For over forty years I have been creating art…For A Living!
I am finally comfortable saying, “I am an artist”, when someone asks what I “do”. I think that comfort happened about 12 or 14 years ago. I have realized, along this path, that everyone that asks that question, upon hearing the answer, have some kind of pre-conceived notion of what an artist is, just like any other profession that you may not know much about. First, there’s always the “starving artist”; the assumption that no one can “make it” “doing” art. Let me clear this one up for you right now, just so we can really get this one out of the way. The so called starving artist has choices in life, as any of us have. It’s just a little different than the general public’s path to starvation. An artist that is consumed by her passion must create, above all else. She may feel possessed most of the time and is driven by the need to create. Have you ever been driven by the need to absolutely have to do something? Like everyday? So this is where the artist mind splits….or not. Take two artists, both driven to create. One says to herself, I must create, but I can’t (or won’t) deal with the business side to sell my work, for various reasons or possible excuses…whatever…it’s a choice. The other artist says I want to sell my work and pay my rent and live off my art and what it gives to the world, so I better figure out how to make that happen. And the challenged then begins to work hard to figure out a way to do that. Of course, there are various spin offs between these two artist types, for reasons one does or doesn’t sell one’s art. I think I have heard them all, both valid and ridiculous. But the point here is, we all have choices. Have you ever met a real starving artist? Who was starving because she would only produce her art and not get a job to subsidize her art and her life? “WILL PAINT FOR FOOD”, is not a common homeless sign. So the Starving Artist assumption is clarified here. Right?
Then, unless a layman knows just a tiny bit about art, the questions sometimes stop (insert uncomfortable silence here), because the obvious thing would be something like, “Oh really! What kind of medium do you use?”, or “What type of art do you produce?” (these are hints for you if you ever run into an artist to help with conversations). But most people don’t know where to go after the first answer is given. I have had conversations with artists that laugh about this with each other, but also feel a bit saddened by the stereotypical responses. Afterall, you would ask an engineer what type of engineering she did, or a teacher what grade she taught, or a shop keeper what kind of store she owned. But the realm of artistry is surreal by nature and we creatives seem to walk through this veil of the surreal and into worlds the lay person is unfamiliar with. Therefore, they instantly feel uncomfortable with our response and refer back to a safe place of making fun of the “starving artist” or may very well back away slowly, wondering how to comfortably excuse themselves from the conversation. Let me also say, if you meet someone that is an adult that says they are an artist, they usually have already spent a lifetime of commitment and devotion to their creative process, and I am here to personally advise you to try not to feel uncomfortable and also to show this person some true respect. Because the path that this person has chosen is not an easy one, financially, spiritually, socially, and even physically and the commitment to stay on that path must be strong and devoted in order to make it.
Creating Art for a Living?
For myself, as an artist and a single mom, I made a choice…do art that was necessary to daily life, which meant signs. For over 40 years I have designed and painted signs. WAIT! Did I hear someone say to itself, “Signs aren’t art.”? WRONG. Done correctly, signs are one of the oldest professions in artistry. Designing and creating an excellent sign requires artistry, math, design, color skills, and the ability to read your client’s business needs and design for that particular business, in order to bring the customers to their door. And these skills, if mastered well will open doors to other forms of creativity and artistry, as they have for me. The evolution of this artist was not planned. There was no time to plan as a single mom. The plan was…pay the rent and the bills. But I followed every open door and kicked a few doors open along the way, and probably stuck my foot in a few doors too. Because I chose to do this, rather than getting a “real job”. Excuse me, but I had the most Real Job I wanted. I created art for a living…and still do.
But here’s the funny thing…I created art at the request of my clients needs. I designed signs, murals, graphics, watercolors, calligraphy, logos, color schemes, store layouts, menus, interior and exterior design, you name it. I even painted a rifle once for a rifle show!
But fast forward to now, these past 3 weeks. I was given the opportunity to have 3 weeks of blissful time to create whatever I wanted to create, in a serene place, with my own studio, two meals a day, and my own room.
What do I do with this heavenly time? I have spent 40 years creating for other people. What do I create for me…just because it feels so great to do it? And maybe (but I don’t really care), someone will like it enough to actually buy it. OK, I’m not really thinking about that part as I create…the people buying it, that is.
Trying to put yourself in this place…
1. First off, imagine that you have a block of 3 weeks all by yourself with no responsibilities! Kind of like a vacation, but a self exploration of the greatest kind.
2. Then imagine being thrown together with other like minded people in similar but different head spaces, all there for self exploration, all from different parts of the country and world.
3. Then imagine one day at a time, waking up and deciding what you will do with your day. How will you address your exploration? Look into your soul’s mirror. What can you find? Just for you?
