So You Think You Are An Artist!

I am an artist. At least I think I am. And I have fellow artists who tell me so although I do not paint.

I know I am an artist because I've been getting a lot of money for my current artistic endeavors.  I can remember how it all started.

I had a little yen for this field when I was a kid. I used to do a lot of sketches of people and landscapes in a notebook while attending high school, drawing my fellow classmates. My teacher saw my notebook after I had fallen asleep in his class, woke me up and said I must be interested more in art. (He was teaching history.) He advised I take art classes. I did, and I also joined the committee working on the Senior Class yearbook. I did a lot of sketches for that publication.

After it was published, my parents saw my artwork and encouraged me to switch majors and go to an art school. I went to the Phoenix School of Art on a scholarship. Besides reading a lot of art books and articles there, I was taught to think like an artist.

That means looking at things differently than most people do. Finding beauty in everyday things and situations. Making new connections between different things and ideas. Going beyond ordinary ways of thinking and doing things. Looking at things in different ways in order to generate new perspectives. Taking risks and exposing myself to possible failure. Arranging things in new and interesting ways. Persisting where others may give up. Concentrating my effort and attention for long periods of time. Dreaming and fantasizing about things. Doing something simply because I thought it interesting and personally challenging to do.

People often think of artists as painting pictures. At Phoenix, however, I learned that being an artist involves much more than simply 'making pictures.' Artists are curious individuals who are driven by a desire to create and a willingness to take chances. They have a special way of seeing and thinking about the world which is shared with others through the works they create.

I've always been asked, “how often do you do it? How do you come up with such crazy ideas?” The instructors at the school taught, and I learned from books connected with my courses that artists often get their best ideas from everyday, ordinary experiences. Eating the morning breakfast can be an opportunity to begin your day thinking like an artist. You eat breakfast and all of a sudden a lion bursts out of your fork. How could that happen? It could have been supercharged by the sweet sugar you put in the cereal you were eating!

Thinking like an artist sometimes means making the familiar become strange, the ordinary, extraordinary. My instructors used to say: "go through picture magazines looking for things that might suggest an 'outrageous idea.'" Don't go for the first idea, which is usually boring. Cut out several pictures from a magazine and then try different combinations after you cut the original background away from some of the images you need. Consider changing size relationships, and try putting things together we don't usually see together. When you finish, put a title to this new picture and show it to someone. If they say..."that's outrageous" instructors said to tell them its "artrageous."

Despite the conception of the artist as an isolated, solitary soul similar to a novelist, artists recognize their need to exchange ideas and look inside themselves and interact with their times. The opportunity to become a member of the art community will also help the artist grow since he/she will be receiving comments from their fellow artists about their work. It's a very important part of becoming an "artist"...the ability to take criticism, because you'll get a lot of it, my teachers warned me.

As my Phoenix teachers taught me from their considerable experience, talent is not worth a thing without work. Given the work, the talent, and the opportunity, real artists don't waste it away. They work at it and don't put their art on hold for too long. Armed with talent, knowledge and instinct, the artist enters the world in which it is mostly impossible to make a living doing what he or she knows best.  

When I was learning the techniques of this chosen lifestyle, teachers never spoke about being a success nor what the artist has gleaned from the media  with stories that tell about paintings selling for millions of dollars. What the artist finds in the real world is a calculated indifference, curators too busy to look at new artists, dealers too committed to their own crop of talent to take on new ones.

It's hard to tell a budding Van Gogh that life is hard in the art world and that it is merchandising that has to be sold to make a living. You can't tell an artist that he may have to find a job to support his art-making creativity. There are zillions of artists trying, however. Look at the tremendous amount of art fairs held throughout the country (over 600 found the last time I looked on the Internet).

When you attend one you'll see hundreds of booths, thousands of pieces of art displayed for sale. I looked into that route, too. It was so frustrating, and I gave up.

That's what happened to me. I couldn't afford to be an artist who just painted to make a living. I had a family to support, a child on the way. That's why I became a graphic artist at an advertising agency. It pays good money, and I can still use some of my learned art techniques to satisfy my creativity cravings.



Three Pearls of Caregiving... 

Three pearls are Safety, Meaning and Purpose. They are basic spiritual principles that can guide our decision and actions during the universal experiences of aging, illness and dying. Article by Brooke Travis, Ph.D., covers going to visit a hospital, making choices and giving care for another person...Caregiving Newsletter #951, 9.27.16.


SENIOR HUMOR ONE-LINERS:  I'm having trouble remembering simple words like...uh


Bernie is a real person who resides in one of our Brookdale communities. Many of the stories he has written are based on factual evidence from newspaper stories and other sources available to the public.  He uses his imagination in parts to help supply the “twist” at the end.  The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Brookdale Senior Living.

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