For the past 16 years, I've run a company that employs graphic designers: artists who are talented, creative and who see the world through different eyes. While a lot has changed over the years, there has always been a refrain that I've found myself repeating at sales meetings and client presentations: "I'm not an artist." But lately, more and more people are calling me an artist. It feels weird, but to be honest, I kind of like it.
I've always revered the artist. Artists are driven to self express by putting feelings into form. They have an unwavering integrity to their vision. They see things the rest of us can't see.
There are two artists who come to mind when I think of that unwavering integrity to vision: Marina Abromovic and Judy Blume.
When I need inspiration to propel myself toward a vision questioned by those around me, I watch The Artist Is Present. This film, about Marina Abromovic's life and her pinnacle performance art at MoMA, inspires me to believe in my crazy ideas. Abromovic's art is completely unconventional. Most would hesitate to call it art. But throughout her life, she put herself out there and pursued her form of art, one show at a time. Eventually, after 40 years of following her heart, she ended up at MoMA.
The Artist is Present is a great reminder that the journey toward having a huge impact starts with a single offering. Followed by another. And another. And yet another. The diligence and commitment to a craft and a bold vision, even in the midst of criticism, is something to which I aspire.
Now let's talk about Judy Blume. I had the pleasure of watching a good friend, Diane Kresh, Director of the Arlington Public Library system, interview Judy Blume. Like many women my age, I read Judy Blume books as a growing girl, blushing in the stacks of the library as I whispered passages to my friends. But it wasn't until I listened to Judy Blume as an adult that I realized how much she went through to bring those coming-of-age stories into our lives. Amidst the most critical ridicule you can imagine, she poured her heart into books that talked straight to young girls about their journey into womanhood.
It was during the Q&A section of the evening that I got a taste of how I want to be more like Judy Blume. Person after person, from child to adult, begged her to write the modern coming-of-age story. They wanted her to address cyberbullying and other new realities kids weather on their way to adulthood. They told her that she had a responsibility to help this generation deal with their struggles. Each time, Ms. Blume respectfully but strongly told the person that she did not take requests for her books. The stories, she said, needed to come organically from her heart. She would not be writing any such books and there were plenty of other authors that would write those books for this generation.
Wow! I thought. She embodies the artists' process. She feels a calling toward an expression and moves forward with fervor. To be so committed to ones' inner voice takes a strength I am developing. And it feels great.
What traits do you admire in artists? Whether you paint or draw or sculpt or write...or even if you don't, what is it about artists that you find inspiring? Maybe you won't take up screen printing over the weekend, but what if you picked up the practice of bringing your unique voice into the world? Perhaps illustration is not for you, but what if you imagined the world that lives beyond what you can see? You may not write a novel, but what if you began believing that your story could change the life of another person?
Yes, artists are inspiring not for their art alone, but for their way of being in the world. I invite you to try on being an artist this week and see what happens. I imagine you'll enter a new realm that brings out your creativity and enlivens your spirit.
The UNITY video directed by Daniel Sheire at Sunroad Films is climbing toward 6 million views on Facebook. So far 240 people have downloaded the free How-To Build UNITY Manual, so we expect to see UNITY popping up around the globe. To all of you who are committed to building UNITY where you live or work, please let us know how we can support you and thank you for what you're doing to spread positive energy, peace and understanding throughout the world.