Happiness, Success, and Being an Artist
Sometimes I get trapped in this idea of feeling like I'm not enough if I'm not like, a big shot famous artist. Happens to the best of us. The problem is, that sort of thinking adds so much extra pressure and is ultimately SO damaging to our creative spirits! I mean, what shuts you down faster than an up-front attitude of defeat before you even start. Tell me. And this is sad because you don’t even know it but you’re shutting the door to so many rivers of possibilities simply because you don't see them with your physical eyes right at that very moment.
These days- with the internet and social media- research is ready and available at the tap of your fingertip, along with a million other artists' portfolios, progress, and highlight reel. Except everyone feels like the girl or boy next door. It's a little weird. Since you’re all on the same platform it’s so easy to lose your sight by seeing something on the other side of the fence. You forget your heart. You look only at the armor. But ASK yourself- what's really important here? Isn't it the Connection?
I mean aside from feeling like you have to "make it" to be a successful Something just to show your Babushka you can - beneath all of the requirements you've put on your own success and happiness. What's truly important is the Reason you're an artist. That shit you can't live without, the feeling of connection, this Divine juice that flows through you from some fucking unknown magical place.
That perfect, gestural line, crisp as it whips down along the curves and angles it defines. A smudge of thick lavender icing beside electric lemon smoke. The smell of fresh cut wood and mineral spirits; of doughy, old oil paint. This. Is. The. Shit. That. Matters.
We get stuck in this idea that being happy and "successful" and having lots of money are equivalent, and that is the only way to properly be a grown-up. And that’s so wrong.
Even if you ardently try to fight it, you can't help but sometimes get sucked down the daily grind rabbit hole and let's not forget...bills. You're already the rogue family member who chose the path of Art, and yet there is this small part that, although you're not a doctor or an accountant, still feels that she must be a "success" in a similar way to prove that the arts are a noble, worthy path. (Ok, we know it's noble; a better word[s] is "potentially lucrative").
The funny thing is that when we tie our ideas of happiness and success so tightly to our finances or exposure, we totally shoot ourselves in the foot when it comes to letting ourselves simply be happy. We trick ourselves into believing that the good way we feel isn't HAPPINESS because that would mean attaining XYZ and we haven't attained all that makes us "successful" yet. It's like the never ending grass-is-always-greener syndrome.
I was recently visiting with a friend in Portland who told me that a recent mental thing for her to overcome has been the idea of accepting just being happy. That was so interesting to me because on the surface that seems so simple. Who doesn't want to be happy? But really, it's a brilliant point beCaUse the better question is: who actually LET'S themselves be happy?
It's pretty funny when you think about it- how we get so used to this idea of having to struggle and hustle for security that when something comes easy or actually WORKS, rather than just bask in the goodness and light of that moment, we immediately move on to the next thing that demands worry or two. And so on down the line, filling our plates soon as they're cleared. As someone that cannot sit still for shit and is always having to be doing something, I've really struggled with just letting myself be and experience good moments as they come instead of quickly filing them away and moving on to the next challenge or task. Meditation, Reiki and a mystical, moon-based practice has helped me find peace in stillness this year, and allows me to remember to stop and breath, to actually enjoy the moments I am living for.
Everyone is on their own journeys, and happiness is measured by the moments we truly let ourselves experience rather than any material asset we can attain. So don't worry if your collection didn't sell; you didn't fail. If you are still creating, then you're still supposed to be.
So reassess your fears and your self doubts, and take a good hard look at what is stopping you from enjoying being the creator You are meant to be. Just because you aren't famous or have thousands of followers and a shit ton of shows or residencies under your belt doesn't mean you aren't enough. That's not what this life is about. Of course, showing your art and being granted the time and space to create through an artist residency are amazing things. They are opportunities for artists to learn and grow in their craft as well as the ability to communicate their ideas and philosophies.
But don't get so lost in the forest of wanting such experiences that you lose sight of why. The Reason that the need for sharing and showing and making art exists...the visceral connection you make dipping into the painted cosmos in your fingertips. THAT'S where the heart is. This life is about the fact that those beautiful moments exist and you have lived to feel them.
Some people go their whole lives without feeling that. And many of these people could be classified as "successful." Can you imagine?? So count your blessings and do something you love just because you love it. Don't worry about how it will serve you; it already is.
** cover photo shot by Jordan Scott