A Successful Life

Creative Process, Fierce, Fierce Photography, Philosophy of Life, Photography, The Artist Life

Fiercelings,

While reading a fellow photographer/blogger’s post about ‘success’ the other day my brain started reeling…what is success? Because I think we should redefine it. When most people think of success I think they think of being 1. rich 2. having a really nice house or car 3. having received a grand award or 4. working in a prestigious position. More often a mix of all 4 of those things = success. But are those what really define success? Another thing people think of is happiness. What makes you have a happy life? For some people it’s that relationship usually a romantic one. It’s that dream job. Or it’s traveling. I’ll be happy when I have gone on this trip. Maybe it’s having all three of those things going on at the same time. Happiness = going on trip with your significant other and returning to your dream job to brag about it? Haha! Speaking as a marred gal I can tell you that just having a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife will not make you ‘happy’. They can make you very happy. But they can’t guarantee your happiness for life. In fact, the only thing they can guarantee are a few headaches. ( I’ll have to write a positive post about marriage after this because that sounds so negative!)

Ripples

As a Christian, ultimately a “successful life” is finishing well. I long to get to the end of my life and say with Paul that “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4: 7-8 NIV) If I don’t make it to the end of my life having stood strong in the faith and having done something to further the Kingdom of God everything as been a waste. With that in mind one of the most important things is making God a priority in my life. Practicing the spiritual disciplines, listening to God. That is vertical, you could say, between me and God above. The next most important thing is my marriage and my child(ren). This is horizontal, you could say. Making sure most importantly is that my husband and child(ren) know the Gospel and are believers. Everything outside of that is secondary. Extended family and my circle of influence would  be next I would say. Work is next.

 

What does this mean for someone who is an artist? This means a lot. For one thing when we look at our work through this eternal lens ( hehe photography reference!) this changes the way we define success for the artist. Because all of the sudden having a full calendar of work, selling a lot of work, earning a lot of money, being mentioned or highlighted in magazines or publications, being featured at galleries, being recognized or awarded for our work is not what makes us successful. What makes the artist successful is doing the work. Yes, making a living off of our work is nice and for the serious artist I believe very vital because it’s extremely difficult to pursue the artist life when you’re spending 40 hours a week or more at your “job” to pay the bills. Which brings me to Madeline L’Engle and her quote from her book Walking On Water, “For most writers it takes many manuscripts before enough royalties are coming in to pay for a roof over the head and bread on the table. Other jobs must often be found to take care of bread and butter. A certain amount of stubbornness – pig headedness – is essential.” I found it interesting that L’Engle said “many manuscripts with royalties” are needed before you’re really making enough money to pay for a roof. You might be discouraged if you’ve been working as an artist for awhile but not generating enough income to support yourself. Don’t give up. Keep working. This is why I think it is so important not to gauge “success” off of your income as an artist. Success is serving the work not the paycheck.

Another way that this eternal lens changes the definition of success is recognition. Being applauded for our work is always enjoyable. We long to have affirmation that what we create is received with adoration. But if we never sell something or get praise for our work does not mean that we are not successful. Van Gogh only sold one painting his lifetime afterall.

wet seashell

The last reason I’m going to share why this changes the way we define success as an artist is by reminding you of the Rumi quote I shared awhile back in this post . You may remember Rumi said “Let the beauty we love be what we do.” Creating art whether it is photography, painting, music, writing if it is what you love then bringing whatever vision you have to fruition is success. Doing the work is success. This reminds me of The Creative Call and Elsheimer saying “Create as if your life depends on it because it does.” You can read all about The Creative Call here. Now why is simply doing the work success? L’Engle helps us discover why by explaining that when we create something we are going back to the garden and are becoming co-creators with God. As an artist, we cannot separate our talents without acknowledging that they are God-given. That is why doing the work is a success in and of itself because we are using our God-given talents. That was the thesis of The Creative Call. And L’Engle sums it up perfectly,

“That’s what it’s all about. The journey to the coming of the Kingdom. That’s…- the purpose of the work, be it story or music or painting, is to further the coming of the Kingdom, to make us aware of our status as children of God, and to turn our feet toward home.”

