Recently I found myself getting caught up in the belief that artistic success is measured by social media popularity. To achieve this success, marketing articles stressed the importance of branding through the use of stunning photography of an artist's work, life, and creative self. These would inspire people to want to get to know the artist and therefore want to purchase their art. I am certain that it was good advice, but to this private, messy, authenticity-obsessed soul, it was creatively paralyzing. Time that should have been spent painting or sketching, became time spent trying to take the perfect photo, sprucing up my studio or writing a post that was both witty and inspiring. I mistakenly began to believe that in order to be "successful" I needed to be an excellent painter, skilled photographer and an inspiring bare-your-soul writer, all while looking stunningly beautiful as I painted in my perfectly lit, professionally organized studio. It was a lie made up of my own insecurities, but I bought into it completely.
Enter Mr. Turtle, a birthday gift from my precious neighbor. She brought him to me as I sat in the sunshine, covered in paint, hair in a messy bun, feeling a bit shell shocked (no pun intended). She walked up with a big smile, carrying a brightly colored gift bag and my spirits began to lift. I peeked inside and saw him! With his bright but shabby coral shell, sturdy iron legs, determined smile and a secret hiding place tucked deep inside, I instantly recongized him as my whimsical spirit animal: Neck out, head held high, determined to be known but still reserving a place to hide if necessary; bright and a little shabby, comfortable with his nicks and scratches- content to be himself - not pretending to be anything else but a happy turtle on his own adventure. It was just what I needed to lift me out of my funk and remind me how I define success as an artist.
Now Mr. Turtle sits in my dining room as a testimony to how authenticity mixed with color and whimsy brings incredible happiness to others. He is a reminder to me that spirits lifted are as important as paintings sold. He inspires me to take my time on this adventure and assures me that I am not racing to win a popularity contest, but am in the middle of a movement to spread love and hope in a dark world. I don't have to win anything. I just need to go at my own pace, stick my neck out once and a while and rest inside my shell when I need a break. In this new world of never-ending show and tell, I don't have to be anything but honest and kind to others, patient with myself and try to spread a little beauty (and perhaps continue to sell a painting or two!). And it feels so much better.
Whatever adventure you face these days, make it your own.
Have a happy day!