“The fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dream.” Paulo Coelho ~ The Alchemist
The very heart of this quote encourages one to go in search of their dreams without fear. As many artists do, I spend my time facing fears and self doubt, determined to pursue my dreams despite the odds. Despite the bumps and bruises along the way. Once again, facing rejection and failure for the love of my work. Some days are harder than others and the fear moves in to take advantage. It is these days when I try the hardest. The days when I have no desire to create anything, and past experience tells me it is all in vain anyway, so why bother. I don’t think this is unique to me. I think most people experience the very same doubts and fears. We have a choice and day after day we make the choice to persevere. The book I am working on now highlights that struggle to keep fighting despite overwhelming odds. It is a story of hardship, unfair circumstances and cruelty. But mostly it is a story of the unbeatable human spirit and of a child’s ability to keep their dreams alive and safe within themselves, never completely giving in to the darkness. As I have learned from the characters of my story, we must persist despite the odds. We must laugh. We must be kind, despite the unfairness, we must be true to ourselves and we must keep the fire burning within ourselves. At times it may be only a spark, but a spark is all it takes to start a fire!
Nez Perce child powwow dancing
The sacred Medicine Wheel at the top of Medicine Mountain in Wyoming.
Summer Solstice greetings! As we enjoy and celebrate the longest day of the year, remember this is the perfect time of year to reflect on your life, passions and work. This is the day to set your intentions, to vocalize your goals and put your plans into motion. Traditionally a day symbolizing the balance between the light and darkness, this day is a day for honoring the earth and to plant the seeds for your personal growth. From ancient pagan rituals to Native American Sun dances, there are as many ways to honor the sun as there are moments of sunshine on this day. The ancient Medicine Wheel located on Medicine Mountain in Wyoming was built by an ancient race and has been used by Native Americans for centuries. The sacred wheel aligns with the sun and solstices and is a place for prayer and reverence. It is no coincidence that today is World Prayer and Peace day. Say a prayer for the earth today. Say a prayer for peace and say a prayer of thanks for all you have and will have in the future. Today is a perfect day to create something that brings you happiness. It does not matter what you create as long as it makes you happy. Create a centerpiece out of sunflowers to bring the beauty of the summer indoors. Tie dye a t-shirt. Paint a picture. Enjoy a bonfire with friends, plant flowers or just sit outside and soak up some healing rays (and Vitamin D)! Happy Midsummer! May the seeds you plant today grow strong and bear fruit for you in the coming year.
Day by day, one step at a time, one brush stroke or one word…quantity is not the goal, creating is! Many of us want to do work that involves our passion without fully understanding it will still be work. It is called a labor log love specifically because there is real work involved. There are may times it won’t feel like work. Those are the best! The times when the words flow faster than you can keep up, when brushstrokes bring out your subject before you even know what it is supposed to be. Those are the moments when passion takes over and you are just along for the ride. In order to have those moments you must work daily. You must create when you don’t feel creative, when your muse is asleep somewhere leaving you to muck through alone. The more you exercise your creative muscles, the stronger they will become. The stronger they become, the more often you can just go along for the ride and be amazed at what you are truly capable of! Every artist is part magician. We create beings out of our imaginations, worlds out of dreams, lives out of mist. Harry Chapin once spoke about his grandfather telling him the difference between good tired and bad tired. Bad tired can, ironically, be a day that you won but you fought someone else’s battles and worked on someone else’s dreams. At the end of the night, you toss and turn and have trouble sleeping. Good tired can be a day that you lost but you fought your battles for your dreams and at the end of the day, you rest easy because you know you gave it your all, regardless of whether you won or lost. Since the majority of us have to work to survive, why not work for yourself? Why not make your dreams come true instead of working to realize someone else’s dreams? At the end of the day, sleep easy and be good tired because we know we worked on making our dreams come true. We fought the good fight, through writer’s block, wonky lines and messed up brush strokes. We fought for us!
African Grey parrot
Detail of African Grey painting
Rejection…We are all familiar with it, we have all dealt with it at some point in our lives, either in a major or minor way. It hurts. Yet, as artists we seem to welcome rejection. That is why I call my blog, Art on a limb, because I am constantly putting myself (my work) out on a limb for all to see. Are we masochistic? Do we enjoy the pain? Why else would we continually offer our work, our brain children, as a sacrifice for the masses to accept or reject? Why else would we put a piece of ourselves out there, over and over again to be judged?
The answers may surprise you. They surprised me! Quite simply, sometimes we do enjoy the pain. No, we don’t seek rejection. Every time we put our work in front of someone, we hope they will love it as we love it. We want it to be accepted. Maybe, as artists, we never truly feel accepted so we seek approval. The times we hope for approval are the times we know the work needs improving. We are hoping someone disagrees, but we secretly know our brain child isn’t fully mature and ready to greet the world. Deeper than that, we know when our work is good enough and we don’t need someone else to tell us when it is. Sometimes our work is a child sitting on the limb, swinging its feet with simple happiness. Sometimes it is hanging from the limb by a noose, confirming what we already suspected.
I recently submitted my self published book to a publisher. The publisher does not take unsolicited manuscripts so I was excited they had agreed to review my work. I carefully chose the pages to submit, along with a couple of illustrations and mailed them with high hopes. I was not surprised when the rejection letter came. After all, I had decided to go back to college after writing the book, simply because I knew it needed to be done better! I am disappointed, but not at all discouraged. As many artists up for awards comment, it was an honor just to be considered. Although the publisher praised my work and simply said it was not right for them, I know it needs to be improved. I have invested four years and an obscene amount of money into improving my skills so I can improve that book. I love what I do. I hope someday, it is all I do and that I always love it. I hope I always welcome rejection letters with a glad heart.
Do you know why we inflict pain on ourselves regularly? Because it means we are artists! We are working our craft. We are raising our children to go out and face the world. We have something to say and hanging out on this limb, we know we have the courage to say it loudly and with pride.
I often grab my camera and run for the woods, looking for both solace and inspiration. Thursday was hot an uninspiring so I decided to make a quick trek into the wilderness to photograph the recent explosion of wildflowers. I had also hoped to catch a glimpse of the fawns that are starting to venture out with their mothers. I had photographed flowers and dragonflies and even an osprey, so I was relaxed, inspired and ready to head for home. I was on the last leg of my journey and just about to leave the forest when I received the best surprise! A mother black bear and her two cubs!! I quickly got out of my truck and making sure she did not feel threatened, I began snapping pictures of her and the cubs. Photographing bear cubs is like photographing four year olds during recess, nearly impossible. Mama bear however, was more agreeable as she watched me with curiosity. She kept an eye on me and the cubs and provided me with some wonderful photos and truckloads of inspiration! Here is one of the photos I took and am currently painting. I am trying to find a place for her and her cubs in one of my stories so I have a good excuse to paint many pictures of them! Proof positive you never know where or when you will find inspiration but never stops looking! When you find it, run with it and enjoy every minute!