This is why the work is a success in and of itself because in light of this eternal lens on success our work is using our God given talents, which makes us co-creators with God, which glorifies our Lord and He sees that whether or not we gain earthly praise.

All glory to God. How fierce is that?

alexandria

A (Fierce) Child of God

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The Artist Itinerary

Baby Love, Books, My Friends, Matrimony, Parenthood, & Family, Parenthood, Philosophy of Life, Photography, The Artist Life

Fiercelings,

You may remember awhile back I was reading a book called the Creative Call. I wrote posts about it here(this is pretty much a follow up post), here and oh yeah here too. I loved this book so much! I discovered it in my church’s library back in Oklahoma, I devoured it, then returned it and I am thinking I need to order a copy of it because I loved it so much. Recently, I shared it with one of my sisters who purchased a used copy off of Amazon for a penny (plus 3.99 shipping). I am including that link here for you.

The author, Janice Elsheimer, has a chapter or section of the book dedicated to doing the work of creating. She talks very practically about having the space to do the work of creating and she also shares about a year that she resolved to say no to things. She said no to volunteering at church. She said no to social invitations. She said no to obligating herself to things because she had a goal to focus on her art – namely, writing and playing the piano based on what I read. In the book, she references Madeline L’Engle’s book Walking on Water so much that I currently have a copy of that book from the library that I intend to write a review of on here in the near future. I am loving these books.

 

The adorable reason why I can’t accomplish everything I want

 

What is the work of creating? It is doing the work. As artists, we tend to have a lot of ideas. Our brains move at 90mph and there are no brakes. We will never be able to get to all of the ideas that we have but we for sure won’t get to the best ideas if we don’t do the work. Elsheimer talks about clearing her schedule and not overcommiting herself so that she can have the time to pursue what she really wants to pursue. L’Engle makes time for being. You may remember my last post about being anti niche. I want to pursue photography, music, writing, painting etc. Here’s the thing though, I cannot pursue all of these things every single day. I can try. But I will only successfully accomplish one, maybe two. So about three weeks ago I made myself a week artist schedule. An itinerary. It was a way for me to stop feeling like a failure everyday because I only accomplished 1 of the 10 artist things I was wanting to do. Which it is unfair of me to expect that of myself! My full time job right now is caring for my little bundle of joy. My husband is working 60+ hours a week and so I’m in a season of life where I am being supportive of him and being available during the small amount of free time that he does have. I can do a lot but the reality is that I truly only have maybe 2 hours to myself a day because my daughter takes an hour and a half nap – 2 hours. It’s a rare day that she’ll nap longer than that. Sure, I could wake up before her but the problem with that is her daddy doesn’t get home until 9 pm or later. We want to stay up late. So we sleep late. Which means I have 2 hours to myself on a regular day. I don’t share my schedule dynamic to bore you but to show that this is my reality and as an artist I don’t want to create a fairy tale world where I do all 10 things I want to do. That world doesn’t exist and so without further ado I give you my artist itinerary:

  1. Monday – Blogging Day. Hence the last 2 weeks that I have successfully posted a blog.
  2. Tuesday – Painting Day – I can’t wait to show you my latest work.
  3. Reading Day – This is kind of a built in catch up day, if I didn’t finish a blog post or painting I can work on it here because hey, I read a page of the book I’m working on. But seriously, I find having a reading day is fantastic for the artist of me. I am intentionally focusing on books by artists or topics on creating/ being an artist.
  4. Thursday – Music Day – Violin and guitar in one day, yes please.
  5. Friday – Writing Day – Different than blogging, I am working on a book idea.
  6. Saturday – Body Day – A day that I focus on yoga, running, or cardio. I try to workout more than one day a week but I’ve found that having an artist day to focus on working out benefits all the other days. Yoga is art.
  7. Sunday – Rest Day. No pressure.

 

I love her no matter how much time I end up taking care of her when I would rather be doing art!

