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!