This article is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for
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When I was in high school, I participated in an exchange program to Germany. On one occasion, the family I lived with took me hiking in the Bavarian Alps. I was used to hiking, having grown up in a mountainous area. I noticed many elderly people slowly making their way up the trail. No offense to those who may be a bit older than me, but for a teenager, this made an impression on me. Despite their slower pace, they were steady.
I, on the other hand, was used to pushing myself as hard and fast as I could. After a short while, I would need to stop and rest. When I was able to pull myself up to my feet again, I would continue onward, trying to make up for lost time. My need for rests became more frequent and each rest would last longer. The father of the family I lived with gave me some great advice – it was the secret to the elderly hikers’ ability to conquer the mountain: rest with each step. By shifting all the weight to one foot, the other side of the body would rest with that step. Then shift weight to the other foot, allowing the other side of the body to rest, and so on. Ironically, those hikers who did this, despite their age, reached the top of the mountain in about the same amount of time, but they had an easier, more enjoyable climb.
Is there a connection to art? Yes, but please have patience. Fast forward many years to this past summer.
In August I hiked Gray’s Peak here in Colorado. It is one of the easier (and my first) 14er to climb. (Colorado boasts 53 or 54 ranked mountain peaks above 14,000 feet in elevation as well as a few additional ‘unranked’ 14ers – as they are affectionately called).
I took my two oldest children with me. We began early in the morning and maintained a moderate, but steady pace. I also took limited painting gear and did three small paintings on the hike. I did one on the way up, one from the summit, and one while descending.
There were people in much better shape than us, who were on their way back down before we reached the top. There were others whom we passed. Everyone hiked at his or her own pace. Some rested often. I saw some who literally ran up and down (talk about being in shape!). There were both old and young.
As spectacular as the scenery was from the summit – one could see a sea of mountains and valleys for miles and miles – I found the scenery along the hike equally, if not more, impressive. Yet, so many were so set on the goal of reaching the top, it seemed that they did not notice the beauty of the mountain ecology. Most of the trail climbed through a tundra-like system as it was above timberline. There were meadows of grass and wildflowers and stunted shrubs and brush. As we gained in elevation, flora gave way to nothing but rock.
There are several parallels to art. Firstly, is the obvious. There is beauty everywhere. Keep eyes open and find the beauty that is all around.
The other lessons deal more with goals and progress related to your art and business.
Keeping a moderate, yet steady pace will get you to your goal as easily, if not easier, than rushing to the top. As with my hike in Germany, I needed to rest often to avoid collapse. It is easy to push yourself so hard to do more and better work along with the marketing and business responsibilities. There have been times when I have worked until midnight or later just to try to get everything done. I know other artists who likewise put in 80 hour weeks. How long can this be sustained? Not long!
On the more recent hike I learned that it doesn’t matter what level you are at. If you are good enough to be on the trail, don’t worry if you are the fastest hiker in the best shape or not. There will always be artists who seem to be moving so much faster and attaining so much more. But, look around and you will see that you are doing just fine. You are gaining elevation, making progress and seeing results. You too will summit the art mountain. Don’t compare yourself to the others. Just make sure you are making progress. Over time, you will see improvements in your art and will eventually move at a faster pace; maybe even run.
Some of the hikers were so set on the end goal that they missed everything along the way. There are great opportunities to be had in your art career that may not be those you deem ‘at the top’. Enjoy the journey. Don’t pass up opportunities because you have eyes only for the top. Consider those other art venues, galleries, etc. that weren’t part of your initial plan.
The top of the mountain was great, but so was everything along the way. In fact, in some ways the things along the way were even better.