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Hitchhiker art.

Sometimes if you are waiting for the muse to pick you up and take you away to the magical world of “ART”, you are going to be standing on the side of the road a long time. Sometimes you need to just start walking on your own. This applies to anything creative – writing, painting, beading, music – anything that involves that magical alchemy of time and inspiration and work.
Sometimes where you end up isn’t where you thought you were going to go. Sometimes you’ll end up making something that is totally not what you planned on making. Sometimes what you planned to make isn’t possible. Art isn’t about the end product, really. Art is about the process. It isn’t about getting there, it is about getting on the road and enjoying the trip.
We all have different requirements to get prepared to work on art. Sometimes my favorite time making art is when all the materials are free or nearly free. I don’t feel so bad about working with them. When I have a really expensive string of beads or a large canvas or fancy paper I hesitate to use it. This is sometimes illogical. I’ve already bought it – so by not using it I’m actually being wasteful. But I feel like I need to make the best thing ever, so I hesitate.
It isn’t so bad with beads. If I don’t like it then I can always break it apart and remake it. I’m learning that words are similar. I can cut and paste them. I can start on a theme and work on it until it just doesn’t seem to go any further.
Sometimes I think of writing as if I have seeds. I plant them and give them a little time and work and see if they grow. Then when they have gotten big, I go back and prune them by trimming out the bits that don’t work towards the whole. Sometimes the seeds don’t grow at all.
I have many potential posts saved on my computer that are just a few lines. When I go back to look at them they just don’t seem to have any life to them. Then I’ll come across another piece that I’ve worked on before but didn’t finish. I’ll work on it a little more. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it isn’t ready yet. I’m learning to be OK with that.
I’m telling you this in the same way a magician tells you their secrets. There is no magic, and it isn’t easy. Nothing comes out perfect the first time. Anything good requires work, and lots of it.
Painting is different. You can’t reuse paint. I’d love to be a great painter. I’d love to be able to just paint what I see and have it look like a photograph. I’d love to be able to paint alien worlds to go with the fantasy words I write about. Right now I content myself with mixing paint into new and beautiful (to me) colors directly on the canvas. Nobody sees it. I’m practicing. I’m learning how the paint works. I’m giving myself permission to play. And that is important.
Kindergarteners don’t need permission to paint, and they don’t need instruction. Well – OK, they need some instruction. Paint on the paper, not on your friend. Don’t eat the paint. But other than that, they create with a true and clear heart. They paint for the joy of it. I think it is a good idea for all of us to reclaim that joy. Just start creating. Don’t worry about the finished product. If you worry about the finish line, you may never get past the starting line.
Not everything has to be awesome. It is good to get in the habit of making stuff. Paint. Bead. Sketch. Noodle around on a musical instrument. If you don’t work on your art, you will get rusty. Rusty things don’t work. It is a reciprocal thing. You get inspired and you make art. But you also make art to get inspired.
Sometimes I resent the time I’m at work. My favorite time to create is when I have a lot of free time and a lot of natural light. I like art to be unscheduled, and to let it flow where and when it will. If I have to keep looking at the clock (such as when it is a morning right before work), I will often lose my train of thought. Then I’m left stranded by the muse, back on the side of the road again.
I have some free time in the evening to make art. But I don’t have natural light then. No matter what they say about natural-light floor lamps, they aren’t the same. It helps to see the colors in natural light to know if they go together. But – let’s be honest. How many people are going to wear my jewelry outside? So really, I should design jewelry in fluorescent light (ugh!) because that is where it will be worn.
Sometimes I have to realize that I’m making up excuses to not work on my art.
Sometimes the inspiration only lasts for a little while. I have had a few trays of three-quarter finished jewelry projects lying around for a while. Sometimes it helps me to just pick those up on the abandoned-by-the-muse days and see if I can figure out where I was going. Sometimes they make good roadmaps, and I can follow the idea. Sometimes it doesn’t matter where I was going on that day. I can pick out the trail and go where it is leading me today instead.
Sometimes I will put out a few ideas to get an idea going. I’ve got the points along the way laid out, but I don’t know how to connect between them. Think of it as a physical journey. I know I want to go to Monteagle, TN and to Atlanta, GA, but I’m not sure how I’m going to get from one to another, for instance. I do that with beads and with writing. I’ll have a few major beads out in a saucer or I’ll have a few sentences typed up, with large spaces between them. I’ll go back later and fill them in. Or I’ll delete them.
Making art and road trips are a lot alike. Sometimes you don’t end up going to all the places you thought you were going to go. But you still have to go. So even if you get stuck on the side of the road, just go. Start walking. Don’t sit there and wonder what happened.
What do you need to feel creative? Comfy clothes? Music? Incense? Set the space. Light a candle. Make a clean space in front of you, dedicated to your art. Read a book on a new technique. Use your non-dominant hand. Go to an art museum – or read a magazine with lots of pictures that have nothing to do with art. Art inspires art – but it also can inspire comparison. “I’ll never be that good!” or “She got famous for THAT?” Ignore those thoughts. Make Your Own Art. However, it is OK to read other people’s roadmaps. There are plenty of craft books, magazines, online blogs, and websites. It is also OK to be totally random and go in circles. You don’t have to GO anywhere. You just have to go.
Really good art requires work. Isaac Asimov wrote every day. So did Robert Parker. Treat art as a job. Don’t wait for it – go out and find it. And keep on going, every day. It won’t be fabulous every day. And what you think is just so-so, someone else will think is wonderful. What you think is perfect, someone else won’t get. So just make art. What are you reading this for? You could be creating!

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