Odd Role Model

(Note: I probably shouldn’t write articles to post at 1:30 a.m. after working 11 hours, the last nine of which were spent on my feet. But, since there is a point or two here worth saving, I just edited it rather than deleting it.)

Midnight possibilities have an ethereal quality. Right now, with my feet elevated after working a long shift and ibuprophen beginning to work its magic, I find myself bemused to discover I am being inspired by a recovering drug addict whose most recent claim to fame is portraying a comic book action hero in a popular movie. Not usually my kind of guy.

Inspiration comes from an article on Yahoo! about Robert Downey, Jr. I have to admit I haven’t seen “The Avengers,” but I’ve liked the way he plays Sherlock Holmes. (Note to self: see about getting DVDs.) Consequently, I was curious about the article, “Reinvention 101: 5 Lessons from Robert Downey, Jr.,” by Patrick J. Kiger. 

I was vaguely aware that Downey was making a career comeback, but didn’t know the details. Apparently, he had a bit of drug problem and spent some time in prison. Erratic behavior also prevented him from being the actor-of-choice for television or movies for a while.

Since 2008, he’s turned that track record around. Kiger reports that the nine movies in which he’s starred have grossed $1.5 billion in the U.S. alone. He points out that Downey reinvented himself one step at a time and had help. Since I’ve been mourning my art career, I’ve been wondering if I couldn’t resurrect it by adapting those lessons to my situation.

  1. Concentrate on getting ahead one step at a time. My first step might be to readjust my priorities. When I was working to build an art career, I blocked out a work schedule and stuck to it. Sometimes  I used the time to clean my studio or mix paint rather than to actually paint, but I worked at something related to creating art. I haven’t done that in years. Maybe it’s time to start doing that again.
  2. Don’t be too proud to accept help. Twenty years ago, I read voraciously and networked extensively in order to understand what was necessary to build a career, especially since  I didn’t have a degree in art to use as a springboard. Through the contacts I made, I learned about exhibition opportunities and learned how to begin marketing my work. Maybe it’s time to swallow my pride and start attending events again. Maybe I’ll meet someone willing to help open a door. I won’t know unless I try. 
  3. Believe that in the end, your talent will enable people to overlook your past mistakes. I’m proud of the work that I’ve done. While I do exhibit the work of cherished friends and mentors in my home, the majority of the  paintings on my walls are my own — both portraits and landscapes. I never cease to be amazed by the way I use color and by the way I’ve incorporated other materials into my work. I need to value the original vision which is mine enough to believe others will find it intriguing as well.
  4. It’s never too late to develop self-discipline. In my case, developing self-discipline and taking things one step at a time might involve the same practice — scheduling time to create art and then doing it. I remember when I used to crawl out of bed in the morning and start painting without even getting out of my pajamas because I didn’t want to risk getting distracted by other work that needed to be done. I was that disciplined as an artist. I can be that disciplined again.
  5. Don’t be afraid to play with an ensemble. This actually appeals to me. I think of the group shows at the now defunct Oscar Howe Art Center that Jeff Morrison curated, and remembrance washes over me like a warm shower. What fun to brainstorm ideas with other artists and to see my work hung with those whose work I admired. I was both humbled and exhilarated to be among them as an equal. Once I have created some new work, I need to explore this possibility.

(Those wishing to know how these lessons are reflected in Downey’s career might be able to find Kiger’s article at SecondAct.com if it’s no longer available on Yahoo!)

So, I can now imagine how my art career might be resurrected. That’s a beginning. Author and psychologist Jean Shinoda Bolen (GODDESSES  IN EVERYWOMAN, THE TAO OF PYSCHOLOGY and CLOSE TO THE BONE, among others) said “Whenever we attempt something new or difficult, we have to be able to imagine it before it becomes possible. It’s the combination of inspiration and perspiration that brings about tangible results.”

God willing, as I reflect on this plan, it will grow within me and before long the will-o-wisp possibility I begin to see tonight will take on substance and inspire action. God willing.

St. Jude pray for me.

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