Do you remember the song “It’s Not Easy Being Green”The other day as I was driving home, I was listening to an interview of an author on NPR. The guest was sharing the challenges he had experienced in his life because of his eccentric beliefs and behaviors. He said “It is hard to be different in this country.” In that moment, I was struck with the feeling that I, too, had felt different and a little “outside” my entire life. I wondered: “How many people are trying to fit in so that they are not judged for being outside of what is considered the norm”.
Quote from Cynthia James
Many people would say “being different” is a key attribute to being an artist. In my experience being “different” is not as valued as being in sync in the art marketplace and within the art’s community . Knowing what the market expects and understanding what your community values is essential to success.
I am currently a one of the regional representatives for an arts organization. It’s my artistic community; my peeps. Being on the inside of a formal organization which promotes the medium I work with (art quilts), helps me as an artist to better understand the expectations of the community, to connect with exceptional artists and understand the process for getting my artwork into the public eye. Every artist needs a network to grow artistically.
Recently I learned a valuable lesson about trying to be “different”. I attempted to launch a new project which was handily rejected. I failed to fully understand I am a volunteer for this organization. My role as a volunteer is not to improve what the organization no matter how well intentioned or forward thinking my rational. My role is to support the existing system.
My reward as a volunteer is to enlarge my artist network. I am building a resource for my own growth. Putting energy into project not initiated by the larger organization is not in my self interest. I am better served by fitting into an existing plan. Being “different” in this situation didn’t serve my goals as an artist and took time away from more valuable projects.
Currently the majority of my time is spent focusing my energy on creating a new body of work. This has been an ongoing goal which I wrote about on this blog in May of 2014. In May I met with a mentor provided by my arts organization to talk about my work. During that conversation it was clear I needed to create a series of work that was more cohesive and would reflect a exploration of well thought out visual problem sustained overtime.
In the review it was clear my body of work was all over the place.
I needed to focus.
(To say this in more compassionate terms:
I was ending a period a exploration and learning.)
It is obvious that being different, always exploring something new or constantly straying far from the visual norms of the medium is not the “different” an artist should embrace. Finding my voice (which will always be unique) has meant far less exploration and much more focus. I am building up level of skill using a similar process in multiple quilts. My goal is to present to the marketplace a less diverse more cohesive body of work.
Above is an example of my work toward a cohesive portfolio. The three images on the bottom of 10" square studies which resulted in the final 35" x 35" art quilt.
Lesson learned: be a little less “green” and a little more savvy.
Until next time……