In the process of making many life changes I stumbled upon a Borders bookstore that was closing and was drawn to a daily devotional by Franklin Jentezen titled, Right People Right Place Right Plan. Every morning when I wake up, the first thing I do is read the journal page for the day, shower, get dressed, and take the dog for a walk down to the brook. Together, the dog and I commune with nature, where we are surrounded by a stream of fresh water, little yellow flowers in bloom, chirping birds, chipmunks, rabbits, and an occasional deer or two. In the peacefulness of nature, I tune out the world and the thoughts in my head to meditate and pray.
Being here reminds me of when I was a child and would spend hours wandering in the dense Texas forests with my black lab named Magic. surprisingly, I never got lost in the woods and would always found my way back home. After many years of trying to build a successful art career and relationship, I find myself redefining what success means to me on every level. The process of the last year, specifically the past three months has been one hell of a emotional rollercoaster ride and a powerful lesson in 'letting go' of what no longer serves to fulfill a higher purpose in my life. If anything, my relationship was bringing me down and I was finding the energy I normally used for creative projects was being channeled in the wrong direction. Before 'we' was 'me' and I remember learning the lesson long ago to stop investing so much energy in people and focus on giving back to the community instead. I fell in love with creating art projects where a portion of the proceeds would be donated to charity or being involved hands on. Why? Creative projects don't break your heart, they don't abandon you, they don't lie, they don't cheat on you, betray you, they don't wound you, they don't make promises they cannot keep. If the result of all your hard work disappoints you, then you just take the project back to the drawing board and do it again but better.
"God wants to see if you've got the right spirit in the face of adversity. God wants to know if you are able to 'bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you." (Luke 6:28)
I have witnessed the material trappings of success, how it changes people, not always for the better. The social climbers, back stabbed, gold diggers, the drugs, alcohol abuse and infidelity that run rampant to numb the pain and lack of fulfillment. Sometimes I am still amazed at how New York City, a place filled with wealth and material opulence can have such a lack of warmth here, and a lack of smiles in a place so filled with financial abundance and blessings. It was the first thing my mother noticed when she came to visit me from Texas, "The people don't seem happy here. surprisingly." Making a lot of money to obtain material possessions is an illusion the world suffers from, it is only temporarily fulfilling if you are not living for a higher purpose bigger than yourself. Making a positive difference in the world, making a difference in people's lives, even in the smallest way is what matters to me. Money just gives you the freedom to do what you want, when you want, it gives you options. Corporate America sells a nice package, but I don't want to be another number on a spreadsheet or trapped in an office cubicle. Dreams take sacrifice and I would rather follow the light of my own dreams or die trying. No one ever said the 'creative path' was going to be an easy one. Endurance and persistence are key for anyone who works in the arts or creative fields.
"Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do." ~Confucius
My cousin Kelli Bland is an actor. She has been doing theater now for about ten years. She is an incredibly talented comedic actor and is known for her theatre work: she directs plays and has a lot of visibility online (Project: Rant!, Anarchy for Breakfast, and soon, Weatherman) She also does costume design, works as a voiceover artist and has been in several films. She has been in Temple Grandin with Claire Danes, and is in scenes with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn in the new movie the Tree of Life. I admire her persistence and drive, but I also see how much she still struggles to make ends meat, working odd jobs just to survive.
The art community needs a way to make residual income off of their creative projects, while building out their career. The days of the starving artist need to come to an end.
The babbling brook brings to mind a conversation I was having with my art agent yesterday. We were discussing how the New York arts community has suffered serious losses during the recession, with artists moving out of the city to find a more affordable cost of living and consistent stream of income. Even I am not immune to this pressing reality.
" Ivana Medukic is a sculptor who lived in Brooklyn for three years....Artists are getting priced out and dispersed through (New York City's) neighborhoods. You're losing the sense of community and working together. For Ivana and others who are relocating out of state, it's largely about the bottom line. The cost of living and renting in New York City is escalating. And struggling artists are being challenged to both create and hold down other jobs that pay the bills. A new survey of 1,000 New York City artists by the New York Foundation for the Arts found more than 43 percent of artists there expected their annual income to drop between 26 percent and 50 percent within six months. "
With people flocking to shop at places like Ikea, Pier 1, Bed Bath & Beyond and other online retailers to purchase cheap, mass produced art prints, artists sales are suffering. As a result it impacts our financial stability and quality of life. With the technological advances in computer programs; digital imaging, file sharing, photography, photo applications and sound production. Everyone can easily produce their own photographs, artwork, prints and music now. Whether or not what people create at home is really 'art' or of 'good quality,' is a different issue all together. Artists also have to deal with the issue of piracy and theft of the copyrighted artwork we create, especially as it enters the eminent domain of the internet. Artists who create music, original artwork or shoot photographs for a living are competing with all the above to maintain a decent quality of life. If the artwork you create does not sell, do you keep creating it or do you close up shop and throw away your creative gifts? These are a few challenges facing artists and the art world today. My agent fears, in coming years if things do not improve drastically, and the government continues to reduce funding, the arts community in New York and across the nation will come to a grinding halt. I think slightly differently because I believe where there is life, there is art, art exists even in poverty.
Starving artists passionate about their craft will always find a way to survive.
It is more an issue of encouraging people to attend local art shows in their communities and buy original artwork. Every time you go to a Fortune 500 corporate retailer for artwork, you are putting another artist out of work. Becoming an art collector does not have to take a lot of money, but it does take effort to 'show up' and 'engage' the art community around you. For example, when I create an art series it is a total of twelve original paintings or twelve photographic images. I call it, the magic dozen. The originals go to the gallery, where they are reproduced in a limited edition run of a 100 signed prints each. Some artists run their editions into the thousands, but it decrease the value of each print. For example, it is a better investment for an art collector to own either the original art OR 1 of 100 signed prints of Marilyn Monroe or Picasso. Owning 1 out of 10,000-50,000 prints would be the equivalent of buying a cheap poster from Kmart that you will eventually throw away. Every limited edition photographic print should be signed and numbered by the artist, the costs ranging between $50-$250 dollars each. As time passes, the photographic print becomes more valuable due to the fact they are limited edition and will never be reproduced. If you had invested in a original or limited edition print of Marilyn Monroe or Picasso, or owned 1 of the first 100 copies signed by the photographer or artist you would have invested in a mini-gold mine.
Artists create because it is their nature to be creative, income stream or no income stream. Creative living is a part of who we are but we still need support from the community to thrive, not just survive. I am amazed and grateful to the 'million helping hands' who have shown up along the way during my creative career. God definitely dwells among the people and in them. The art world is changing and whether or not the creative community will be able to sustain full time careers as artists is yet to be seen. We as artists are challenged to find new ways of creating residual income streams for ourselves, while at the same time, walking the tightrope of not selling ourselves out in the process.
It is here, in nature that I begin to note how everything in nature is taken care of by the divine, no matter the changing season. The birds have food to eat, the fish still swim despite the heavy rain fall, they trust in the 'process of life.' To return to nature is to return home, centering myself in the love of my true friends and family that genuinely care about me. In this place, I pray for clarity in my life direction, geographic location and re-inventing my life purpose.
What I know or certain is that creating art is done out of love; the love of creativity, the love of being a creative channel for the divine and the deep appreciation for the beauty of life and all living things.
I trust the unfolding process of my journey. I trust the universe will manifest everything I need. You should too.
" The success of love is in the loving
- it is not in the result of loving.
Of course it is natural in love to want the best for the other person,
but whether it turns out that way or not
does not determine the value
of what we have done. "