Monday, May 19, 2014

Slow Down Sunday Review: A Day In the Life of an Artist ~ "Making Your Mark"

Slow Down Sunday Weekly Review: A recap of my daily activities in and out of the studio to give you a glimpse behind the scenes, both the highs and the lows, of the life of an artist- well at least this artist- Crystal Neubauer.
"The Writing's On The Wall" 10" x 10" Collage by Crystal Neubauer
I made a commitment to report in weekly for this series back in March and then came all manor of events, planned and unplanned, that got in the way of following through. Life. It happens.

So I am renewing my commitment here - not to the once-weekly-idealistic-version of this series- but the sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly, occasional, and happenstance version that is far more likely and realistic for me to commit to. Now that I can do.

It has been one of those weeks. Not the shake your head and sigh kind of weeks. No, it was more like the get up and dance a little jig to celebrate kind of weeks.
  • Last Sunday (Mother's Day) - I drove to Cincinnati where I spent the entire week.
  • Monday was day one at FW Media's Cincinnati studio to begin the photo shoot for my book (somebody pinch me!). 
  • Tuesday I was back at the photography studio. We ended the day way ahead of schedule, having finished the section on mark-making, basic collage techniques, and the use of photography in collage.
  • Wednesday's shoot focused on encaustic with collage.
  • Thursday we wrapped up (a day and a half early!) with material and supply shots and included some deconstruction of materials. I dragged along a scrumptious dilapidated old box and a time-worn old book for this and regaled the photographer and editor with my highly skilled ripping and tearing techniques.
  • Friday I packed up and drove down the road a spell to spend time with my mom and step-dad before returning home Saturday evening. 
I love to travel, especially for such an exciting reason. And I loved visiting my mom and seeing her latest garden salvage creations. But coming home always feels so good!  

This month I was invited to be the guest artist at the Midwest Collage Society's monthly meeting where I spoke and demo'd on making your mark, both in your art and in the art-world. After the talk and the photo-shoot, my mind has been reeling with thoughts on the subject of making your mark as an artist.

Though mark-making may simply refer to the act of making a mark on the canvas, regardless of the medium the artist chooses, the movement toward mark-making as an artistic expression has more to do with recognizing the artist's hand in her work. Whether done with a tight grip and repetitive nature, or loose and gestural, the intent is spontaneous, intuitively applied, and tells a story to the viewer. It is evidence that the artist was here.

Sometimes I am asked how I manage to get into certain shows or galleries, or how I am able to write articles or be written about, or how I was accepted to certain venues to teach, or how getting a book proposal accepted came about, and my answer is always some form of "I applied". Not in a cocky self-assured tone, and by no means implying that all I have to do is apply to get accepted - believe me, there are more rejection letters than not- but I determined long ago what kind of mark I wanted to make in the art world and knew that I wouldn't get there if I wasn't intentional about doing it.

All these thoughts on making my mark remind me of the story in the book of Daniel when the Babylon King, Belshazzar, was throwing a party, proving what a schmuck he could be by showing off for his guests and desecrating sacred artifacts. The king and his fellow revelers are whooping it up drinking wine from the temple goblets when a hand literally appears in front of them and writes the words "mene, mene, tekel, parsin"  on the wall - interpreted to mean "Your days are numbered. You have been weighed and found wanting." and "Your kingdom will be divided." The word Mene, the one that means "your days are numbered", is written twice for impact. "Your day's are numbered . . .Dude, brace yourself, because, Your. Days. Are. Numbered."

Imagine seeing that message written to you, "You are going to die and you have been found wanting" - it makes me shudder to think about!

There is a catchy little saying in the Christian world  that kind of makes me roll my eyes, as many catchy little sayings do, but it gets my attention: "If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?" What kind of evidence would you need to call me a Christian? I read my bible. I pray. And my vocabulary is sprinkled with words like "blessed".  But so what? Is this enough to keep me from being found wanting?

I have to think about what kind of mark I want to make on the world as decisively as I do planning my next art move. If I don't, I easily slide down that slope of self-centered behavior and busyness. And lets face it, no matter how many days we are allotted, they just seem to fly by with it all. I love making art. I love that I get to write a book about it and that I get to travel around and teach others how to do what I do. I love sitting in my studio and pushing these scraps and bits around until they start to tell a story. I am wired for this. And that is key.

I don't have to fear that my purpose and call in life have nothing to do with my passions. I can use art to connect with others to build relationships. I can open my studio door and invite the neighbors in and show them the healing power of art. I can use the money I earn from selling my work or teaching to take a group of kids to a museum and help them to see a bigger world than they realized was available to them. I can explain the deeper meaning behind my work to a hurting person and help them to understand they are valuable and loved.

Making your mark on the world requires as much thought and intentional action as planning your career. What kind of legacy do you really want to leave? How do you want people to remember you? If you were put on trial for it today would there be enough evidence to convict you?


  1. Hi Crystal, I just want to tell you how impressed I was when I first came across you blog and read that before you start a collage you pray and ask God to lead you through your process.
    It was one of those aha-moments that told me how to do art WITH God.
    I don't know if you really need to do more... Just go ahead asking God what to do next and let the Holy Spirit lead.
    And thank you for sharing your thoughts on your blog!

    1. Hi Anne,
      I can honestly say I pray MOST of the time when I am working, but sometimes, I have to admit, those prayers might sound a little more like whining until I remember He is delighted I am in the studio!
      Thanks so much for stopping by to read and leaving your encouraging comment!

  2. Great art work and a great way to reflect on God's blessings! Great news about being at F&W. It's the bomb! Hugs, Barbara

    1. Your name and wonderful work came up one afternoon while I was there Barbara and I had the privilege of taking your book back to my hotel for the evening. Congratulations on your newest book!

  3. Hello, I too am a Christian. Over the last 10 months I have been a quiet observer in our art community. It has been perplexing for me to see intolerant messages in the name of tolerance. There are so many misunderstandings. Even though I am flawed, I hope folks can see the joy and love of God through my art expression. Thank you for openly sharing how prayer is a part of your artistic inspiration.