Monday, November 18, 2013

The Thing About Art

I think I repeat this to myself every day. It's very, very true. Any of you ever wonder what it is like for me to be a newlywed, painting and knitting my heart out, and owning my own company? I'm scared to death. Every day I think, "What if I don't turn a profit by the end of they year?" Or, equally terrifying, "What if I do?"I don't really have an answer to either of my scary questions, but that's okay. That's part of it, too--I plunge forward (somewhat wildly at times), and pray I'll figure it out as I go.

But why is art so scary? I think all of us recognize that it is, that's why, when I taught nature study in high school, I heard more parents say "I can't paint" than I heard first graders say the same thing. As we grow up and become self-concious, we realize that art is scary. I don't know who Chuck Palanhiuk is, but I think he said something valuable:

"Your handwriting. The way you walk. Which china pattern you choose. 
It's all giving you away. 
Everything you do shows your hand.
Everything is a self-portrait. 
Everything is a diary."

Art gives us away so much that we feel the vulnerability. Every brushstroke, every stitch in my shop gives me away. Gives away that my strength is in details--not motion--when I paint, that I knit too tightly, that I'm more "classic" and less "trendy" (I try, really I do. Ask my best friend about my new leather moto jacket).

But does my art show that I am a business woman, a professional, a skilled artisan? Sometimes I don't know, but I sure hope so. While I love and respect the thousands of "hobby" sellers on Etsy, I do want something bigger. This is my job. And a lot of times, I'm scared to death. But I want it to be more than that, too...

I'm an English major with a streak of teacher in me, so I love to summarize. Here we go:
1) Art is scary. 
2) Art gives us away. 

But that's not all (if it were, we'd crawl into our fear and never create again, right?).
3) Art is valuable. Because it gives you away, it also gives your audience a way to connect with you more deeply. We artists take a big risk, and sometimes it hurts, but sometimes we are given the chance to speak from where we are or have been to someone else who really needed to hear what we had to say. 

Sidestory: I have this friend named Melissa who is a wonderful and insightful artist. One time, when I was 15, she showed me a painting of a large English cottage. Something about it struck deep in my soul, and I knew, in that moment, she had done more than paint stones, water, and grass, as beautiful as they were. In that painting, this house was hope and Home (for more on those themes, go here). I wrote on my bucket list that night: "Live in the house from Melissa's painting." I meant this figuratively in the keep-my-eyes-on-Heaven sort of way, but I also meant this literally in the visit-that-house-in-the-Lakes-District way. Have you seen these?

 See that top left card? That's the house I was talking about. It's called Stepping Stones (the stones across the river are the ones Wordsworth wrote about), and it's about a mile outside of Ambleside in the Lakes District. About 5 years after I first saw Melissa's painting, I spent a week living in the Garden Cottage of Stepping Stones after 5 weeks of studying at Oxford. And why was my heart set on spending time there? Because of ART. Because a painting grabbed me and wouldn't let go.

I hope I can paint things that inspire hopes and dreams like that someday. 

Finally, Wordsworth's "The Stepping Stones:" 

          THE struggling Rill insensibly is grown
          Into a Brook of loud and stately march,
          Crossed ever and anon by plank or arch;
          And, for like use, lo! what might seem a zone
          Chosen for ornament--stone matched with stone
          In studied symmetry, with interspace
          For the clear waters to pursue their race
          Without restraint. How swiftly have they flown,
          Succeeding--still succeeding! Here the Child
          Puts, when the high-swoln Flood runs fierce and wild,
          His budding courage to the proof; and here
          Declining Manhood learns to note the sly
          And sure encroachments of infirmity,
          Thinking how fast time runs, life's end how near!

Art on, mes amis! :-)

Adventure well; Live fully,

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