I believe the most important single thing, beyond discipline and creativity is daring to dare.
~ Maya Angelou
I'm not entirely sure how to begin this post. As a matter of fact, I've rewritten it more times than I'd like to admit (six) because what I'm about to tell you is really exciting, head-inflating, and humbling all at the same time. Humbling, because I'm not sure how I do what I do. Does anybody?
I've been published.
Somerset Studio just released the very first issue of Artful Blogging ~ a magazine dedicated to featuring Visually Inspiring Online Journals. Scroll down to yesterday's post, and you just might hear those calves exclaiming, "Holy cow!"
Being recognized like this was a surprise, and to be honest, it feels really good! I began this blog at a time when I was struggling with quite a bit of pain in my life, and decided a daily creative practice centered around beauty and gratitude might help. I didn't realize it at the time, but from the beginning, Visual-Voice has been an online meditation ~ a daily practice of taking the time to pause ~ to see and interpret the beauty and wonder that surrounds all of us and any given moment. I can only speak for myself, but I do believe expressing my artist's heart each day is just as important as brushing my teeth. My creativity needs to be exercised, rejoiced in, maintained, and cultivated. If there's anything I hope my readers walk away with it's this ~ pause to see the beauty every single day and happiness will find you.
When I reflect on the reasons I began this sandbox adventure up here, a number of stand-out teachers come to mind. All of them stressed the importance of practice, self-nurture, and discipline, but when I look back across the field of my creative Zen Masters, one professor stands out in particular ~ Mr. Apgar.
Mr. Apgar was my life-drawing professor my first year at Virginia Commonwealth University. He was about 132 years old and his most distinguishing characteristic was the way he shuffled his ancient feet across the wooden studio floors covered with pastel and conte crayon dust. From one easel to the next, he'd do what I fondly remember as a "Tortoise Shuffle", offering low-key advice on how to draw like a master. He tried very hard to convince me to abandon my aspirations to be a commercial artist, almost begging me to take the fine art track, but back then I was operating under a morphic belief that all artists were starving... a "truth" that was reinforced by the nude model we often ended up drawing who was suffering from anorexia. I'll never forget the morning she fainted from lack of nutrition. Mr. Apgar methodically shuffled over to her as she came back to consciousness and whispered in her ear, "If you don't start eating, I'll have to fire you. So please, start eating."
That message stuck in my brain. My ancient and wise art professor seemed to be talking to me, and the food he was speaking of wasn't Grape Nuts. Artist! Feed yourself, or you'll be fired!
It wasn't long after The Universe used Mr. Apgar as my angel of awakening that he spoke to the class directly about establishing a creative practice. Time has blurred the edges of his words verbatim, but what he said went something like this... "If you expect to get anywhere with your art, whether it be painting, sculpture, illustration, whatever... you have to, you must, you really really MUST draw, draw, draw, DRAW. Sit down and draw something every single day. If you are serious about being an artist, you must challenge and discipline yourself. You may have a wealth of talent, but without the discipline, your art and you, yourself as an artist, will never soar."
Twenty years later, his passionate words still echo within the chambers of my heart. They are words to live by, whether you consider yourself an artist or not. We are all artists, and we all need a daily practice where we set the intention to plug ourselves into a mysterious source none of us can precisely pin down or sufficiently describe in mere words. We call it tapping the well of "inspiration".
One can wait for inspiration to hit her out of nowhere. It happens haphazardly from time to time with little forethought or personal labor, but my teachers and personal experience have taught me not to sit around and wait for a spandex-wearing angel bearing gifts of illumination to appear at my bedside. Illumination, whether it be spiritual or creative, is a gradual, life-long journey, filled with valleys and summits. I have no idea where the words come from or precisely "how" I manage to see what I see. The only reasonable explanation is showing up, making an honest effort, and risking falling flat on my face ~ repeatedly.
So, I encourage you all to order a copy of Artful Blogging here. I count myself as both privileged and honored to be featured alongside the amazingly talented women in this flagship issue. There is wisdom, humor and inspiration to be found in the virtual homes created by the 31 artists so beautifully presented in their own words. The publication will be quarterly, so dare to begin a creative practice and submit your blog. Focus on what's good in your life ~ dare to believe the creative resources within yourself have the power to improve your life, and with practice, maybe even the world.
Full disclosure... I rewrote this post 8 times. Weirdness abounds when you see yourself inside of a magazine cover. ;)
PS ~ (big PS) my friend, Michelle of la vie en rose and Tangled Wings, is on the cover up there. YOU GO, Michelle! This woman has emerged right before my very eyes as someone who owns the drill I just described above. She's blossoming into photographer whose work has wings!
Not to mention the artists I was delighted to find in this issue whose blogs I've been following: Art Tea Life, Claudine Hellmuth & Susanna's Sketchbook. I feel like I've hit a treasure-trove of artistic yummy goodness! Everyone in the magazine is the cat's meow.
