This is me leading the Parade for the "Year of Aiming Low".
Each day, I log onto Typepad and smile at the variety of comments in reaction to my last post. I have heard from old friends I have not heard from in a very long time; from faithful readers; and from artists who I did not know, but now feel as though I do. .
Thank you, thank you, thank you to each and every one of you who took the time to say, "Me, too!" or "I wish you well!". You are each as dear jewels to me. Isn't it amazing what we will share on blogs that we really do not even tell our families or close friends? As much as a time sucker that social media is, it fills an enormous void in people's lives and allows us crazy creative types to find our tribe.
All of your comments gave me pause for thought and contributed warmth and understanding to a situation where so many of us find ourselves in competition - with ourselves when we find a million reasons to resist just sitting down and making art.
Shirley, Regina, and Lyle all wrote similarly about how even in retirement, they still don't find the time to live the creative life they thought they would. This is one of my biggest fears. I can see it happening as easily as I fritter away a weekend. Think about how we spend our weekends - do we really give up all the chatter and errands and TV and internet in order to have a solid day of working on our passion? As much as I intend to, or say I will, I rarely even spend a half day that way.
Cara wrote that she was crying because I had tapped the feelings she kept locked up inside. I know Cara personally. She is a young mother with an active children, a big family, and an enormous talent. I have seen her sit down, pick up a brush and literally whip out a series of gorgeous paintings. I saw her as a woman with boundless energy and creativity who was overflowing with ideas that she could not accomplish fast enough.
I saw the image Cara hoped to project, but I did not see the pressure she was under. Cara, we need to sit down and draw some pickles.
All your comments were so significant and touching. Whether you shared my feelings, understood my feelings, or just empathized with my feelings, you stood in my shoes and nodded your head and I felt your affirmations.
It's so funny, you know. I was being facetious when I wrote "Aim Low" and "Underachieve" - but I wasn't. It really struck a nerve in a lot of people.
Dear Terry Grant, I love your description of what art is in your life. This is how it used to be for me and where I hope to get back to this year:
I hate to think of art in terms of achievement—under or over. It is a way of living, fitting itself around everything else. It is a refuge from ambition and stress and expectation. You might become very good—even famous, but that is a SIDE issue, not the goal. Be generous with yourself and adjust your expectations, but try not to think of it as "under achieving." Please..
Aiming low and underachieving are words that people have strong reactions to. I know that some of you still felt a little unsettled by it and were quick to reassure me that I am so much more.
So are all of you. We all are.
Aiming Low and Underachieving are not dirty words.
I am suggesting this: Take The Pressure Off Yourself.
Allow yourself to drift a little along in life. Permit yourself to dilly dally, mess around, make puddles of paint, play at crafts that have no purpose other than creating a pretty thing to look at.
Linda H, you have expressed exactly what I have been feeling. The only thing I would add to your list that you didn't summarize is, "make little art gifts for my wonderfully loving and amazingly generous and talented art friends" !:
Loretta, been there done that and wondered how to fix it. Finally I decided I can't be: the perfect watercolorist and the perfect memoirist, and perfect my spanish language skills, and learn french to the point I can join the local French club, and finish that vest I started knitting 3 years ago, and have a home totally free of clutter not only on the surfaces, but in the closets and drawers as well, and hold down a 3-day/week job, and be the perfect friend/family member who sends cards for every birthday/holiday as well as the perfect gifts and entertains and cooks for my friends with recipes I've seen on the Food Network, and keep my car clean and maintained, and take great care of my two cats, including one who is currently suffering from hormonal imbalance, not-so-great kidney function numbers, and a dental abscess, and tile my kitchen backsplash, and keep up with all my home improvements.
And this, my friends, is what I mean by needing to underachieve.
We spend our lives maintaining a life that we do not want to live. The STANDARD OF IMPOSSIBLE PERFECTION is not just about artwork for those of us afflicted with it; it is our approach to life.
And as my dear friend Diane wrote to me,
We attorneys had to be fairly organized and driven (in our own not-necessarily Type A ways) to get our degrees and bar admissions and all, and we operate in a world of hierarchical and fairly rigid views of success and achievement. It's hard to not let that infect our tender brains and hearts.
I don't think that you have to be a lawyer to have those characteristics; Diane and and I just happen to be ones. My dear old editor at Cloth, Paper, Scissors, Cate Prato, has a great blog post about getting over her fear of experimenting in her art journal and not being concerned about it "coming out right".
Dana made me giggle. She is a friend I've actually only meant ... I think once? I live to receive her painted Christmas cards each year. If we did not live at the opposite ends of New York State, I'd probably move into one of the gorgeous artistic rooms she has in her extraordinary house and never leave.
Leave it to Dana to have EXACTLY the same reaction I had to Mim Stella's comment:
"wait, did someone say they took a class on illustrating children's books...I want to do that."
How did Dana know that as soon as read Mim Stella's comment, I had to restrain myself from immediately googling classes on illustrating children's books (I already have several books on the topic...)
Just so you know that I am not just whining about the state of my life, I have started to simplify. I am not teaching at Art Is You this year. It was a very hard decision to make (love you Sal and Ellen), especially since they are going to be right outside Memphis for Art Is You Dixie. I will be at Stamford as a student, though. Can't miss AIY in some form!!
This year as I aim low and underachieve, I am going to spend a lot of time with my husband, kids, and sisters; drink a ton of Starbucks; get an Elliptical machine and torture myself; make a lot of stuff that requires glitter; and bug my friends to get back to regular art dates.
I wish you delightfully the same!