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Trust Your Process

by Luann Udell on 9/30/2017 5:28:32 AM

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She's blogged since 2002 about the business side--and the spiritual inside--of art. She says, "I share my experiences so you won't have to make ALL the same mistakes I did...."  For ten years, Luann also wrote a column ("Craft Matters") for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She's a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.


If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It!


It’s been a crazy year here. First the sudden move across town. (Not that uncommon for renters here in a city where the real estate market is crazy hot.) Then dealing with the resulting loss of more than half my home workspace. (I now have 900 s.f. of former home studio/storage space smooshed into less than a third of that space.) Oh, I forgot! And our daughter got married in August. (An uncomplicated, informal, small wedding, and very lovely. But involving almost 10 days of travel and last-minute details.)


I could be excused for spacing preparations for not one, but TWO preview exhibits showcasing our area’s biggest single art event, an open studio tour throughout Sonoma County. In my case, it’s just a great way to shuck responsibility for the state my brain’s been in since we moved here three years ago. (I’ve finally realized I’ve gone from knowing everyone in the county I lived in for 27 years, to not knowing anybody very well. As in, we can hang out for an hour in my studio and I will not recognize you two weeks later. And I might call you “Susan” instead of “Suzanne”. Or “Martha”, because you look like Martha in Keene. ) (I used to blame menopause, but nobody takes that seriously after 10 years....)


So I was embarrassed to post images of exhibit work on Facebook, admitting I’d finished each one about an hour before I had to deliver them. (And in one case, I actually MISSED the drop-off, and the venue graciously offered to let me deliver it two days late.) (The other venue? I’d totally spaced filling out the entry forms. But apparently so did at least six other artists, and the venue was prepared for that. Whew!)


You can imagine my relief when a friend who not only is well-organized and professional in all their dealings and who actually hangs the art for one of those venues, also posted her work on Facebook that day. To say that the varnish on THEIR piece was still drying.


At that preview reception, they received a lot of gentle teasing from their followers on FB. But a lot of artists admitted they do it, too. (OH THANK HEAVEN IT’S NOT JUST ME.)


What is it about an exhibit, a show, an open studio, that inspires us, that makes us drop everything to work on a brand-new piece? (In my case, a body of work with a totally new color scheme...)


In fact, why do our best new ideas come just before a major deadline?


Our first instinct is to think there’s something wrong with us. We assume other people are more “professional”, more organized. I used to believe that, too. Now I think something else is going on. Let’s try turning that around:


We all have a process that works for us.


The trick is to TRUST IT. To trust our process.


Are we really ‘waiting til the last minute’? Or are we suffering from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out.) As in, “I’ll be the only person who won’t have a piece in the show!” If that were true, we could simply offer an older piece.


Is it ‘poor planning’? I would argue that unless you are in a position to dedicate your entire time to art-making, and you have a full-time person (or two, or three) to handle everything else in your life, the answer is no. We have to balance a lot of demands along with making, even in our art biz—marketing (social media, shows, exhibiting, working with galleries, designing promotional materials, prepping for an event, ordering supplies, and I could go on.) Add in simply making time for your partner, your family & kids (weddings!), your friends, your pets, your other interests and obligations, life events (moving!! Twice in three years!!), the weather (hurricanes), etc. Modern life is no picnic.


So let’s go easier on ourselves. What would be GOOD reasons for deadlines inspiring creativity?


For me, that pressure challenges my foggy brain. Perhaps that new body of work has been bubbling on the back burner for months. Suddenly, there’s a reason to jump on it, to make it, a place to “put it”, to show it.


Suddenly, it feels like the world really does want my art, even if it’s just that art organization saying, “Please, people, WE NEED YOUR WORK HERE to promote this event!” (Blessings on them. Do you know what it’s like working with hundreds of artists? Herding cats is a euphemism at best.)


A year ago, I wrote this article on my blog about how a friend who learned to embrace their process. And along the way, created a body of work that reflected their life in total, that represented all the choices they’d made along the way. Choices made, over and over, every single day, with love.


Every pot represents an evening with a beloved husband.


No matter what YOUR process is, if it’s working for you, trust it. Don’t assume you are the only person doing it wrong. (As Anne Lamott said recently, “Never compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.”)


