Is your work important? Does it matter? Why bother?

I strongly recommend that every artist I mentor have a website or at least blog to share his or her work with the world. One of the artists I worked with once asked me:

“Who in the world needs another blog from a half-hearted artist?”

Who, indeed?

Who are we to say what the world needs or doesn’t need? It’s important to be able to step back from that voice and to recognize it for what it is. It’s the voice of our ego. Our ego prefers to be liked, to stay safe and protect us from criticism or negative reaction.

I want to remind you of your power as an artist. The power art has in general. Whether our audience is large or small, we all have the potential to positively impact others lives with what we do.

While the ego likes to stay safe it is also attracted to the seeming glamour of celebrity and fame. It’s a strange dichotomy, isn’t it?

So unless we are really, really big, unless lots and lots of people like and admire our work, it doesn’t seem worthwhile.

Take a moment now to recall anyone who has expressed even the smallest appreciation for something you have created. A brief compliment, an email, a note, a thumbs up.

Now savor that moment slowly for what it was. Really feel into it and allow it into your being, your body, your heart.

You touched another person’s heart, even for that moment, in some humble way.

Where there was one, there could easily be hundreds. (It’s a big planet, you know.)

It is tempting to keep things safe and play a small and familiar arena. It’s tempting to avoid the risk and vulnerability of putting ourselves and our work out for the world to see. It is so much easier. We need not take the time nor make the effort.

But how do you know that someone wouldn’t be inspired by, love, or really want to see your blog? How do you really know this?

Aren’t there plenty of other artists who have inspired you? Are you glad for their online presence? Isn’t it wonderful to live in an age where we can access inspiration from other artists’ work past or present with the click of a mouse?

Who are your favorite artists of all time? How would your life be different if your favorite artists had never pursued their work and committed to getting it out to the public?

What it takes is commitment. I think the key word in this artist’s question was “half-hearted”. I know the asker of this question to be a truly dedicated and committed artist with wonderful gifts to share.

However, if we go about creating a blog only half-heartedly, then most likely neither we nor our potential viewers will gain satisfaction from it. Beyond the content, the energy behind the content will be lackluster.

However, if we commit ourselves to it, even if we can only post once a month and we do our best to get the word out and share it with the world, I am convinced that we can touch others in a meaningful way. People will be drawn to our enthusiasm and what we have to offer.

When we do things without true commitment they lack that power of our own intention. If things don’t work out how we expected, we have no reason to continue or follow-through.

The ego likes this because we stay in our safe zone. We don’t expose ourselves to criticism or perhaps worse for the ego, neglect.

When we are committed, we will do whatever it takes.

Veiled Face Michele Théberge, ink on paper ©1998

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Are you giving up too early on your creative ideas?

Have you ever been in your studio and had any of the following thoughts

This is a terrible idea. What was I thinking?

I should just give up. Why am I wasting my time?

Who am I kidding? I’m not an artist.

How on earth am I going to solve this one? It’s a wreck.

This work is making me hungry. (Strange, because I just ate lunch.) I’d better go fix myself a little snack.

All people involved in creative endeavors have these thoughts. What I’ve noticed is that experienced artists, musicians, writers, etc. don’t give up at this stage.

We know it’s just a stage.

I recently started a new piece that builds on several ideas and methods that I have been working with for the past five years. I hate what it looks like right now. Yuck. As I stepped back from it, I thought to myself, “It’s a good idea, but I haven’t worked it out yet.”

When a piece of creative work begins, there’s a honeymoon period. Life is good, the creativity is flowing. We are FULL of excitement. We are literally in love with what we are working on.

As it progresses, the creative process runs through other stages and just as in any relationship, it’s normal to experience challenges. Perhaps, we can’t quite get a handle on the medium, or what looked great the day before seems awful now. You can’t quite get the ideas rolling around in your head into any satisfying form. Your studio floods, your equipment fails, your collaborator flakes, an essential material isn’t behaving the way it usually does, it starts raining, the light changes. (Feel free to add to this list!) There are an infinite number of things that can go wrong.

Believe it or not, this is a normal part of the creative process! In fact, what I’ve learned over the years is that it’s a sign that a breakthrough is about to happen. But in order to access this new level of creativity, we must keep committed to task at hand.

Too often, beginners or artists who aren’t sure of themselves, and give up too soon on an idea. They listen to that negative voice and drop the project before it has had a chance to fully blossom.

It is through giving ideas our precious time and attention that they evolve.

Michele Theberge ©2006 gouache and flashe on paper

Inspiration rarely zings an idea fully formed into your brain with a downloadable set of step-by-step directions. Where’s the fun in THAT?

There are few feelings more exhilarating than moving through a stuck place or solving a creative problem.

This applies to nearly ANYTHING you are working on in your life. A relationship, a new job, a meal, a home improvement project, a business. If you give up too soon you’ll never get to see that potential the idea was hinting at when it sparked that first flame of excitement.

Is there an artwork (or anything else) in your life right now that you may have given up too soon on?

Would you be willing to give it a second chance? Can you step back from it and recognize it’s potential and say to yourself:

“It’s a good idea, I just haven’t worked it out yet.”

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The Beauty of Wabi-Sabi

Guest post by Lori Koop

My friend and colleague, Lori Koop, is a dedicated and gifted
ceramic artist with a deep vision for herself and others. Her work
and writing exemplifies this style we call wabi-sabi.

“If an object or expression can bring
about, within us, a sense of serene
melancholy and a spiritual longing, then
that object is said to be wabi-sabi.”
Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence

When I began making ceramics three years ago, I knew exactly what I wanted to do… make ceramics that spoke. I needed to be authentic and real. Handmade imperfection, unglazed fired clay and irregular textured surfaces became the language.

Betty Bowl © 2010 Lori Koop

The Japanese term “wabi sabi” was used several times to describe the work. It describes both an aesthetic and a philosophy.

Wabi is rustic, simple and quiet. It refers to understated, subtle beauty. The quiet beauty that waits patiently to be discovered. It also refers to the natural quirks and irregularities that come from the process of construction, from being human.

Sabi is serenity that comes with age. The beauty of patina, visible wear and repairs. It is about the natural cycle of life – growth, decay and death. The cracks, the marks of time, weather and use.

Together, wabi sabi is about process, and it involves continuous change, evolution. Nothing is perfect, nothing is complete, and nothing lasts.

In it, we slow down. Live simply.
Fill with gratitude. Unclutter.

Lori offers an inspirational word each week in her “UPWord”. You can sign up here:

Hope Plaque © 2010 Lori Koop

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What’s so great about perfect?

Just what exactly is “perfect” and where do we formulate our notion of “perfection”?

I believe that perfectionism is the root of many an artist’s block.

I’ll never be good enough.

If I can’t do it as well as ____________, why try?

I’m not sure my idea is worthwhile.

What if I fail?

My project could never reach the beauty and perfection of the idea in my head.

We often talk ourselves out of doing something before we even get the chance to start.

I am reminded of something painter Agnes Martin once said:

“We cannot make anything perfectly but with inner contemplation of perfection, we can suggest it.”

I made this video because I’d like to invite you to pick up the reins of a project or piece that is waiting in the wings for the perfect time, the perfect place, materials, amount of money, the perfection of your skills, or whatever notion of perfection is preventing you from diving in.

See what happens.

And let us know, OK?

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