I can say that I have been fumbling my way toward living out my creative dreams for quite some time now. I hesitate to create a list like this because I'm not sure I've arrived anywhere, but I do get asked quite a bit about this topic. The journey of learning to confidently sell art and design has taught me a few things along the way about pursuing your passions. Here is a little checklist to refer back to as you reach for your own unique creative pursuits.
1. Call yourself the name God gave you
It took me a long time to realize that it is not the level or proficiency that makes you something but it's your heart's desire for it. The proficiency will come. I used to feel like it was haughty or prideful to say I was an artist if I hadn't arrived at some level of expertise or reached some imaginary level of sales. Now, I understand that I am an artist because that is what I'm passionate about and how I am wired to work. Love playing the cello? You are a cellist! Call yourself what you were born to do -- even if it's not yet your day job.
2. Schedule It
The best advice I can give for making your dreams move forward is to schedule a time to work on that thing you love. I was peddling the same tired pieces of art around for years because I could never seem to sit down to paint something fresh. Once I really took a good, hard look at what I was spending my time doing I was saddened to see how little of it I was spending with the things I loved. I had to start scheduling time to visit my Grandma, garden in the yard and paint. So I made Friday my day to visit my precious, wild Grandma, I made Wednesday my watercolor day and Saturday afternoons are now a time to get outside and turn some dirt. Magic. I found that once I started paintings on Wednesday it was easy to sit down on Sunday afternoons and pick up where I had left off. I have a thing about hating to start projects without having much time to work on them. I needed to break out of that mentality and just schedule a time to sit down and get to work, even if it meant it would only be for an hour or two. I'm not much of a routine type of person, but it certainly is very effective in this capacity. Perhaps I should apply this same method to making out of town phone calls to friends and family. : )
3. Find a venue to experiment with
Partnering with friends some 7 years ago to create RagTag Rubies was one of my best career decisions. Even though I am no longer working directly with these ladies, the experience and confidence I gained watching them work and make decisions was invaluable. It has enabled me to find what I'm strong in and what I'm not. It allowed me to fight through the frustrating moments of comparing and despairing. Now I experiment with art shows and markets on my own, taking the skills I learned from RagTag Rubies with me. There is nothing like hearing first hand people's feedback and comments about your creations. It opens your eyes to what other folks are drawn to, what sells and what doesn't. I'm always creating things that I personally love, but I try to stay open to tweak my classes and art to fit what speaks to other people.
4. Try things that scare you
If I had to pick one verse in the bible that gives me courage it is this one:
1 Chronicles 28:20 tells us to "Be strong and courageous and get to work for the Lord my God is with you. He will not forsake you. He will see to it that everything is finished correctly." Ahhhh… I'm not out here alone and God's got my back. That thought gives me such peace. I know for certain that I would not have had the success that I have if it were not for constantly pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Doing so opens doors you never would have knocked on. I choose to say yes to speaking in public forums, yes to leading and teaching groups and yes to painting in public. Just don't try to do it all in one week … I'm learning.
5. Pace Yourself
I'm speaking to myself here. I'm impatient in many things, but one thing I've learned is to keep moving forward in spite of set backs. The general forward momentum will add up over time! As we all know, Rome wasn't built in a day, and we can't always manage to "carpe-diem." We have tooth aches, work, sick kids, car breakdowns and long to- do lists. We have to give ourselves the grace to sometimes flop on the couch at the end of the day and not have gotten anything remotely creative accomplished. Just keep in mind that some days you'll just have to "carpe-cras" (seize tomorrow) instead.
6. Pray Continually
I'm going to be vulnerable here and just write what I generally pray regarding my career every morning: "Lord, direct me. Let my work glorify you in all that I do. Let me accomplish more by doing less and make good use of my time. Please show me what to say 'yes' and 'no' to. I pray that you would give me the creativity I need to complete … this project or that one (whatever I am working on at the time) May my work refresh and inspire others."
7. Find Rest
Eeek … Now I'm really calling the kettle black. Maybe I should have entitled this, Don't Be A Lunatic. Those close to me can tell you that I struggle with this one the most. I'm learning slowly that rest reconnects us with God, makes us more productive and leads us to inspiration and defining moments. By not over saturating our schedules, we create those blessed open spaces to breathe and reflect. Sometimes this means freeing ourselves from the opinion of others. My husband has been helping me with that one because he wont' be bullied into over scheduling himself -- darn him. See No.2 to make sure that rest happens!
Which of these points is most challenging to you?
For those who were out at the market the past few weeks you may have seen me working on this vintage gumball machine. Because so many people have asked if I was the artist, I decided a few weeks ago to sit and paint at my booth. It's been a very rewarding experience that I know I would have been too stressed to enjoy a few years ago. In fact, I'm finding that the starting and stopping while chatting with customers has actually helped me to relax more while I paint!
I can't tell you how many children pass by and talk to me about loving art and wanting to paint too. They share about how they like to draw but wish they could get their paint sets out more. I'm thinking that I may just have to set up a little table with watercolors and paper for some of them to have fun with! A parent may hesitate to let their kids play with mess-making things at home, but out at a farmers market ... the kids are most likely sticky from the kettle corn and dirt already.
Most of the parents I meet have enjoyed having their kids watch me paint and ask questions. One thing is for certain, you never know what direction pushing yourself to try new things will take on!
Whether I am painting custom artwork, creating a water colored logo for a client, or teaching art students, I hope to refresh and inspire others with my work. Read more ...