Monday, February 18, 2013

"Do What You Love..."

"...And you'll never work a day in your life."  In my mind, this is referring to creative things: writing, drawing, painting, quilting - and it's a big lie. But I'll get to that in a few minutes.

One of my biggest regrets in life is that I never went to art school. All of my life, but especially since high school, I have loved making art. I should have gone to art school. Actually, I should have gone to any college way back when I graduated from high school. But I didn't see that as a possibility for me back then.

I did finally go to college when I was 38. I started in a community college and then transferred to a university. But I never took a single art class.

I wanted to. I always paid attention when they set up student art projects in one of the galleries on campus. I always told myself that I could do that, too. Sometimes I even went home and made my own version of whatever I had seen.

But then I told myself that, no, I had to major in something that I could make a living from. So I graduated with Distinguished Honors with a degree in Multi-Ethnic Studies.
And then I opened a quilt shop.

Art as a Business

It was an accident that got me interested in quilting. I took a class in Folklore and my class project was a paper about my mother's quilting group. But to make my project really good, I decided that I should show the steps for making a quilt. By the time I finished that project, I was a quilter.

This was in the early 1990s and the popularity of quilting was growing like crazy. the more I learned, the more I realized that it actually made a lot of sense to open a quilt shop. I did the research and opened my shop before I had even graduated. (I only needed a couple more credits, though, so it was easy to finish.)

I was very much a beginner when I opened that shop, but I worked eighty hours a week to get it going and learn what I needed to know. I loved quilting. I loved working with fabrics. I loved trying every new idea that someone came up with. I loved helping customers choose fabrics. I loved teaching quilting classes. But I hated running that shop! I hated all of the time I had to "waste" running the business - dealing with paperwork and employee problems. I hated the business part of the business.

So I got rid of the business. But I kept on making quilts. I still taught at quilt shops and other venues. I still earned my living by doing custom machine quilting out of my home. And I was selling quilts through a cooperative art gallery. That was fun while it lasted. Then I "retired."

The problem is, being an artist is not something that you can retire from. It is in your soul, something that never goes away. So I kept on making quilts because I just couldn't seem to stop. Then one day I looked around my studio and realized that I have over a hundred quilts - many finished and many in various stages of construction.

What in the world am I going to do with all of these quilts? I told myself that I could try selling them via the internet, so I started my other blog. The problem is, once again, it is a business. I find that I can't get myself interested even in dealing with posting the photos and information to sell the darned things. I know I have to get it done, and I will one of these days, but that isn't what I want to write about here.

Art for the Love of It

I just read a book called Art Schooled: A Year among Prodigies, Rebels, and Visionaries at a World-Class Art College. The author follows students at the Maryland Institute, College of Art. Of course, this really made me regret that I didn't go to art school way back when. I would have loved being immersed in that environment!

The book describes the classes the students are taking and the projects they do for those classes. It got me thinking about all of the art books I have in my home library.  I have art history books, books about famous artists, books about how to make art - lots of different types of art. I practically have my own art school right here in my home.

The only thing I don't have is the critiques and feedback. But that is the wonderful thing about being retired and making art just because I love making art. It doesn't matter if anyone else likes it as long as I have fun making it.

I'm not making quilts anymore; that seems like too much like work to me now. But I am enjoying learning about different styles of art and art movements through the years. And I don't have to take a test later to see what I've learned. I am learning more and more about drawing and watercolors. I've decided to use some of my photos from my travels as inspiration. I'm looking forward to "studying" Paul Cezanne while I stay for two months in his home town of Aix-en-Provence.

Right now I'm working on a sketch of the Mezquita in Cordoba, Spain. If I like how it turns out, I'll add some colored pencil to the sketch. If I still like it, I might even share it with you. But if you aren't impressed, I don't want to hear about it. That's the best thing about it - I'm doing it for myself and I don't have to please anyone but myself.

What is Your Dream?

One of the wonderful things about being retired is that we don't (hopefully) have to earn a living. We can each do whatever we want to do. We can follow our forgotten dreams from our younger days.

It isn't important that you like what I'm doing, whether it's what I write here or what I draw. When I'm writing my blog, I'm writing what is important to me or what is on my mind today. Sure, it would be nice if you care enough about what I write that you want to continue reading, but I will continue writing whether you come back or not.

That works just the same for you. What is important is that you do what you've always wanted to do. Don't worry about whether you are good enough. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. The only thing that matters is that you are having fun doing it.


  1. I really enjoyed reading your story. Thank you for sharing some very good thoughts! You are on your own path which is wonderful. Your words I believe will open eyes possibly for others who want to go their own way but perhaps were afraid to...