Tuesday, April 30, 2013

True Confessions of an Artist

I have a confession to make....and I hope you aren't shocked by what I'm going to say...but the truth is I don't always know what the hell I'm doing.

There. That feels good to get off my chest.

You see, this internet world - the world of self-marketing and promoting - can be tricky. On the one hand I am selling a product, this is my career, and my income depends on you believing in that product enough to want to invest in it. It has to have some polish and all the pieces need to fit together in a way that is visually appealing.

And so I post the really good stuff. The finished product. The good news of the latest happenings. The places I'll be teaching, the books I'll be published in, the latest sale or the awesome things going on in my community or home.

And it all looks really good from the outside, when all you see are the highlights of a life online.

But on the other hand, I am a real person and, like most real people, I want to be known and seen and heard for who I really am. But who I really am is sometimes often messy. Sometimes I lack direction or the skill I need or the resources or even the motivation to do the things I want to do.

I sit down at my work table with a blank canvas, or my computer with a blank screen in front of me and I have no idea where to start. Sometimes I have a vague idea of what I want to do, but more often then not, I am just as blank as the screen.

And this is where many people get stuck. They think they have to know exactly what to do or how to do it before they can attempt the thing they find appealing. They think "if only I had gone to the right school, had more money, the right supplies, a brilliant idea or some sort of guarantee of the outcome, then I could start.

And looking at somebody else's life online can be a source of motivation, but it can, and often is, just another place to get stuck. "If only I had what she has, the skill, the money, the loving husband or family...then my life would be perfect, I could do all the things I ever wanted to do. I could take risks too if I had that life."

I used to do that, still do sometimes, but then I realized that all the "If only's" in the world weren't going to get me anywhere. I had to start with what I have available and work with the skills I do have.

So here I am. I just wanted to come clean with you today. I really don't know what the hell I am doing most of the time. I try and I fail. I get back up and I try something else and I fail again. And I try again and again and again until I finally succeed.

And that is the difference for me. One day I realized I was more afraid of what would happen if I didn't try, if I didn't write, if I didn't create, didn't apply for the show, or didn't ask to teach, then I was of saying I did risk it all but I failed.

True success isn't in the perfectly polished finished product or the filled up workshop, or the published article or book, or number of sales. No, true success is being able to show off the stack of rejection letters, the vacant seats, the pile of art that didn't turn out well and having the conviction to say "I will try again tomorrow".

" I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7

Friday, April 19, 2013

Ruthless Trust

Ruthless Trust (work in progress) by Crystal Neubauer
Sitting with my journal and prayers this morning I contemplate the past year and the journey I have been on. So amazingly good. So many amazingly good good things have come from some very difficult circumstances. 
I look back over the pages of my journal and see the journey scrawled in ink across the pages, the first entry penned exactly a year ago yesterday. These words, sometimes small and neat and other times loose and frantic, often stained with tears, document one of the most profoundly significant years of my life.

Lack of clarity on a personal level this past few weeks, coupled with the sad events in Boston and Texas, the floods affecting so many people I know here in the Chicago area, not to mention the sky convincing me it's Winter regardless of the calendar that says it's Spring, have all served to set my mood low and cast an inner gloom bordering on despair and my thoughts wander back through those difficult times from a year ago. How is it that I made it through to such a remarkable outcome then, and what is it that I am searching for now?

And than God reminds me. It was Ruthless Trust. 

I had written to a friend and asked for a book recommendation, specifically something by Frederic Buechner, but instead she said I should read "Ruthless Trust; The Ragamuffin's Path to God" and it was there in the pages of that book that God broke through the bondage of certain mindsets I had and changed my life.
Brennan Manning, the author, passed away last week and the news stirred in me as I remembered the key role the book played in my life a year ago, so I decided to return to it this morning and within the first few pages I found what I needed to hear. It is not in the certainty of my circumstances, but in the ruthless trust of God that I find my security. Thank-you God, I so needed to remember this today:

"Craving clarity, we attempt to eliminate the risk.of trusting God. Fear of the unknown path, stretching ahead of us destroys childlike trust in the Father's active goodness and unrestricted love. 
We often presume that trust will dispel confusion, illuminate the darkness, vanquish the uncertainty, and redeem the times. But the crowd of witnesses in Hebrews 11 testifies that this is not the case. Our trust does not bring final clarity on this earth. It does not still the chaos or dull the pain or provide a crutch. When all else is unclear, the heart of trust says, as Jesus did on the cross "Into your hands I commit my spirit". (luke 23:46)   ~Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust; The Ragamuffin's Path to God

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

On Anticipation, Occupying the Land and EncaustiCamp

The last few weeks I've closed with a tease about a major EncaustiCamp announcement and today is the day I get to share the news that I have eagerly been waiting to tell you.

Anticipation is a funny thing. It fills the air with a heightened awareness that something good is about to happen. An eagerness sets in to see the thing being waited for come to fruition and excitement bubbles up from within.
There is a sense of anticipation happening in the home and neighborhood where I live. A stirring of a common vision for the greater good. A building into each others lives, and reaching out to build up a community. God sized dreams are stirring and being shared and the desire to see it become a reality is strong, yet there is still an uncertainty about exactly what "it" is and how it will come about. For me it will be a continuation of the faith journey I have been on for several years as an artist; God gives me a picture of what the next step is, but doesn't reveal the entire plan.

Recently I was reminded of the words God spoke to Moses as he prepared the people for entering the promised land in Deuteronomy 7:22: "The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you." Essentially God is saying "Hey, I'm bringing you this really good thing but I can't give it to you all at once because you won't be ready to handle it." 

That is what the step-by step faith journey is for me. I have the promise of the big picture in front of me. I know it is good, really really good. But the details are still sketchy and when I think about getting from where I am to that really good thing, it is way too big. It overwhelms me and I freeze.  "The wild animals multiply all around" are like the obstacles in the way of my success and I am too afraid looking into their beady little eyes to do anything but stand there and blink. Eventually the fears and the uncertainty threaten to defeat me, but God in His infinite goodness knows this about me and continues to allow me to hang on to the big picture promise while only giving me what I can handle by way of His direction to the next step. Sometimes the step doesn't seem to make sense, but I've been on this walk long enough to know they don't have to, I just need to follow and the way will continue to open.

The next step for me has to do with restructuring the open studio times and workshops I've scheduled in my home studio. Open studio times, the first of which is scheduled for Sunday April 21st from 1-4 will now be free and I am reducing the fee for the Encaustic Collage Workshop scheduled for Sunday May 12 from 10 - 4pm. Yes, that is Mother's Day, so consider treating yourself and maybe bring your mom along and have some fun! 
Contact me for details on how to reserve your spot.

Speaking of anticipation, I promised to share a big announcement about EncaustiCamp. Have I kept you in suspense long enough? North Light Publishers has chosen to feature the retreat in Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch's third book on Encaustic techniques. Each one of the instructors (including yours truly) have been invited to write a section of the book featuring their workshop project. What does this mean for attendees? Well not only is the camp simply fabulous to begin with, but it will be host to a North Light editor and photographer this year as they come partake of the camp's goodness and shoot photos for the book. You will get a chance to be included and to see what goes on behind the scenes of the publishing process and all this right on the water of scenic Dumas Bay near Seattle. Registration is officially open and already half full. Hurry and reserve your spot today!

And if a full retreat isn't in the cards for you this year, be sure to consider a weekend getaway to my Nashville or Paducah workshops, where I just might have more exciting news to share. You never know what the next step may bring!

Grace Like Rain   Mixed Media Collage by Crystal Neubauer