent the last six or so years licking my wounds and reclaiming all the weird things about myself that, as it turns out, makes me who I am. I started hanging out with amazing artists like Jen and Sharon and Janet. I did a lot of soul searching, meditating, etc. etc. and I discovered that just as we are our own worst enemies, we can also be our own best allies.

All those negative beliefs have corresponding positive beliefs that I could just as easily adopt...
artists are weird artists are unique and magical
artists don't have ordinary lives artists have extraordinary lives
artists have to suffer to make art worth making life will have suffering. artists transmute suffering into expressions of humanity.
artists are poor artists are rich in everything that makes it possible for my soul to breathe.

Sorry that this debriefing became the brief synopsis of my life. But I thought it might help if I shared my process through the chapter. Perhaps it will help you ponder similarly...

What am I afraid of? Why?
Where did I get these negative ideas/beliefs about art?
Can I hold a different possibility, even if only for today?

Here are the prompts for this week. Feel free to share your discoveries in the comments below for the rest of the week... or not.

So happy you're reading this right now.
Happy MLK Jr. Day and...
Til next time, stay wild and and weird,

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