I’ve always had a tendency to live in the future. I love planners and calendars. I remember putting together my plans for Art Village, dreaming about what I wanted it to be. I loved talking with my dad about my plans and he would encourage and spur me on. When he died three months after we opened, the last thing I wanted to think about was the future, and all I wanted to do was get back the past. I was frustrated.
That experience had a profound effect on me. I began to wonder why I even bothered to make plans at all if they could come to an end so quickly. It then occurred to me that the past and future don’t really exist at all. All we have is this moment.
I’ve noticed recently when I become future focused, planning, predicting, dreaming, and worrying I lose a bit of the joy of living in the moment. This can happen to many of us. Our minds are consumed with questions like “What’s going to happen tomorrow?” The truth is, we don’t know. It doesn’t exist. All we can really see is what is before us today. What we should ask ourselves is “How can I make the most of today?” It can be a difficult thing to do.
Our imagination is a powerful thing. When we imagine things, we are creating them in our minds in the present moment. What can happen though, is that we begin to live there. Then we start striving. We are disappointed with the past and we worry about the future. Because we are not where we want to be, we become discontent with our current circumstances. A simple, but not easy, thing to do is make a mental shift from the past or future to the present.
A good way to practice being present is to make art. I’ve been enjoying painting on Tuesday nights because while I’m there, I can’t be anywhere else, both physically and mentally. I find that is difficult to think about anything besides what I’m doing at that moment when I’m in the process of making art. There is a joy and satisfaction we experience when we have an opportunity to be completely here now.
I decided to see if I could keep an attitude of being present. I’ve made little notes to set on my desk to remind me to be here now. I believe if I can be the best today, I’ll be in a good position to start tomorrow. Forgiveness is letting go of the past, and faith is letting go of the future.
I’m a big goal setter. I believe it’s good to have dreams, big dreams, but it’s important to live your dreams today. Find out the motivation behind your dreams and live from that motivation today. Ask yourself “Am I setting goals because I think that by reaching them, I will become happy, or am I setting goals to increase the expression of the happiness I already have?
Start by making art. Create something to express yourself. Create the feelings of happiness and contentment now. Don’t put off feeling good. Making art is good practice because it puts you completely in the moment. Your focus is on the creative project at hand.
We need to enjoy today. Embrace the moment. Choose to do things because you want to express yourself to others. Don’t worry about what lies ahead. I heard someone say that life was like driving down the highway at night. Our headlights only reveal a few hundred feet in front of us, not the whole way home. But if we just keep driving, we’ll make it to our destination.
Art Saves Lives!
We have a lot of painted square tiles in our studio at Art Village. We have ceramic ones that were painted by our customers for our first year anniversary. And we also have a large mosaic made up of individually painted wooden tiles hanging on our wall.
These tiles were painted at Art in the Park last year. We invited people to paint a wooden tile and we gave them a theme of circles. We figured that would be easy enough for anyone to participate. This was a bit of an experiment. The goal was to create a large mosaic from the individual tiles.
There were tiles painted by all ages from young children to professional artists. It was interesting to watch people paint. Because even though they had the same size board, the same paints to choose from, and a theme to go with, each tile was different and unique. As people painted, I wondered how these different little paintings were going to look when we put them all together. Individually they seemed so random. But when we assembled the large mosaic, it came together perfectly. Each tile was a necessary component of the whole.
Another mosaic was brought in the other day. A client brought in a serving tray she made from square ceramic tiles that her family painted at Art Village. It was great to see the different 6 inch pieces of art assembled together to create a unified piece of artwork that they can use.
As I looked at the serving tray on our counter, the painted ceramic tiles on our shelves, and the large mosaic on our wall, I began thinking about all the individual people who painted them. I began thinking about how unique they are. Each person is a work of art. Then I thought how this is a great visual of our community, and world. Just like the tiles, each one of us an individual painting, but together, we form a larger mosaic.
We all have a tile to contribute to the mosaic of life. Each of us has our own special color palette and style. We all have a unique personality. Some of us are expressionistic. Others are more reserved. We all have unique interests and skills. We all have different ways of seeing things. But most importantly, we all have a unique purpose.
