Thursday, December 24, 2009

Some Thoughts on Giving

Earlier today, Christmas Eve, I had a small family potluck gathering at my home.  We were in a festive spirit as we ate my homemade chili and salad, followed by various desserts contributed by everyone. 

After the children had opened presents given them by aunt, uncles, nieces and nephews, I brought out a hugh box of older pictures taken over the years.  Shortly thereafter, a big argument ensued by two relatives of furiously differing opinions as to who had taken a certain picture.  One of the protagonists was particularly loud in proclaiming she had taken the picture.  Almost on the verge of tears, she refused to back down.

Later, after everyone had left, I reflected on how this incident definitely was not in the spirit of giving, as this argument could quickly have been resolved if either party had refused to participate by simply letting go -giving in and giving up on a subject that wasn't that serious.  After all, what was the point?

As I see it, letting go could be seen as a form of giving.  Some other thoughts on giving  relate to: 

Forgiveness - This is probably the most difficult form of giving - more to oneself than the other person.  When you forgive, you relieve yourself of the strain of carrying such a burden.  For me, however, I have to say that while I am capable of forgiving, I don't necessarily want to be looking the other person in the face everyday.  I know, I need to do more work in this area.

Attitude - Based on some discussions I've had, it seems some folks who are doing well materially could develop a healthier attitude toward the less fortunate.  While there are many people who are working to eradicate poverty in America and abroad, we still have a long way to go in ditching the attitude that says, "I've got mine, you get yours."  This is not only unacceptable, it's heartless.

Brotherly and Sisterly Love -  Another form of giving is to accept people who are different from you.  That person is not your enemy.  Uniqueness keeps the world interesting.  Exclusivity is boring and erects walls.  We are not the sum of our possessions, class or skin color.  

I wish everyone Happy Holidays and a Prosperous New Year!  May we all continue to give to ourselves and to one another! 


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Artists Who Share

"By its very nature, the act of creating art is an act of giving." 

Several years ago, after winning an artist's residency at a prominent local museum, I was quickly deluged with never-ending requests for favors.  Because I wanted to make a positive impression, I really tried to accomodate far too many people in this regard.

Most of these requests were from other artists and people working in various capacities in the art industry.  They invariably were from strangers, and ranged from asking for tutoring (novice artists)  to outright asking for art at a reduced price (potential buyers).  While I was and still am happy to share technical information with any seriously productive artist, learning to respect my work by not selling it short was a hard lesson for me.  As we enter this season of giving, I am clear on the difference between being generous with my work, and protecting my time, energy and spirit- not to mention finances.

As a serious artist, I have learned what I will and will not share, as well as with whom I will and will not share.  I will share any resource information that is asked of me.  I will share any technical information that is asked of me.  I will share information about materials.  I will share my art and my time if I am able to do so (however, how many working artists actually have that kind of time?).  I will donate art to a worthy cause either of my own choosing or when I am asked to do so by a trusted person.

Although it might not be true for some other artists, I have found that making art is very expensive, and I am more inclined to donate my work when at least a small monetary percentage is returned to me.  This shows respect for the artist's time, expenses and the work itself.  In all honesty, I think many people are of the mindset that artists can "always make another one."  But nothing could be further from the truth.  Making art is both a joy and a privilege ,  but also has its share of frustration and tears. 

In keeping it real, most artists I  know are quite generous, and I can trace every milestone in my career back to the kindness of  at least one other artist.  By the same token, some never even share the name of the store where they bought the paper they use, because: 1) They don't want you to use the paper to make a picture that might look great? 2)  They own stock in the company and don't want to make any sales right now?  3) Being selfish gives them a warm cozy feeling?  4)  They don't know why they don't share; it's a habit that has pushed them to the forefront of their profession?  5) Why should they share with you when you should be sharing with THEM?  6) All of the above?

Nothing much more to say about sharing.  It's good to do it whenever you can.  You'll feel good about helping another artist or art lover.  And it takes nothing away from you, depending on what it is.

Ummm, and did I mention that it takes nothing away from you?  Depending on what it is?

Yes, I will share my materials list with you.  No, I will not paint twenty pictures for you for three hundred dollars. 

Above painting: "Gratitude" / Acrylic on 100% rag / Private Collection