Posted by susan at July 31, 2007 8:10 AM
I like what you are saying, "I didn't realize it at the time, but from the beginning, Visual-Voice has been an online meditation ~ a daily practice of taking the time to pause ~ to see and interpret the beauty and wonder that surrounds all of us and any given time." It seems true that one must take their sitting practice into life, to be able to come back to the breath in the midst of your doings and feel and see things just as they are without any judgment. This seems to be a skillful thing to do.
Posted by: Bob at July 31, 2007 12:24 PM
This is the only way to live! Bravo to you!!
Posted by: jzrart at July 31, 2007 2:56 PM
Bob ~ it's been awhile since I heard one of my ideas being described as "skillful"... it's a way compliment. It would be easy if all I had to do was think the thoughts and write the words, but it's in living them we feel the expansive tug of discipline. It can seem impossibly annoying to sit still and listen to what's going on inside of hearts at the expense of our attachment to the myriad distractions at our disposal.
As I say in the magazine article, I find it rather miraculous that people read what I have to say up here, let alone post a comment. Thank you for letting me know you're out there.
Posted by: susan at July 31, 2007 4:20 PM
Whoopppeeee! Cool, cool, cool!!!!!! So proud OF you and FOR you. Your creativity inspires me daily Susan.
Posted by: jayne at July 31, 2007 4:23 PM
I know I e-mailed congratulations when word got out about the magazine, but I want to issue them anew here in comments now that it is on the newsstands. In addition to congratulations I give my thanks for your willingness to share of yourself in such an open and honest way here.
Posted by: Star at July 31, 2007 4:41 PM
yay, you!!! how do i get a copy? is it on the east coast?
i'll tell everyone i know (not that many but it will count, seriously) that i *know* you, sort of like Buddy the Elf knew Santa.
Posted by: ~m2~ at July 31, 2007 8:14 PM
susan!! i just read the "order here" link and linked and you are featured on their website!! how cool!!
Posted by: m2 again at July 31, 2007 8:16 PM
oh You of all people to post my link and to say so ! I am always amazed when I come here. You were one of the first blogs I found that enchanted me ! Thank you for so many wonderful words you have written, perspectives you have shared and BEAUTIFUL GORGEOUS photos that are like a window of escape into Your Moments.
And thanks for Banjo Bunnies TOO !
Posted by: Art Tea Life at July 31, 2007 9:33 PM
Congratulations! I will definitely pick up a copy of the magazine, as it appears that there are quite a few bloggers featured in it that I read on a regular basis. Although I do not comment frequently, I check your blog every day.
Susan, I can't help but feel that every little act of kindness you've shared here is finding its way back to you - good karma, indeed.
Posted by: Kim at August 1, 2007 10:27 AM
Big congrats! How exciting:) This is very very cool...but I can totally believe it. I definitely consider you one of the most talented artists I know!
Posted by: tamara at August 1, 2007 11:41 AM
How exciting, congratulations! I can't wait to see this issue. You know, I thought that was la vie en rose on the cover, but wasn't sure. She looked so familiar. It's so wonderful to see all of these talented bloggers getting recognized in print!
Posted by: kathleen at August 1, 2007 12:38 PM
I'm visiting from Joan's blog, and just wanted to echo the comments above! Congratulations on your publication, and I can't wait to read the magazine. Even more, congratulations on the journey you've taken to get here, and for sharing your beautiful art. May much more happiness and success come your way~
Posted by: Becca at August 2, 2007 4:59 PM
Oh Susan, how I missed coming here. As always, another joy in my hours of sleeplessness this morning! Thank you for your lovely posts and Congrats on the very well deserved honor!!
Keep posting and blessing us with your beautiful works.
Posted by: Kirsten at August 3, 2007 5:45 AM
Your feature in Artful Blogging comes to no surprise to me, I feel it is well deserved. Congratulations! Your posts ooze creativity, charm, and a mischievousness that is playful and fun. You continue to inspire me in many ways. Your post has reminded me I have been starving my inner artist, dared me to believe in my creative resources within, and encouraged me to fall with grace. Thank you for being you, sharing with us, and encouraging us.
Posted by: Gab at August 3, 2007 10:23 AM
Hello! I'm new to your blog, which I discovered through your wonderdul article in Artful Blogging. Reading about you and the reason you blog was like meeting a kindred spirit of sorts. I'm glad to have found your brightly lit corner of blog land.
Posted by: Chantal at August 4, 2007 10:17 AM
Many congratulations on recognition well-deserved. Beyond the beautiful, artistic, soul-inspiring work you display through your photography lies the impact of your grace-filled words of encouragement. You are doing a good, good thing here, Susan.
Proud of you and happy for you!
Posted by: beth at August 4, 2007 11:10 AM
Congratulations!!! I'll find it yet.
Posted by: janet at August 6, 2007 4:24 PM
I just discovered your blog through the Artful Blogging magazine--and, by the way, yours was the one that triggered me to buy the magazine!
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Posted by: Dean at August 17, 2007 3:03 AM