 

You may notice that I don’t have a photography day and I chose to do this on purpose. And it has worked out very well. On music day, I was done early and took my camera outside with Izze to get some photos. I am working on getting photoshoots booked. By knowing that I have accomplished other artists pursuits I have more time to focus on photography! Life is good. So during my season of life right now I am being a supportive wife and caring for our daughter. As an artist I am fulfilling my creative needs by pursuing a specific creative endeavor by accomplishing and focusing on 1 artist pursuit a day. This is my artist itinerary.

 

“How can I prevent Mom from doing what she wants today?”

If you read up until this point, you’re a trooper. This post has been a doozy even for me but I cannot overstate this as artists we have to do the work of creating. We can only do the work if we have the time and we’ll only have the time if we make the time. You have creative needs. You need to fulfill them. You may remember this Richard Price quote from this post, “I think the definition of an artist is not necessarily tied into excellence or talent; an artist is somebody who, if you took away their freedom to make art, would lose their mind.” I know having a schedule isn’t sexy or romantic but it’s wonderful. It shows you take your art seriously. It helps you not lose your mind! Creating a schedule benefits you which in turn will benefit everyone around you.

 

Fiercely,

alexandria

Anti-Niche

Art, Fierce, Philosophy of Life, Photography, The Artist Life

Hello Fiercelings,

One thing I have noticed while being in the creative world is that everyone encourages you to find your “niche” to the point that I hate that word! Seriously, everytime I’m reading some creative forum, blog, group post or listening to a podcast everyone is niche, niche, niche. So I have something slightly shocking to those that worship at the ground of the niche:

I am anti-niche.

Did I just say that? Oh no. I guess in order to be more specific (no pun intended) I think I am anti niche. Here’s why; when it comes to photography I love shooting weddings, couples, children, babies, seniors, heck I’d probably enjoy shooting a funeral. I love fashion photography and I love fine art photography. I love it all. And that’s just photography. When it comes to paining, I’m all over Monet but then the next moment I’m looking at a Warhol. I’m currently working on an art piece myself that is definitely more abstract and modern but I’m just as likely to start a still life landscape next week. One could argue that I am testing and experimenting with my artistic whims and I just haven’t found the thing that I’m great at…but I don’t take that view. I think I genuinely love it all. And I don’t think I need to apologize for wanting to dabble in or pursue art in 100 different directions.

Moi feet

The beach we were at had millions upon millions of tiny seashells like these that you had to walk over to get to the water. Walking on eggshells takes on a whole new meaning!

 

You may remember that a few posts ago I wrote about Leonardo Da Vinci here and here. Since those posts I have thought of the Renaissance man some more. I won’t pretend to be a know it all about who Da Vinci was because I’m not, I know about as much as anyone who’s watched The Da Vinci Code knows. I know he painted the Mona Lisa which is one of the most recognizable paintings in the world, I know he painted the Last Supper which is also very recognizable. I think most people would recognize the drawing of the Vitruvian Man. All this to say was Da Vinci just a painter? Of course not! He was THE Renaissance man afterall. He was fascinated by human anatomy as the drawing of the Vitruvian Man shows, he also studied the fetus’ heart and was very much a scientist in his own right. Wikipedia actually titles him as an engineer which I think is both fitting and surprising. He was interested in flying and created lots of blue prints for machines to fly, I believe there is one in particular that we would recognize today as a parachute. My goal in sharing this is not to give you a summary of the works of Da Vinci, although the historian in me is loving this! But to simply show that artists have never been niche oriented. I’m not necessarily saying that’s bad. I mean Margaret Mitchell only wrote one novel but it was Gone With The Wind. Did she need to do anything else? Nope. In Da Vinci’s case though did he need to do anything after painting the Mona or the Last Supper? Probably not. Are we glad he did go on to do more though? Absolutely. He’s a fascinating person in history, his work is proof of that and generations after him are happy to be able to study him and enjoy his works of art.