I believe we are all here for a reason. We may not always know what our purpose is at every moment. But I think it is revealed to us through the living of life. I wish sometimes that I knew why things happen the way they do. But just like it is through the act of putting paint on canvas, that the painting is realized. It is by making the journey of life that our purpose is realized. Sometimes we may think that we are just a little piece of broken tile. But when making mosaics, even that broken piece is needed to be a part of the larger picture.
I also believe that those people we have the opportunity to share our lives with are present in our lives for a reason. Our purposes connect and intertwine with one another. Whenever I meet someone new, I always wonder how our lives are supposed to touch each other. Will I contribute to their purpose? Will they contribute to mine? I’m always surprised by how people can come into our lives at just the right time.
Take note this week. How is your piece of the mosaic coming along? As we go through out our day, lets try to see the work of art in those people who we come in contact with knowing that we are all contributing a tile in the mosaic of life. We can participate in the first by creating the best tile we can, and by encouraging one another as others create theirs. Remember, we’re all in this together.
Art Saves Lives!
At Art Village, we just finished a six-week class that we offer called Drawing on the Right side of the Brain based on Betty Edward’s book by the same name. The first week of class, the students were asked to draw a self-portrait. Now you can imagine the fear and dread that over took them at this request. Thoughts like, “I thought this was a beginning class” or “Aren’t we supposed to start out with cubes and apples?” were most likely swimming through their minds.
They were very good sports about it. And after they drew their self-portrait, they took deep cleansing breaths and continued with the rest of class. I thought that after that first week they might all be freaked out and never come back. So I was very happy to see them all come back week after week. Each week they learned about how to see and recognize how three-dimensional objects are place in relationship to one another, and their drawing skill improved.
This last Thursday was the final class and the students were asked to draw another self-portrait. There was still a little apprehension, but the terror was gone. When they finished, they pulled out the drawings from the first class and compared them. The results were quite dramatic. The great thing about this was that they were able to see where they started and how they’ve improved. Everyone in the class improved. It was awesome. (To see their drawings, visit us at www.artvillageusa.com/beforeafter.htm). Seeing their own progress also gave them the confidence to want to continue drawing, learning and improving.
Our lives can be like that drawing class. We wake up day after day, doing the best we can, but we are unaware of our own progress and think we’re going nowhere. The truth is, we are all making progress in our lives even though it doesn’t look like it. If we could have a before and after picture of our lives, we could see that we are indeed moving forward.
I think we can create our own before and after picture by keeping a journal. Keeping a journal is a good way to keep track of where you’ve been. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy, awe-inspiring work of prose. It just needs to be about who you are today. Write down your hopes and dreams. Write down where you are this moment in your life. Then, as the future unfolds, you’ll be able to look back and see how far you’ve come.
For me, I like to put as many positive and inspiring things in my journals as I can. I have found that including three lists throughout my journals helps me do this. Number one is the success list. This is a list of my successes from the past and present. I have a specific journal designated for this purpose. I have it in my night stand by my bed. That way, I can review my day and write down any successes that have happened during the day.
The second list is the appreciation list. I write down thing I am thankful for. This helps me look at the good things I have in my life right now.
The Third list is the self-esteem list. This is a list of my personal positive qualities. What do I like about myself? Knowing these things helps me know when I’m living in harmony of your personality.
Remember, our lives are not lived in straight lines. There are twists and turns, mountaintops and valleys, but all these are necessary to be come the person we are meant to be. So when you are keeping your journal, don’t worry about how it flows. Include goals, quotes, conversations you’ve had, drawings, to do lists, ideas that people have given you, art projects you want to do, interesting daily happenings, and just about anything that has to do with what’s going on in your life right now. When you look back at these journals, you’ll see that life has a way of unfolding just the way it needs to.
Art Saves Lives!
I recently spoke to some grade school kids about careers in art. Most of them were not thinking about a career in art. They thought an art career was a bit risky. They wanted security. I can appreciate their view because I share their interest in financial stability. But I think if you are preoccupied with security, you’ll miss out on a lot of living. Life is uncertain. Sometimes the greatest joys come from unexpected sources.
The more comfortable we can become with change and uncertainty, I think the happier we’ll be. Many times I think the stress in our lives comes from our resistance to circumstances, not the circumstances themselves.
I see this once in a while when people come in to do art projects at Art Village. For example, a parent and a child can come into paint pottery for the first time at our studio. It is a new experience. We hope they will be relaxed and have fun.
