Friday, April 15, 2011

Chickens and Artists

Chickens and Artists

by Luann Udell

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. Luann also writes a column ("Craft Matters") for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explores the funnier side of her life in craft. She's a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer. She's blogged since 2002 about the business side--and the spiritual inside--of art. She says, "I share my experiences so you won't have to make ALL the same mistakes I did...." You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

Another artistic insight from watching my funny pets.

Our chicken flock was devastated by a dog last fall. The sad part was the loss of our silly pets and no good eggs for awhile. The happy part is—we get to start out with new chicks this season!

Chickens are fun to watch, especially when they’re little. They grow astonishingly fast. Ours are barely two weeks old, and yet, they exhibit all the normal chicken behaviors.

In fact, one of these behaviors got me thinking this morning...

Nine chicks sharing one food bowl created havoc, made worse by one chick actually sitting in the food dish and not letting the others eat. At first, I thought she’d figured out how to hog ALL the food for herself. But as I watched, I realized she was using the ground corn meal to ‘dust’ herself. Chickens often roll and thrash in dust. It helps protect them against mites. My little chick wasn’t being piggy. She’d found some stuff that acted like dust and she was using it instinctively.

So the humanity lesson learned was, things aren’t always what they seem. But the artistic lesson was right behind.

These chickens come out of the shell already knowing everything they need to know about being a chicken.

Wouldn’t it be nice if artists had all that knowledge from birth, too?

We often have the traits. We may be keen observers of the world, in a slightly cock-eyed fashion (excuse the pun.) Noting that shadows on snow are blue, not gray. And faraway mountains are actually purple-ish.

Or maybe we ‘see’ things that aren’t really there. In fourth grade, I painted autumn trees with purple leaves. My teacher corrected me—had I ever seen a tree with purple leaves? But purple seemed to fit right in with the russets, golds and oranges. It just looked good.

We may have loved sitting quietly and really, deeply looking at an object as we draw. Or perhaps we always had to be moving—rolling clay, splashing paint, gathering pretty pebbles and sticks.

So many different ways to be creative and so many artistic paths to follow.

But many artists and potential artists get lost along the way. Perhaps that happens because there are many important things about becoming an artist we aren’tborn with.

We may have traits and potential. But if we don’t master the techniques, we can’t put them into practice.

We may be born to love drawing, but we aren’t born knowing how to draw.

We may be born wanting to express our personal vision of the world. But if we don’t know how to set aside time and resources to do that, our vision won’t get very far.

We may crave attention, recognition and rewards from making our art. But if we don’t know how to get it out into the world, or get it in front of the people who might love it, it may feel like nobody cares.

Today’s modern world creates many hindrances to making and marketing art. Jobs, family, school, social obligations, telephones and email, illness and hardship, all create demands on our time and energy. It can be hard to create a space to simply make our work, let along time to figure out how to market it.

But today’s modern world also provides resources and opportunities not available in the past. We can now use the internet to display our work, talk about our inspiration and processes, apply to shows, sign up for a class, research galleries and explore endless opportunities.

Our little chicks have all the need to know about being a chicken and, sometimes, I envy them that.

But I believe we’re far better off for having so many, many different ways of being an artist. Even if it takes a little longer for some of us to get there.

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