I’ve been making art a lot for a few months and that process plugs me into my essential nature. In that space we meet all the aspects of the self. All the biggies pop up when we head into the unknown land of our true creativity. (If you haven’t yet fallen in love with Jason Silva you’ll probably want to watch this. And then watch all of his Shots of Awe videos. But read my post first.)
I don’t believe that we must suffer for art. I have never believed that, although there are many who do. Rather, I’d say that making art puts one in touch with suffering in a very direct way–by opening the pathway to all the feels as they say on Instagram. All the feels. The tender, the painful, the awe-inspiring, the alive, the incandescent flickering of our own film reel, the anxiety and its big brother, fear. All the feels are there when we go deep.
And really, that is what art making is–just some time spent in meditation with our Source. The leftover residue after that Soul Chat is what we call art. But the genesis for it is real conversation with one’s Knowing–with something much bigger than the self–and with what matters most.
I promised myself about six years ago, when I was studying business under my mentor, Marcia Meyer, that when I returned to making work in earnest as an artist, that I’d run myself as a business. An artist must operate and run herself as a business in order to be truly successful, I thought in a Jane-Austen-esque antique British accent in my mind. And I held that simple sentence in my heart and mind for these years, “I’ll run myself as a business.”
And so when I set out on my newest adventure–a return to full-time painting again a few months ago, I held true to that mantra. But…but. It is so much harder than you can imagine–even for a lifelong artist like me. I am learning so much about the creative process and how it intersects with “normal” life.
So, let’s start with business. The word “business” is an Old English contraction for “busy-ness.” It is difficult to be introspective when consumed with the minutiae. It keeps us in the shallower end of the pool. There are marks to hit every day. Emails to send. Packages to ship. Contacts to contact. Marketing to be done. Hype to be made. Social media to deal with. Customer inquiries to answer. And all of that, every day. And so it is busy. Busy in the sense that one’s day is full to the rim and one must do all the things.
And then there is art. And in that realm, at least for me, there is sage to be burned. And then to meditate before I begin. Maybe some materials to procure, but unbelievable as it may sound, it isn’t tremendously busy even if there is a lot to do. Because to make art and to fully enter the sacred and sometimes elusive creative “zone” requires one’s full attention and intention from the depth of the heart and one’s knowing. Making art, whether one considers oneself a “spiritual” person, is certainly a spiritual act and I have always seen it as my temple.
But to be in both business and art at once? Nearly impossible. I can say that fully and from experience. If one were to be a very, very organized person–perhaps the OCD list-making multi-tasker, one would have the advantage here. And if one could perhaps break down the days into different aspects: Monday for email, Tuesday for preparing canvas and paper, Wednesday for painting, etc., then that would be effective.
To do both at once is hard because these two jobs are separate and are almost diametrically opposed. They are distinct states of being. The sacred, slow, checked-in rhythm of art is inconceivable when one is in the day-to-day pragmatism of business–even if one longs for it like a trip to the warm beaches of Cancun–it feels almost that far away. Likewise, the busyness and flurry of business is inconceivable when one is in the fathoms-deep realm of the unspoken–the many-hour meditation that is painting. It absorbs one fully, body, mind and soul. It blots out sun and moon and carpool and groceries. It is like falling into deep snow, so deep that everything is blotted out–obligation and ordinariness. And so, it puts the artist into quite a predicament. To transition from the subterranean soul-basement of wordlessness to the world of normal reality can be dislocating and almost surreal.
It is an altered state to create art, to be sure. It is a deeply connected and embodied state. Sometimes, when I’m painting I get the chills, and prickles on my cheeks and I feel tears just behind my eyes. Those body feelings tell me I’m on the right track. In some moments I feel that I have been there before–that some much older, timeless version of myself has done that exact brushstroke, crouching down on the floor in an almost forward fold as I work. I feel the wise-women in my chest. I hear them from inside my very heart and I even see them in my mind–like a chorus of elder craftswomen singing through me. It is a transcendental meditation to be sure.
Art takes us into the unknown and we follow it. As Rilke said it, we must “live the questions.”
I’ll be keeping track of what works and what doesn’t to let you know how I will stay true to my mantra. I will run myself as a business because I promised myself that I would. And I know there are tricks. I just have to find them. If you have any, let me know. As for me, I’ll be over here living the questions and straddling the worlds and feeling all the feels.