The year I turned fifty I decided to reinvent my life and become an artist. At the time I was half of the management team in our small business, working 40 to 50 hours a week and perfectly happy, so the decision surprised almost everyone, including myself.
And it all started in - of all places - my garage. I found an article about painted furniture. With the help of my husband, we began to construct original Adirondack chairs in our spare time. Following traditional methods, I gessoed the wood and began painting what I thought of as *real art* on the back upright section of the seat. By the middle of July in 1998 I was kneeling on the cement in my hot garage, happily painting commissioned Adirondack chairs for $200 a pop.
Three years later, in the middle of a hot July, I was on the second floor of the Galleria degli Uffici in Florence, Italy, standing in front of Titian’s painting, Venus of Urbino, realizing everything I had ever thought about painting was wrong.
I think most artists can point to that moment when they change, from someone who finds art-making pleasant, into someone who discovers a deep need to create. I now refer to my moment in terms of BT (before Titian) and AT (after Titian). That hot afternoon in July I was overwhelmed by the power of the artist to reach out, across more than five centuries, and so profoundly affect me on an emotional level through his art. I had walked through a door of realization that day and couldn’t go back.
Over the AT years since, I have been following a personal journey of discovery into the nature, creation, and mystery of art. It is a journey that is often solitary, filled with competing demands. And as I learned and experienced and made numerous mistakes and assumptions, I began to journal – about the ways my thinking was changing, and how to maintain my passion and perseverance when the work would feel really hard. Those journal entries, and subsequent research into curious aspects of art and brain science and age, have evolved into the book, Ancient Wisdom: Emerging Artist, the business plan (not just) for the mature artist.
You may be wondering why I have written a business plan when I just told you I had a profoundly changing experience about art. My background is in business, taking a germ of an idea, nurturing it, tweaking it when things don't quite work, and bringing it into some form of reality. I also spent more than four years working in a commercial art gallery, plus managing my own open studio, being a "gallery artist" with openings and deadlines and talking about art, plus mentoring other emerging artists. It was natural to organize my thoughts using the generic Business Plan template. Many of you actually downloaded and read the original version of this Business Plan, and despite some of the half-formed ideas, the careless writing and some rather awkward - now - assumptions, you were enthusiastic about the content and most appreciative: for that I sincerely thank you. Your comments, inspirations and stories motivated me to revisit what I had written and make it better.
Ancient Wisdom: Emerging Artist, the business plan (not just) for the mature artist, will soon be available in book form through Amazon, plus the Kindle. This is the new version, revised, strengthened, and written from an artist’s perspective and experience. You will find discussions about understanding your self and your art, before you move on to the real life business activities like marketing and promotion. There are sections on age and creativity, the powerful advantages of the mature artist over younger peers, and why you are never too old (or too young) to create meaningful art. On my personal journey I've learned about self mentoring. I believe it is the second most important thing an artist can do, so there are discussions about identifying obstacles, strengthening skills, understanding potential and accomplishing creative goals.
I also recommend three fine arts experts. Through personal experience with their classes, coaching, blogs and books, I can attest to the value they offer in the development of your career. There is a resources section, and insights from fellow artists working effectively toward their goals. The book has now expanded with 50% new content, and some of my favorite topics include how to remain passionate about your work, and how to set fear aside and focus on a curiosity about success.
The book was conceived to be a source of encouragement and support. I put honest, real life knowledge in this business plan, and no doubt there will be controversy over some ideas – like who and what really controls your pricing, or what constitutes creative honesty, and how difficult it can be to be original. You may not agree with what I write. Not everything will apply to you or your artistic experience. But then again, it might. The challenge in the narrative is to bring up the discussions we don’t know how to have, to start thinking about our art in new ways, and to learn how to define artistic success by our own terms. It is for artists of every age, but particularly for those who struggle with questions that have no easy answers.
In the book Arts and the Creation of Mind, author Elliot W. Eisner writes, “The arts, when experienced in the fullness of our emotional life, are about becoming alive.” Ultimately, each artist must find their own way. Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist begins the conversation. Yes, you can put almost any business plan into action, and there is a wealth of information already available to you. But if you've lost touch with your inner experience, if you've forgotten your artistic philosophy, or the ability to look at the whole of your creative experience and not just the parts, then you may never find real success. Because the artist who ventures off on his own without finding out what he wants, who wraps his accomplishments in validation from others while ignoring his inner voice, will soon find it impossible to create meaningful art.
And in all likelihood he will give up.
I am self publishing Ancient Wisdom: Emerging Artist the business plan (not just) for the mature artist, taking advice from Barney Davey to self-publish my own work whenever possible. And as with most adventures, this one is taking longer and filled with more formatting and proof-reading than I ever imagined. Gremlins moving the goal posts. But the files are in the process of turning very soon into something you can hold in your hand.
I hope you will follow along with me as I bring this book into reality.