Both choose an item to paint. The child, who instinctively embraces the new activity, chooses the colors they like and begins to paint with reckless abandon. They are having a great time. The parent, on the other hand, looks at the colors and begins to tense up. Which colors should I choose? And what is the correct way to paint this piece of pottery? Am I doing this right? Both parent and child are engaged in the same activity, but one of them is having fun while the other is stressed out. Why is that? It’s not the activity. It is their response to the activity.
Painting pottery like many things in life has uncertainty built in to it. Even after the piece is painted, it has to be fired and we won’t know exactly what it will look like until we unload the kiln.
When we make art, we are practicing the skill embracing uncertainty. When we start a new project, we never really know for certain how it’s going to turn out. The pictures in our heads are usually different than what comes out in reality.
The other night during our weekly “Painting with Rainy “ class, my friend Randy brought in a video of an artist who works with acrylic paints and works primarily outdoors. After watching a couple painting demos, we decided to paint one of the paintings from the book using his technique in acrylics. Normally, I paint with oil paints that allow me to paint slowly. So using fast drying acrylics was out of my normal way of doing things.
As I painted, I noticed getting a bit frustrated because I was unfamiliar with how fast the paints dried. My painting didn’t look like the one in the book. Then I realized there was really no need to get frustrated. No one is going to compare my painting to the one in the book. I’m not being graded. Randy won’t make fun of me. No one is going to die. This is just an experiment. If I stop struggling and just see what happens, I’ll enjoy the process much more.
I see this in other areas of life as well. I think if we can look at our lives as a series of experiments, we will feel better about trying new things. There are things we can change and things we can’t. All we can do is, do our best, open ourselves to new possibilities and opportunities and let the outcome be what it will. I think embracing uncertainty is one of the keys to success. Because I think you’ll find that the more you do, the more uncertainty there will be in your life. Do you want to live a full live or a safe life?
Art Saves Lives!
Last week someone asked me if when I paint, do I think about whether or not it is saleable or do I just paint for myself. I was working on a rather large painting at the time. As I looked at it, I realized that it never really occurred to me that it probably wouldn’t fit in the average person’s living room.
I’ve never really made an official artist statement, but I guess painting for me, is about making art for the sake of making art. I usually don’t have a really good reason for it, except that I can’t help myself. I paint first and think about whether other people like it later. I found that when I start worrying too much about how it will be judged, I’m not free to really engage myself in the process and usually the outcome isn’t so great.
I think a lot of times life can be like that as well. We live life because we keep waking up in the morning. What we don’t realize is that we are the painters in our own lives. We can create the life we want. However, we can get so preoccupied with wondering how others are going to judge us that we lose sight of who we are. We give away our paintbrush. We are unable to be authentic and live our lives in our own unique way. We aren’t able to enjoy the process of living.
Recently I asked myself “Who would I be if there were no praise or criticism in the world?” It gave me a little insight into my motivations. Is this really who I am or am I trying to conform to other people’s expectations. There is a difference.
To be really authentic, we need to first know ourselves well. Every decision I make is made in light of who I am as a person and the values that I hold. That way my authenticity remains in tact, and life remains enjoyable, even during hard-times.
Second, we need to be willing to be somewhat vulnerable, and put ourselves out there. Like painting, we have to be willing to put some paint on the canvas. This can be a little scary, but as we get used to it, the freedom it brings is well worth it. We will start to feel free to try new things and take a few risks.
Since opening Art Village I’ve found that running a business is a lot like painting. I have an idea of where I’m going, but as I get into the thick of things, unexpected issues come up. I find I need to stand back every so often and look from a new angle. The painting process consists of stopping, looking, evaluating, waiting for a suggestion from intuition, and decision-making. I ask for input from other people. But in the end, I’m the one making adjustments here and there until I decide the painting is complete.
Life, like painting is trial and error mostly. But that is the fun part. If you approach life like a piece of art, you’re less likely to look for only one right way to do something. Life is surprising and a new approach may be needed to get through a particular challenge. I say try it. Most decisions aren’t life and death. You just keep making adjustments until you reach your goal or decide the painting is done. Of course Picasso said that a painting is never really finished.
I believe our lives are a work of art. We need to have big goals and dreams, because life is much more fun if you have something to look forward to. As you paint on the canvas of your life it’s important to remain true to your self as the artist. Your life will be much fuller when you know who you are.
Art Saves Lives!