4. What are you seeking or hoping to find?
5. A new way to look at things?
6. A new style?
7. A new medium?
8. A self-realization of some sort?
9. Now break all that down into various times alone with all these parts. One minute a discovery, the next a road block. One minute high, the next a possible low. Pushing through the anxiety, the fear, the excitement, the questions…just pushing. The challenges, the mind altering bends to the psyche, the doors swinging open and then slamming. YUP…Sometimes all in one day, half a day, or even an hour.
10. How does one use a gift this large?
11. How does one cope with this time of exploration?
12. One day, one minute at a time. Allowing demons to come to the surface, look them straight in the eye and say…I want more…Bring it On!! WOWZA!! KABLAM! HOLY MIND BENDING BATMAN!!! Whoever said it was easy to follow one’s bliss?
OK…so now what? I followed doors that opened for me, guides that stood in front of me, and spirit guides that spoke to me. I waited, watched, listened. I let the fears come, I let the demons rise, I gave them all a voice….Then I said, “Thank you, you can leave now. I’m gonna go on alone.”
Last year when I came here, I was inspired by the incredible landscapes and painted with a reckless abandon, interpreting what I saw into my own world.
This year I wanted to try something new, but I had no idea what that would be. I stayed calm and knew it would come. I went on more walks, enjoyed more local environment, relaxed my mind and didn’t push myself to try to paint a certain way. I experimented with texture and palette knives, both of which I had not had much opportunity to explore before. Pretty fun too.
On a hike to one of the vortex rocks, I looked up and distinctly saw three owl figures as guardians in a rock structure.
I saw owl speaking to me. The next morning on a walk, I found a feather, probably not an owl feather, but it sure looks like one and I knew owl was talking to me. My second painting came quickly, but not without it’s own times of frustration and second-guessing. I almost painted over it, but decided to walk away and sleep on it. Low and behold, it looked pretty good the next morning! Guess the elves worked overnight.
It kind of felt like I was on to something, but that something wasn’t strong enough yet. I posted it to Facebook, to keep you all abreast of the fun I was having and I got some pretty positive responses. Getting positive responses from an abstract painting was surprising to me, in itself. Then along came another guide…my mother, in the form of a blue heron. She always seems to show herself in the form of a blue heron, whether alive or in a photo or some other visual presence when I am about to step into something powerful and meaningful. She tells me, “Go for it, Judo, I believe in you! You can do it!”. I listen. She’s always right. My only goal for this visit to Sedona was to connect with the land, Native American spirit, and myself. I saw a large sculpture of a blue heron and asked a local what was up with a blue heron in a kind of desert setting. She told me that because Oak Creek runs through Sedona, Great Blues were everywhere. OK. I guess Mom was right. My next painting needed a blue heron guide in it somehow. Remember, I wanted to incorporate the land and Native American spirit? Owl symbolizes wisdom, peace, strength and silence, with a watchful eye. Blue Heron symbolizes self-reflection and inner knowing. Bingo! But this actually didn’t come easily at first either. My first rendition had nothing to do with blue heron. But it did have a sense of self-reflection and spirituality. Since my first painting of the chapel on the property was a hit, I thought I’d try a different view, with a monsoon sunset. Painted it…felt nothing. Liked the monsoon part. Wasn’t a bad painting, if you like landscapes. Just didn’t speak enough to me. That’s when Blue Heron started whispering to me…”I’m in the chapel, come and get me.”.
Enter Blue Heron
But Blue Heron wasn’t sure if he wanted to be in the shadows of the building or if the building wanted to be in the shadows or if they wanted to walk together. So there was an evolution…then gold leaf was added to his majesty.
To many this last one might have been complete. But this is still wasn’t speaking to my soul. Remember, I am painting for me here. This had to be from ME and for ME. Something was missing. I took a photo and used a photo app on my phone with some different effects. First one hit me…that’s where I wanted to be. Without hesitation I started painting over the whole thing. It’s only paint and I wasn’t happy with the way it was anyway. Five hours later, I was done.
Good Night. I found what I want to do. As soon as I was finished another spirit guide popped into my head…Hawk, the messenger. And so I have finally realized what I want to paint after 40-some years of painting for other people. The Spirit Guides are calling me, asking for my attention to bring them out into the open to speak to whomever wants to listen.
PS…Blue Heron didn’t make it home with me. Blue Heron decided to land at my dear friends home in Scottsdale. Like I said, I painted for Me. But I sold it to someone who fell in love with it. The title is “The Guardian”. I am happy Blue Heron chose my friends. I know he will guard their home with my love. Namaste.