Q: Do you have any essential words that you live by?
A: I certainly do! When I left the active duty Navy in 1989, my co-workers threw a farewell party. One of the parting gifts I received was a small plaque from Tina Greene, a young enlisted woman whom I had supervised. The words on the plaque deeply resonated with me, since I was about to make a significant, risky, and scary career change. It was the perfect gift for someone facing the uncertainty of an art career.
Many years later Tina’s plaque is still a proud possession of mine. It is hanging on the wall behind my easel, to be read every day as I work. It says:
“Excellence can be attained if you…
Care more than others think is wise…
Risk more than others think is safe…
Dream more than others think is practical…
Expect more than others think is possible.”
Comments are welcome!
Pearls from artists* # 105
* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
Serendipitously, I read two memoirs in close proximity, Julia Child’s account of her life in France and how she learned to be a first-rate cook, and Renee Fleming’s story of becoming a world-class opera diva. While there were many differences between the women and the skills they set out to master, I was struck in both books by how extraordinarily hard each one worked in private for years and years before going public, certainly before becoming famous, and how each managed shame. Both women loved what they did and thus brought to bear a similar, and I suspect key, willingness to stay with their efforts through eons of study, practice, and improvement. Both had the ability to hear criticism and to make corrections repeatedly without becoming terminally discouraged; to bear the anxiety of their efforts; neither was too proud to learn and keep learning. This willingness to be taught and corrected, without feeling ashamed, sometimes over and over again, is a huge asset when you are seeking to do something very well. And one way shame impedes people is by making them take criticism too personally – as about them rather than about what they’re trying to learn.
Janna Malamud Smith in An Absorbing Errand: How Artists and Craftsmen Make Their Way to Mastery
Comments are welcome!