In fact, use it. If you only create new work when you take workshops, take more workshops. If you tend to go into crazy art-making mode in preparation for an external deadline, create more external deadlines. If you do best by challenging yourself (“use only neutrals”, “combine two media”), set a challenge. Or participate in one. Quilt guilds are famous for their challenge projects. Perhaps your go-to art group could try that, too.


Finally, if you are a procrastinator (who, ME??) use that, too.  [1] 


Forgive yourself. Accept yourself. Trust your process.


Trust yourself.


One of these days I'll remember to take the picture before finishing the framing. 


(Thanks and a hat-tip to my beloved editor, Angela Agosto, who had to wait a day for this column because I was finishing that new collage.)





[1] See my article, How To  Be More Productive Part 2




Editor's Note:

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Topics: advice for artists | creativity | FineArtViews | inspiration | Luann Udell 

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Great blog! Once again, you have posted on a topic that is perfectly timed for my current situation. I just mailed a painting to a national show, the varnish was still a tiny bit tacky, so I hope it arrives in good condition. UPS promised it would arrive the day before the deadline, I hope they deliver it on time! Funny how it's a relief to realize many folks struggle to meet deadlines, even the most accomplished artists, and for a variety of reasons ” I appreciate the quote that you offered, -Never compare your insides to somebody else's outsides.” So many of my professional artist friends seem to be on top of their game, always, but perhaps they feel as I do, sometimes like a duck smoothly gliding across the lake, paddling with my feet as fast as I can underneath the surface . Thanks for your posts, I truly enjoyed reading them. :-)

beatriz portela
Luann, it is so true for me what you said. I find a million things I "have to do" before I get to the process of painting. Seems I'm always waiting for a "free day" when I can devote myself totally to painting. It never happens, until I have a deadline.

Faye Gustafson
Right on the mark Luann! I always appreciate your columns as you express what we go through trying to juggle our creative work with the rest of life!

I dream of there being nothing going on (no chance of that happening) so I can paint. In the meantime I'm getting older and more frustrated.

So,I kept a daily work journal for three weeks and this is what I have learned. I was spending more time on tidying up, etc,just in case someone came by. It was a long list of just filling the hours. Painting was fitted in somewhere in the mix, maybe, and I was not happy!

Switching Priorities: My time in the studio is now from 8:30 am to noon with a short break mid morning for coffee with Ian. It was hard not to answer the phone or check on emails during my
painting but here it is week one behind me and so far so good. Ian put a door on my studio which also helps me stay focused. Will see how next week goes....

Mark Brockman
Painting is my job, it's what I do and I treat it that way. From Monday to Friday I work from about 7 or 8 in the morning till about 4 in the after noon. Yes I am flexible for those life things like doc. appointments and such, but I squeeze in time on weekends if I can. But it's easy for me as I can think of nothing I'd rather do then paint, after my wife and family of course.

Jim Springett
Hi Luann, what you describe is live and let live, that means you live and help other people to live too in their own way, the details are only approximations and by listening to your work flow is close enough. Today I finished a new oil painting called " Celebrating" of an Egret in Crex Meadows. I brought Marge home from the hospital yesterday, her surgery on Wednesday a success, so Bubba our Black lab is so delighted she is home not to mention pa pa, me. Cancer has vistories too along the way and Marge is so brave too, she lives now without the cancer and we are celebrating today, praise God!!! Jim Springett wildlife painter

Sheri Oriona Meadows
Just read your blog as I am getting ready for my very first open studio tour. This is the largest show I have ever been a part of and I am almost in a panic over not being ready.
Thank You So Much for making me feel a sense of calm.

Karen Lockert
Lucky me! I got to see your work at that second preview show you mentioned. (SCA), but I didn't see YOU. My brain may have been foggy, too, though. These things are slippery, even under the best of conditions.... I love your little necklaces, too. Me? I haven't even applied to be juried in to that thing ("maybe my work isn't good enough"). It is a wonderful tour, and a wonderful opportunity, and you have already discovered the lovely, generous folks who serve on the committees. kudos to them and to you...

