If you get, give. If you learn, teach. — Maya Angelou
I’m ready to paint. I step into my studio, turn on the lights, and, then, almost without fail, it hits me: It’s lonely in here.
On our way to summer camp this morning, my son and I passed a business where I used to work. “Why don’t you work there anymore, Mommy?” he asked. I thought about it for a minute and then answered, “Well, because now I just work for myself”.
“You’re the boss of just you!” he replied with all the enthusiasm the thought of pure autonomy can inspire in a five year old.
When I started painting full time four years ago, I acquired a Michael Scott “World’s Best Boss” coffee mug to remind myself that I was in charge of a very real business. Even though I use the mug daily, that reminder doesn’t always sink in. Often I don’t manage myself very well– my employee can be a lazy, unmotivated procrastinator! I feel less like a CEO and more like a substitute teacher who can’t control the hooligans she’s been put in charge of.
My studio is this crazy mess of capless paint tubes, shipping supplies run amuck from their storage bins, and abandoned paintings leaning up against the walls. It’s “lived in” to say the least, but for all the living that happens there, it’s one of the loneliest spaces in my house. I’m the only one who inhabits it. When I open its door, I know I’ve got work to do. Sometimes hair-pulling, teeth grinding work. And I’m the only person who knows when (or if) I clock in.
But something has been happening lately, and I was reminded of a blog post I wrote back in 2015– I had just started selling my work and somehow a collector got my name wrong and contacted artist Denise Hawkins in Nashville about one of my paintings he’d seen instead of yours truly in Louisiana. To make a long story short, Denise Hawkins, whom I’d never met, actually helped the collector find me. I made the sale.
That was my first real taste of art community– another artist willing and eager to provide encouragement, support, and guidance. I was surprised and grateful. Since then I’ve tried my best to pay it forward with other artists.
If feels like magic, but somehow, recently, and without even really trying, I’ve encountered these amazingly talented women artists with whom I have shared and received advice– women whose work I’ve learned from and been inspired by. They are artists who are searching, just as I am, to make their work more meaningful and seen by more people. I always thought people with the same job had to, quite necessarily, compete with one another, but I’ve discovered a world that operates differently. It runs on this wild idea that art is good, and the more we encourage others to make it, share it, buy it, love it, the more we all benefit. When a society values art, artists of all kinds are empowered in their craft.
Below are links to just a few of the artists I’ve been privileged to meet and share ideas with either in person or online. There are many more.
Even if we only know each other via instagram, they make my studio a little less lonely. Being the boss feels less burdensome when all around you are shining examples of artists managing their one-woman businesses with creativity, collaboration, and dedication. We’re all our own bosses, but when I chat with these women and follow their work, I know I am in good company. I’d love it if you’d check out their work too.
What other artists do you admire that I need to start following? Please leave a name or link in the comments!