Ever since Billy and I retired in 1991, I have had more time to practice my art. This is a dream come true for me. Many times, it has occurred to me that the challenges I face in expressing myself artistically are really Lessons of Life.
It’s that old question “Is art imitating life or vice versa?”
Below, I share some of these lessons, and hope you find them both fun and useful.
Trust the Process
Creating art is a process and so is Life.
One doesn’t just sit at the table and Presto! The art arrives. And there is no point in getting angry about it – Art is born when it’s ready. My job is to clear my head and allow the art to come.
In Life, I can’t push myself or another to do something or be something until the time is right. I am not the one who decides the timetable.
There is Always a Solution
You’ve heard the expression “painting oneself into a corner?” Yes, it really does happen, but there is always a solution to the conundrum.
Sometimes I have to wait, sometimes I have to put the canvas away and come back to it another day. Sometimes what I learn in the meanwhile before I return to that particular project was exactly what I needed to take this piece to the next level.
Before I give up on a relationship or a situation in Life, I try to tweak my mind out of the “problem” mindset and into the “solution” mindset. If I learn some more information it will allow me and the Life challenge to move forward.
Break the Rules
One of my favorites.
Being a mixed-media artist, I am always looking for something new and unusual to combine together. Sometimes breaking the rules gets me out of the box and something dynamic and worthwhile is created.
In Life, routine can be comforting, but getting out of that standard practice brings new life to something worn out, or something old or familiar.
Know When You’re Tired or Need to Eat
This one is seemingly obvious, but not necessarily so. When nothing is coming to me as I sit at the table, I might realize that what I need is to take a nap, go for a walk or have something to eat.
It’s the same in Life. We can get grumpy or confused when our bodies are tired or our blood sugar is down. This lesson is simple, but essential.
Some People Are Not Going to Like Your Style. That’s Ok.
Really?! You mean some people aren’t going to like me?
Geniuses of the world, whether in art, music, mathematics or science, stand out from the crowd. It can be a lonely walk but trying to fit into the crowd feels like a betrayal of self. In order to soar above the mundane, we have to let go and take chances.
We would never have had Mozart, Jimmy Hendrix, Yo-Yo Ma, Einstein or even Jimmy Buffett if their first concern was to please everyone and snuff out their own fire.
To be who you truly are does not mean you need to cancel out everyone else or be rude to another. It means “Let your own Light shine” and hopefully it inspires others to add their Light to the world. In this way, everyone gains, and the world is brighter and more fun.
One of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis is: “When the whole world is running towards a cliff, he who is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind.”
Each of the above brilliant humans have suffered from the hands of their community, peers or from those who didn’t understand them for being different. But all of us now benefit from their having been true to themselves and leaving us their gifts.
Art Can Be Messy
Life and art can both be messy.
For someone who likes things compartmentalized, clean, or on a certain timeframe, this lesson goes against the grain. Let art and Life be what it needs to be, then simply clean up later.
Start Where You Are, Use What You’ve Got
None of us begin at the same starting line of Life. Not all of us had a stable home life, wealth, education or clear direction of our talents. It’s important to make the most of who you are, what you have, right where you are. Move forward from there.
In art, I have learned that I don’t need the most expensive products—and that invention or substitution is quite rewarding. There is no need to hold myself back until I have that one thing that I don’t have right now.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
How many times have you heard this one? Yet it’s so true.
In high school there was this fellow student whose parents were artists. She had training and direction since she was a toddler. We both took courses at a local art school in the city, and her ability and skilled expression simply paralyzed me.
Unfortunately, I didn’t allow myself to take advantage of this great opportunity my parents afforded me. I was too focused on her, instead of my chance to learn something valuable. Holding myself back, I painfully missed out.
We do this in life, too, don’t you think?
You Can Make Treasure Out of Trash
One of my passions is to take something discarded, broken or lost and turn it into an object of art.
This skill is effective in Life, too.
Did you know that Billy and I didn’t start to invest until a “catastrophe” happened at our restaurant? We took that busted situation and chose to become better because of it. We reordered our lives, began investing at about age 30, and retired 8 years later.
Know When You’re Done
An art project can be simple instead of throwing the kitchen sink at it. Trust your gut to know when it’s done.
Similarly, trust yourself to know when an old outdated style of life is finished. Moving into simplicity can be the best decision you have ever made.
Believe in Yourself
In art, in Life, in relationships, in everything—belief in yourself makes it all meaningful and rewarding. You are YOU-nique—there is only one YOU!
Instead of tearing yourself down, distracting yourself with needless comparisons, or lusting after the one thing you don’t have in the moment, know what you bring to the table and know that you have value.
Life will reflect that back to you, and you will have meaning and satisfaction beyond measure.