Helen Armstrong
Luann, I live in a Sydney seaside village populated with artists. Some years ago a friend won the Archibald Prize - one of the country's most prestigious portrait prizes. I saw him on the national news, at the official announcement, and there he was still working on the painting.
Nobody seemed to think there was a problem with this - it was just normal.

Luann Udell
Diane, if it's any consolation to you...
Do you know how many shows/venues/exhibitions have to actually say, "We will not accept works with wet paint..."??!!
Remember, if there weren't artists doing it, they wouldn't have to say it! :^D
It's not just you!

Luann Udell
Beatriz, today I was at a thrift shop that sells nothing but arts and crafts supplies. (I know, it's a thing, and it's so fun!) I overheard someone wistfully saying how they feel they have to take care of this that and the other thing before they can sit down to work on their craft.
And guess what? They are NEVER done!
I wanted to say, "Read my post!" :^D

Luann Udell
Faye, you are off to an excellent start! KEEP IT UP!!!
There are many subtle and not-so-subtle pressures especially on women, to fulfill an image that's so outdated it's ridiculous. You saw that as soon as you kept track of your activities. You were unconsciously prioritizing other people's perceptions to how you measure up as a housekeeper.
My DH has no such pressure. He didn't grow up with it, and it's not his priority. Men were not "expected" to keep a clean and tidy house. They might keep their WORKSPACE thusly, and of course, some people, whatever gender they are, are naturally neat, just as some are naturally messy.
I'm so glad you shared your story today. For one thing, you've reminded me that I, too, do better at prioritizing my art when I stand up for it. I'll bet you've inspired someone else today, too.

Luann Udell
Mark, sounds like you don't feel that conflict. I hope we can all aspire to that.

Luann Udell
Jim, such good news, glad to hear it! Yes, you've been through an experience that shows what's really important in life.
Sometimes chores can be a working meditation. And it's satisfying to have clear surfaces and an organized home.
But when we feel guilty because we let the dishes sit, or the laundry is still unfolded, well, maybe it's time to say, "Praise the lord and get thee to thy studio!"

Luann Udell
Sheri, my pleasure!
My favorite tip is the "Creative Mess" signs. People who get it will chuckle.
Those who don't--don't bother with them! :^D

Luann Udell
Karen, I have a deep dark confession to make.
That morning of the preview reception, I was rushing to get to my studio. At the last minute, I remembered a load of clothes I'd left in the dryer for two days. I thought, "It'll just take a minute to fold them!" I gathered the load in my arms, turned to walk into the kitchen--and tripped over a box of cat litter.
I smashed onto the floor (still holding the laundry), slammed my knee (the one I'm having surgery on in a month), whacked my hip, twisted my foot, and hurt my back.
I couldn't walk or stand up for the rest of the day. I had to call in to let them know I wouldn't be there (how embarrassing!) Fortunately I could hobble around the next day (though I'm still a little gimpy-legged today.)
And this happened THREE DAYS after I wrote that column and sent it in!!
BOY IS MY FACE RED. But it does show the unconscious power of our conditioning. I look forward to the day when it gets easier!

Luann Udell
Helen, that is HILARIOUS!!! Thank you for sharing that, it's wonderful!!

Luann Udell
Karen Lockert, re: "I'm not good enough", are you effin' kidding me?! Apply next year, your work is amazing!

Faye Gustafson
Luann, thank you for your encouragement! Amazing how a little work journal can help. Cheaper than a personal time management consultant!

Here it is mid afternoon with a good morning of painting behind me. I am feeling happy about that. An hour more of responding to emails and such and I'll call it a day.

Marg O'Flanagan-Byerley
OMG. I am so glad to read this. Have been stalled. Realized that workshops get my brain whizzing. Started print making at a workshop and am still going strong, likewise a stencil workshop which added to the printmaking.I am taking both again but with different themes. Away I go. that is my process. Thank you for allowing me to see that. Marg

Luann Udell
Faye, tell more about your work journal! How does it work?
I'm trying a new technique I describe in next week's article. We'll compare notes!

Luann Udell
Mary, so glad my article helped you realize what works for YOU!
We get so caught up in fretting that we're not "doing it right", all of us. There are as many ways to be in the world as there are....well, people in the world. :^)
Keep it goin'!

Faye Gustafson
Happy to share ideas!


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