The Beautiful & Complicated Art of Surrender

The past year has been a challenging one financially, starting a business, living off savings and a part-time job, having two cats get sick and need emergency veterinary care. Not to mention, running a business, no matter how simple, costs money. For art, there are fees to apply to festivals, booth fees IF you get accepted, supplies, all of the display costs (booth, chair, table, shelving, walls, etc.), fees to make scans/photographs of art, buying stock to have things to sell besides original art. Often, the first few years of starting a new business require working your butt off, spending all the money you have, and then hoping that it will be successful.

Photo by Larm Rmah

Photo by Larm Rmah

             I am a planner. I like to know what happens next. I like security. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. Most people like to know they will be able to keep food on the table and a roof over their head. Sometimes it’s disheartening. The other week had a slow day at an outdoor market. After spending ten hours in the sun, I made $30, and that wasn’t even $30 profit. After the booth fee and cost of stock, it was probably closer to $10. Forget thinking about the cost of my time. On my next Instagram post, I asked folks what they do to stay motivated when they feel like giving up. I got so many amazing answers, but the two that stuck with me the most came from other artists. One friend said that when you’re already an artist, you can’t help it, that’s what you are. Another said that everything in life is uncertain, even the traditional job, and you might as well do something that you can look back on and feel good about.

            Recently, I was privy to a conversation between artists about what they get from their art. That was something new to me. I often think about why I make art but not what art does for me. This particular artist does projects that involve a large number of people, and he mentioned that he was an introvert, and this style of art really pushed him to get outside of his comfort zone and interact with others. So I started thinking about how my art has changed and challenged me. It certainly has pushed me outside of my box. It is so difficult to promote yourself, to ask venues to show your art, to apply to juried shows knowing you might not get in, to put art up in front of others and hope they don’t hate it… it kind of feels like asking someone out on a date. And back to what I was talking about earlier, the financial aspect of starting a new venture. Despite my fears, despite the fact that I don’t really have any extra money, every time I have needed money for a booth fee or another tube of paint, it has been there. Despite my insecurities about putting my art out there, the response has been mostly positive. That doesn’t mean that I don’t stress about money or time or being rejected. But more and more, I am learning to do the best I can with what I can control and with the things I can’t, just letting go. The beautiful and complicated art of surrender.


My Story

For my first blog post, it made sense to give you a snapshot of my personal history and my journey to pursuing a career in art. I was born and raised in Pella, IA, a town known for Pella Windows, it’s Dutch history and tulip festivals, the largest working windmill in the USA, and apparently we also used to have the smallest Wal Mart in the continental United States (according to Jeopardy). I grew up in the same house from 0 to 18, a large victorian home that my parents kept true to the era. For elementary and middle school, I was homeschooled. My memories from that time involved a lot of making things on the floor of our craft rom, writing stories, drawing pictures of cats and dogs, and wearing those 90s legging with the heel strap. (As you can see a lot has changed…my leggings no longer have a heel strap.) I thought that when I grew up, I’d like to be a writer or an artist.

photo by Emily Farthing Art

photo by Emily Farthing Art

Fast forward to the end of high school, I was seriously considering attending the University of Iowa to double major in art and business. And then, I started to doubt myself, I decided there was no financial gain in that field, that I wasn’t a good enough artist. I went to a community college, took some business classes, and decided I would apply to Iowa to major in finance. Yikes! I got accepted into the program…but then… I got a DUI and decided maybe going to a huge party school would not serve me well. So I took a few years off, worked and managed a coffee shop in Des Moines and started to make healthier life choices.

Once I decided I’d had enough of working food service, I did a yoga teacher training and went to Iowa State with a focus in Nutrition. I finished both programs, taught yoga for a few years, and then moved to Oregon. I decided that if I ended up working at another coffee shop and yoga studio in Eugene, I would spend some time working on art. About a year into my life in Eugene, I realized I was doing just that, managing another coffee shop and teaching yoga for a poverty wage, most of the time even less than minimum wage, and it wasn’t working for me. I started to do a little painting here and there. A friend directed me to the Artist’s Way. My partner, Jesse, pushed me to spend the time getting better at painting. The following summer, I quit the coffee shop to really dig deep into my art. I am still not a full-time artist although that’s my long-term goal. It’s really easy to keep procrastinating on the things we want, but I’ll tell you what, in the last year and a half, my art has improved 1000-fold, I had my first art show, and I am doing my first art festival this summer. If I hadn’t committed to this, I’d still be right where I was in 2017.

I guess the point of sharing this rambling story about my life is that our life story is not always a straight, neat path. For me, it was messy. I made a lot of mistakes (and continue to do so). I tried a lot of things only to find they weren’t for me. Through all of that, I’m learning to listen to what I really want, to trust in myself and the universe to support me, and to be grateful for all of the things that ARE going right.

For more on my inspiration, visit my about page.