What Does It Mean to be An Artist?

Lately I have been pondering the question “what does it mean to be an artist?” I started taking art classes since I could remember. When adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always answer with pride “I want to become a painter”. My favorite art teacher considered me one of those very “gifted” children who were supposed to pursue the artists’ path and go to art school. However, reality hit hard; assignments and exams took over my life. I couldn’t go to art classes anymore and stopped drawing altogether. It almost felt like that part of me never even existed.

It was not until the second year in college when I started drawing again. I remember vividly that it was after watching La Belle Noiseuse, a movie about a painter who is fascinated by the female form. All of the sudden I was feeling inspired and started drawing with a black ink pen and it was a such a beautiful experience. Then I drew a portrait of my roommate according to one of her Facebook profile pictures. Without any charcoal drawing training, I surprised even myself by how good it turned out and the amount of compliments it received. From then on, I would draw and paint in my spare time; for me it was mostly just an artistic outlet and meditative process.

After graduating and traveling around the world, I returned home for a while and began oil painting at an art atelier with my mom who always believed in my artistic talents. I enjoyed it very much but at certain point it got frustrating because I could be a painful perfectionist and expect everything to be exact and take long periods of time to finish one painting. For my mother, it would only take maybe a few days because she was so much more care-free and less self-critical. She would often tell me that the reason for the schism was that I was not yet confident enough to completely express myself creatively despite my superior artistic skills. I did not agree with her then, thinking that I simply set higher standards for myself. However, now when I look back, I agree with her, being an artist is all about self-expression.

To be more free in self-expression, first of all, we have to be more in touch with our inner life and be genuine with our true emotions. It is about reinterpreting our experiences and transform our perceptions, thoughts, and emotions into something more tangible that can communicate with others or just yourself. In present society, we are so used to putting on masks and usually end up creating things that cater more to the taste of others or for commercial reasons. A music blogger Bob Lefsetz, once wrote about what it means to be an artist.

“It means to lay your soul down. Your truth. The fame is ancillary. If the success comes first, then you’re an empty vessel. It’s kind of like love. Would you like to get all your sex at a brothel? Sex without love isn’t as good as masturbation. Because what makes sex so good is the connection between the two people who are doing it. What made the records of yore so good was the connection between the creator and the listener.

Oh, don’t tell me you’re into this artist or that. It’s kind of like the movie business. We’ve seen it all. It’s just endless remakes. Endless riffs on what’s come before. But what if an artist went off on his own path, only following his own muse, desirous of connecting but unwilling to compromise. Then you’d have Stevie Wonder.”

Art is love, passion, life. Art is paradoxical, irrational and full of contradictions. Being an artist is allowing yourself to be vulnerable and completely open before engaging in the practice of contemplation and creation. It can be a daunting experience but only in this way can you create something you are passionate about and call yourself “an artist”.

How to Get Through “New Year Blues”

As I was getting ready to embark on a new exciting adventure and partying it up on NYE, I was not prepared for a week of illness and agony following afterwards. Bedridden and miserable, I was refraining from nearly all social activities and suffering from a severe case of “New Year blues”, which had given me ample time to think about ways to get over the feeling of withdrawal after the holidays.

Eat better

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Steak, escargots, oysters, ice cream cake…just to name a few on the list of foods that I consumed over the course of 7 days between Christmas Eve and New Years. And the endless servings of champagne and Bordeaux Moelleux did not exactly sooth my sensitive digestive system either. One of the easiest ways to energize yourself and feel renewed for the New Years is to add a boost in your diet, like an extra serving of vegetables and fruits, or to detox and take it easy on junk food and alcoholic beverages.

Pick up an (Old) Hobby

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I feel incredibly guilty for saying that I haven’t picked up my paint brush in almost 4 months. The temporary lack of a creative outlet has made me realize the importance of being able to express yourself creatively. The sense of accomplishment of producing something on your own can uplift your mood tremendously and boost your confidence in the long run. You can start taking some vocal lessons and show off your improved singing skills in front of your family and friends. Or you can try doing yoga either as a form of exercise or for stress relief so you can better cope with “New Year Blues”.

Create a Rough Budget Plan

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December is the month for shopping and gifts. The abundance of holidays dinners and parties provides the perfect excuse for shopping as well as burning a huge hole in your wallet. I personally overspent on new outfits during holidays for: Christmas soirees at friends’, NYE parties, more dates as a result of more free time, etc. It was fun; however as soon as you check your balance, you are overwhelmed with a surge of distress. So a great idea to reduce financial stress is to draw a rough budget plan and start spending more sensibly.

Clear up Physical Clutter

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Clean up your wardrobe, makeup drawers, and have a makeover of your room or house. Throw out all the old outfits that you haven’t worn in over 6 months and remove all the makeup items that you’ve never used or have been lying in your dirty makeup bag for an unknown amount of time. You don’t need a complete makeover of your house but you can add some plants, change your curtains, buy some new bed sheets or that beautiful antique table you’ve had your eyes on for the longest time. A renewed environment means a renewed mentality.

Clear up Emotional Blockages

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A new beginning not only means starting something new but also getting rid of old baggages that have been haunting you in the past. It could be to reconnect with an old friend with whom you fell out over certain emotional matters. If the relationship that ended on an unfortunate note is unfixable, whether personal or professional, delete the contacts on your phone and other forms of social media to get some closure. Essentially, to truly clear up emotional blockages is to face your emotions. The typical response most people nowadays have to emotions is to ignore them completely, which is unhealthy and detrimental to your emotional life in the long run. You can simply try meditation to get in touch with your suppressed emotions and figure out an effective way to process them. Both practices of yoga and meditation offer a gentle way to reconnect with your inner being and live more from that place. Over time, clearing up emotional and energy blocks helps rid of negative feelings and achieve emotional maturity.

Take Time to Chill Out and Reflect

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Learn to take a break from work, study, your social life, etc. and simply chill out. One of the most important things one can do is to learn to be with oneself. It is okay to take a break because it helps you get rejuvenated for working harder in the future towards your goals. If you’re feeling blue, you can talk to a trustworthy friend or just take some time for yourself and figure out what’s really bothering you and try to get out of that emotional slump. Also learn to become more aware of your immediate surroundings and more grounded by connecting yourself to your environment. If the environment is making you anxious, change it by going for a walk or taking a nice, long bubble bath. Have a glass of wine at the brasserie around the corner, take yourself on a lunch date or to the movies. You will learn more about yourself this way and gather stunning clarity about what truly inspires you and curates your dreams. Slow down a bit. It is okay.