12 Step Recovery Program for Artists
(this is a reprint from my WordPress.com blog dated October 5th, 2012)
I check in on the Sylvia White Gallery blog from time to time and I just had to share this (thanks Sylvia) – for anyone who knows and loves an artist – this is for you 🙂
Many artists describe the feelings they get from making art as an almost spiritual or sexual experience, feeling a complete and total sense of happiness and being at one with the world. Much like the feeling an athlete gets from hitting the ball in the sweet spot. But, instead of it being a fleeting moment, it is a lasting sense of satisfaction and contentment. It is what keeps them the sane, wonderful people we love.
Making art is the way artists create order out of chaos. It is a personal order, that allows them to navigate their way through life. The most positive addiction. When you find yourself cranky or irritable, is it really just because you haven’t allowed yourself quiet time to work?
The term “frustrated artist” didn’t come out of nowhere. Societal pressures, parental pressures, and sometimes our own need to succeed or fear of failure, keeps a lot of artists from ever realizing their dream. You can’t escape from it forever…eventually, the need to create will overpower whatever rational reasons you have developed to keep yourself from finding the time to make art. The sooner you accept it, the better.
There is nothing wrong with being a self taught artist. But, in the same way your vocabulary skills can improve communication skills, so can developing your technique as an artist. The beauty of creativity is it’s never ending quality. Making sure that you are constantly looking, learning and improving your skills as an artist (and that includes keeping up to date with technology) will ensure you are working up to your potential
Artists are not capable of “controlling” their work hours. When you are “in the zone” your friends and family accuse you of being preoccupied and/or distant. But, it’s like a switch you can’t turn off. It creeps up on you when you least expect it, and never, ever when you summon it. You need to communicate this to the people in your life that are important to you so they can understand the importance of ART in your life and not take it personally when you are not “present.”
You may not always have the luxury to work on your art when you want to. Responsibilities of real life get in the way for most artists. But, you can learn to come up with tricks to ease back into a work schedule, when it is absolutely necessary. For example, working on 3-4 things simultaneously. When you get stuck on one, you can easily move into another. Other artists have described the technique of only leaving the studio for the day only when you know exactly what you next move on a particular painting will be when you comes back…something easy, that has already been planned and you won’t have to think about.
Admit it. If you’re an artist, there is ALWAYS one question on your mind that you are dying to ask people…”what do you think of my work?” There is no doubt, that as an artist, getting feedback is important. If you’ve read my article Art is a Verb, not a Noun, you already know that I don’t believe any object an artist makes can be called ART until it is out in the real world and has real eyeballs looking at it. A painting that is stored in your garage or under your bed isn’t art until it has the experience of being seen. It is only logical then, to assume that once the work is out there, you want to know how people are reacting to it. But, artists need to be extremely careful how and when they submit to that urge of asking people about their work. Before you even contemplate asking the question, let’s take a moment to think about 3 things: Why are you asking this question? Of whom are you asking this question? How will the answer change your relationship to this person and/or your work?
There is no doubt that artists are wired differently than the rest of us. At times, living with an artist can be difficult. Learning to identify the strategies that will help you move seamlessly in and out of your “normal” life will benefit not only you, but all those around you. Send my article “If you are addicted…” to everyone you love.
It is true, that to some artists, their work is the most important thing in their life…more important than parents, spouse or even kids. It’s not a crime, or something you should feel guilty about. It is a part of who you are as a person…would you ever feel guilty about having blue eyes? But, remember, the rest of the world doesn’t work that way. If you find this is true for you (and not ALL artists do) you must come to grips with that reality yourself, but never admit it to your significant others.
Artists sometimes need to be forced to step outside their reality. Make sure you are able to separate the art making part of your life and the responsibilities of real life. As much as you may hate it, admit that you need a job, relationships, money, housing and the discipline to manage your art career so you can accomplish those things.
The impulse that fuels creativity is nourished by stillness, time alone. That’s why so many artists find their most productive hours are in the wee hours, when everyone else is asleep. The lack of distractions, is a must for artists to be productive. Resting, thinking, meditating, looking…this is when the creative juices are most actively percolating. And, this is one of the most difficult aspects for non artists to understand.