How do you measure success?

This morning is a time of reflection and recovery from my first Open Studios weekend.

My biggest lessons learned:

  • The act of honoring my art is an act of honoring myself. By placing my work on my walls, and setting out all of the work I have done (art journals, small paintings, sketchbooks, SoulCollage cards, etc), I created a space for me to see me. That was the biggest act of creativity and transformation from this weekend.
  • The next biggest act was watching different people – some strangers, some friends – interact with my art. Observing where their eyes and bodies gravitated within the room, where they stopped, where they touched, where they commented out loud. What I am able to convey in my bound painting sketchbooks goes far beyond any conversation or written account of my experience. By flipping through the pages of my daily art-making books, you walk with me in my presence, without explanation.
  • Success is the ability to see the gifts from an experience, to reflect on them in whatever way enables the feeling of those gifts to permeate your being, to fill your cells with an acknowledgment of gain, growth, and forward motion from that experience. Period. That is the only metric of success that matters to me.
  • Give everyone the chance to be your ally.” That was a quote from Ben Jealous, a speaker at Success 3.0 Summit. It stuck with me as a powerful synopsis of a moment when assumptions and judgments could have led him down one path, but openness and presence blew all of that away in a beautiful moment of friendship, support, and connection from an unexpected source. My story about that kind of moment for me: One of my neighbors – who in my experience has always been “the quiet type” – showed up on Saturday. He took a keen interest in my very first sketchbook, the one in which I really began to claim myself as an artist. Where in the pages I confronted my fears, my doubts, my deepest inner criticisms, my harshest words towards myself, and made them into art anyway. It was the time when I gathered the audacity to apply for my first juried art shows, using “only what I have”. He took time with each page, interpreting what he saw, sharing it out loud, and surprising me with every profound insight that came out of his mouth. I wanted to record some of it, as he was seeing things I never took the time to see myself in a few of the paint scrapings I never even considered “paintings”. At the end, as he quietly arrived at the last page and closed the book, he looked up and said, “Would you like to hear what I see here?”. Of course I did! He proceeded to tell me the story of me. How he saw a person who was afraid, doubtful of her ability to connect with others, fearful of their possible response to her advances, who then through this process of making art, became free. She became someone who had the confidence and desire to show who she really is, and to have people see that about her. Wow. Yes. Amazing. I never took him to be “someone who likes art” or “someone who would come to an art show”. Very clearly, he is someone who connects deeply with the essence of art, and who showed up fully at my art show. And I am glad I opened myself for him to do that. He has helped me grow as a person and as an artist, just by being there in that moment.
  • Sales are still an abstract concept for me. This weekend I was also able to experience what it’s like to have people show an interest in certain works, and then ask me how much they cost to buy. For some of the works, I had prices that I knew were comfortable for me. For others, I hadn’t considered that someone else might want to buy them. So I had no number in mind. I shared that, and asked for the time to sit with the request and come back with a number at a later time. And now I am sitting. I am discovering that there are certain works I love too much to ever “sell” (i.e., give away in exchange for money). And I am facing the questions for myself of, “Who is my art for?” and “What purpose does it serve to share my art?” and “What are the different lives that my art can take on, once I give it away?”. It is an exciting discovery to be in. And I thank the people who declared their interest in taking some of my pieces home, for their help in taking me down this path of discovery. It will grow me as a person, it will grow the impact of my art in the world, and it will free me to create and release more and more art from now on.
  • I also luxuriated in two full days of having “nowhere to be”. In the few moments of downtime between visitors, I was free to create. I enjoyed fully immersing myself in the making process. Here are my Open Studios weekend creations:

The productivity reminded me that just having the space is a key ingredient for activating creative activity. Also, announcing to the world – through the event of the Open Studio – that I am “open” and I am an “artist” and this is my “studio” was a powerful step in taking ownership of who I am, what I am creating, and what I choose to do with my life.

Thanks for celebrating with me! Here are a few more interior pictures of my Open Studio!


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