Are you an artist, or just following instructions? – Seth Godin
Mr Godin points out that while kindergarteners always enthusiastically raise their hands when asked the question “who in this room is an artist?”, most of us past the age of six refuse to proclaim our own creativity. What is this stigma that lingers around being an artist? Maybe it’s the antiquated paradigm of the “starving artist” that still pervades our post-industrial culture, and threatens us into denial (because who wants to be labeled a failure?).
We Are All Artists
Being an artist means something very different today than it did 15 years ago. Now it’s more about being human. Part of a community. To me being an artist used to mean ‘making a living from creative constructions, and doing things your own way’. But lately I’ve learned that it’s so much more than that. Being a true artist doesn’t require a college degree or even a salable product (though those are certainly in the mix). It really just takes two qualities we all have – courage and empathy:
In my culture and that of most all of you who are taking the time to read this, comfort and safety are a given in our lives. It takes courage to step outside of our own everyday comfort zone to do something that’s not guaranteed to succeed. And overcoming all manner of fears goes hand in hand with mutual support. As Mohsin Hamid so eloquently stated “Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself”.
Let’s Get Weird
Did you ever notice how profoundly an encounter with a nugget of ‘weirdness’ or a spontaneous gesture of kindness can transform your outlook? To me, these are as much ‘art’ as any painting or sculpture. The magic is in the intention.
Flip that “just get me through the day” autopilot switch to ‘off’, and the fun begins. Ideas flourish, and unexpected things happen. It’s refreshing!
Whether being an artist means creating something concrete that others can interact with or a simple expression of compassion, you need look no further than yourself and the person next to you to find one.
With this in mind, I’ve decided to set a challenge for myself, and I invite you to join me. Like me, maybe you need to shake things up in your life just now, and a weekly walk on the wild side seems like a great way to stretch our dimensions of courage and empathy.
- To create a snapshot of an ‘artist’ each week for a year
- In each snapshot I’ll be looking to uncover something extraordinary, rare, remarkable, marvelous… (more)
- The project runs September 1, 2014 through August 31, 2015
- I’ll post each week’s snapshot here on my blog. To join me or just follow along, you can either subscribe to get email notifications (here in the sidebar) or sign up for updates via newsletter.
What’s your art? Who is extraordinary in your world? I’d love to hear from you – suggestions, nominations, ideas… I’m excited to peer through the lens of what’s possible… You in?
Follow the links below to view each week’s featured artist as the project unfolds.
- Andres Amador – Earthscape Artist: Amazing Beach Art!
- Warren McGee – Train Photographer & Historian and Community Champion
- E.J. Lefavour – Artist at Rocky Neck Art Colony & Author of ‘I See Moolongz’
- Mick Sheridan – Guerilla Upholsterer
- Ryan Hreljac – Boy with a Vision
- The Nine Nanas – Anonymous Angels
Update March 2015
I have obviously not been keeping up with my ‘weekly’ pledge, and here’s why:
Have you ever had a calling that comes up in your life that overrides everything you thought mattered up to that point? Well, I finally acknowledged such a calling recently – one that had been knocking at my door for years, the knocking becoming louder over the past few months until I could ignore it no longer. Not that I was actually ignoring it, but it definitely entered my consciousness with a crystal clarity that was not there previously.
“So what is it already?!?” you may ask. It’s a long-ish story that I won’t go into here, but it’s all about Alternative Materials for Upholstery – replacing old flame-retardant foams with non-toxic alternatives, without stinky glues or off-gassing. You can read more about it on the Alternative Materials page, and if you’re interested to learn more as I release videos, tutorials and full-on classes in the coming months, you can sign up for my mailing list.
I still love recognizing the Artist in everyone, and will continue to add to this project as I am inspired. I appreciate the support I have received from all of you – never doubt that you are truly an artist in your own way!