Another person who is proof that artists do not have to settle or focus on one thing is…drum roll! Michelangelo. A contemporary of Da Vinci’s, Michelangelo is of course best known for the Pieta, David and for painting the Sistine Chapel. Thank the Lord that there wasn’t anyone during the Renaissance whispering in Michelangelo’s ear saying “You can’t be a painter and a sculptor, you need to find your niche.” You can see how preposterous the whole “niche” concept is when you apply it to great artists. However, Michelangelo wasn’t just a painter and a sculptor he was also an architect and poet. I find it fascinating that Da Vinci was messing around studying human anatomy and Michelangelo was designing buildings, most famously St. Peter’s Basilica. Anatomy and architecture are more commonly seen today as science subjects or at least not very artistic pursuits which angers me to no end. I love art and I also love learning science stuff. One thing I am really looking forward to is when I am homeschooling my daughter is all the science experiments we can do!

Izze doing yoga

Izze doing yoga on the beach! 

I am anti niche because I want to be a photographer, painter, musician and writer and chances are I’ll add pottery someday! I look to great artists like Da Vinci and Michelangelo, who were accomplished in multiple arts and get inspired. I understand that the niche speakers are attempting to encourage people to focus on something specific but I don’t want to focus on just one art medium, I want to pursue them all. That’s fierce to me. I want to be a triple threat. Heck, I want to be an octruple threat!

Be fierce!

alexandria

 

 

I am an Artist

Being an Artist, Philosophy of Life, Photography, Quotes, The Artist Life

As a creative person seeking to make a way in the world as said creative person one of the challenges that I believe you must overcome is thinking of yourself as an artist. When you think of the term “artist” what comes to your mind? Leonardo Da Vinci? Monet? Van Gogh? Maybe starving? That’s what I think of when I think of Van Gogh anyway, he is the definition of a starving artist. Do you think of the person playing the guitar that you pass on your way to the subway? Do you think of some eccentric character? Whatever you think of when you think of the title “artist” can you apply that title to yourself? Recently, I have.

sea shells

For awhile now I have been tagging blog posts “The Artist Life” because ultimately, I believe that’s what this blog is about. I express thoughts and opinions on various things but the main idea connecting all of them is art, being an artist and living life as an artsy/creative person. However, I am taking that even a step further by saying ‘artist’ now. I have always thought of myself as an artsy person. From a young age I was always interested in music, acting, primarily the performing arts but eventually that led into painting (which I am not very good at) which then of course led me to photography because even though I may not be able to paint what I see/want I can attempt to capture it in photography. Which is wonderful. Ahh….I love photography. But all of those could be considered hobbies. But they’re more than that for me, they’re apart of who I am…I am an artist you see.

Driftwood -full

I don’t like the idea of identifying yourself by your occupation or job. What you do is not necessarily who you are. Perhaps, I put the term “artist” up on a pedestal because at one time I didn’t feel worthy of calling myself an artist. But that is what I believe I am. A person is a lot of things and I don’t like the idea of putting all your identity into one thing but I guess it’s different when you’re an artist. Creative people see the world differently and by claiming that I am an artist I think it’s a sign to everyone that hey I don’t think like you do. This sounds like a mystical thing which on one side maybe it is – afterall, why do artists see the world differently? But I don’t actually think it is. I think it makes perfect sense. To help clarify this, I of course turned to a quote! Surprise.

“I think the definition of an artist is not necessarily tied into excellence or talent; an artist is somebody who, if you took away their freedom to make art, would lose their mind.” ~ Richard Price

Oh. My. Gosh. I think I can just end this blog post right here and now! I think I’m fairly talented, but there are people more talented than me for sure and I love this quote because it says hey, someone who is extremely talented, that’s not what makes them an artist. What makes someone an artist is that they would go crazy if they didn’t make art. I think that is actually why artists are viewed as eccentric or crazy in general, they have this insatiable desire to make art and so they’re viewed as odd because art is always on their mind, creating is always running in the background. It can be aggravating sometimes because you can’t turn it off. It can be frustrating sometimes because you don’t have time to pursue art as much as you’d like to. So, let me step on my tiny soap box and say if any of this rings a bell in your mind firstly, call yourself an artist. And then, once you’ve done that, don’t lose your mind, go create art. Afterall, you’re an artist and how fierce is that.

Driftwood

Fiercely,

alexandria