I’ve talked before about a workshop I attended, and how important it is for an artist to seek out new experiences to further their understanding. Sometimes it feels as if doing such a thing is a great risk. You know the sort of self-talk that goes on about fitting in or painting anything worthwhile or absolutely failing. It requires opening that soft spot where you are truly vulnerable and human.
I recall attending the first evening event where students met up with old friends and new instructors. I am awkward in such situations, but I had been contacted by a fellow blogger who was also attending, so I scanned the name tags until I had an opportunity to introduce myself to her. Her look was blank. I expanded beyond my name and mentioned the blog and her emails. Still nothing. As polite moments of conversation followed, I realized she had no idea who I was.
Immediately following, one of the mentors passed by and asked if I had met any of the instructors yet. Since I had not, she offered to introduce me to Rose Frantzen.
Shaking hands, I mentioned that, yes, this was my first workshop, and I wasn’t sure what to do. “Really?” she asked, and then announced that I should follow her back to the studio so she could show me “what it’s all about.” What followed was a ten minute one-on-one instruction period where I sat beside one of my major artistic influences and watched her paint.
Awkwardness is part of our experience. Too often we use it to avoid risk. Life doesn't ask us to look inward, but outward toward all the possibilities that exist. Vulnerability is born out of fear: the other side of vulnerability is generosity.
I was reminded of that experience when I recently came across this article by Jerry Fresia, titled 5 Ways to Develop as an Artist. Here is an excerpt:
And it is when you cannot be bothered with product, you will look about the studio and find a few pieces that have a life. Your life. And so you gather them up and market them. And then after 30 years of painting, you will have had a career and the “later” you will have emerged. You will have grown. And you will have been an artist.
And it starts by taking the risk to be vulnerable.