Art in our lives can make our daily experiences richer and fuller. We get to feel the exhilaration of creating from the heart, perhaps painting, drawing, or writing.
Much of what we make, either as amateurs or professional artists, does not get shared with anyone. It’s just for us, to fill our hearts with joy and to follow our own creative spirits, which can lead us to our best selves. There are way more happy artists than sad.
What happens when you take that step from being an amateur artist to one who sells work? What is it like to be a working artist?
One good example is Peggy Wyman, who calls herself the “Accidental Artist.” Unlike some artists who go to school to study art and come out the other side with a formal degree, Peggy studied math at the University of Idaho and headed into the computer industry. After “too many years in corporate cubicle land,” she chose to pursue her “long-held dream of becoming a rich and famous author of historical novels.”
Her first book, the award-winning Mission: The Birth of California, the Death of a Nation by Margaret Wyman (Idyllwild Publishing, 2002), gave readers an inside look at the truth and brutality of the founding of the California missions when Native Americans were forced out of their homes by the Spaniards and into servitude. The story features a young native Kumeyaay girl in 1767 who, despite her birth defect of webbed fingers, is an expert at making baskets.
Peggy shares, “In order to gain insight into the Native American woman heroine of the book, I took a class in making the traditional baskets of her people. That class turned out to be a revelation and a turning point. I also found the process of making that basket deeply satisfying; so satisfying that I ended up taking classes in other basket-making techniques until one grabbed me; coiling with pine needles. Between the heady aroma of the needles, their silky feel, and the way my mind quieted while working with them, I was hooked.”
The contrast between research and writing by day and making baskets in the evening suited her, especially one night. “After a string of frustrating writing sessions, I sat down with the needles one evening, too out of sorts to have the energy to bend the needles into a preconceived shape. Instead, I let the materials go where they would. They led. I followed. And, the process for the kind of abstract fiber sculptures I’ve been making and honing ever since was born.”
Hundreds of sculptures later, she still loves the organic process of letting her intuitive mind and the pine needles take the lead. Many of her creations have landed in permanent collections in museums, as well as with corporations and in loving homes. Her unusual shapes and the organic feel to the pieces delight collectors with various backgrounds.
“Dozens of exhibitions across the U.S. later, the materials and the process of creating with them still entrance me. Not knowing what is going to result when I start a new piece is the prod that keeps me inspired and trying new things,” she explains.
Peggy draws inspiration for her baskets from nature, literature, music, mythology, and mysticism.
“Time and space vanish, and it’s just me and pine needles. I love the feel and scent of the needles. My studio smells like a pine forest. Besides the scent and the feel of the needles, there’s the repetitive motion of sewing the coils together. It all adds up to a blissful, relaxing meditative state. Making each piece is very much like a dance where the needles lead and I follow. All natural materials have a bias, a direction they want to lean. So, when I add more needles, the direction of the coil changes, sometimes dramatically.”
Like painting, ceramics, and other art forms, sometimes the materials take control.
“Another way to look at the process is to imagine a conversation between my hands and the needles. The sculpture is finished when the dialogue ends. And, there are times when the needles just pause. That’s when I have to put the piece aside and wait for the conversation to recommence,” Peggy offers.
She continues, “Sometimes that can mean days. Sometimes years. Sometimes it never does, and I either trash the piece, or I cut it into pieces and start new sculptures. Double recycling.”
Art is a process for most artists, not simply about a finished piece. Inspired work means inspired hours interacting with the media, breathing the scents, and admiring the colors, textures, and forms.
Have you tried an art project and allowed yourself to get lost in it? Listen to your intuition, like Peggy Wyman, and see where your creativity leads you. It could be a very interesting place, and you will learn more about yourself along the way.
Tip of the Month: What type of art draws your interest? Maybe summer is the time to explore! Attend an art class to explore the medium, as well as let yourself enjoy some time out from your regular schedule. Life happens in the present—make the most of it!
Monica Hagen loves her life as a writer, artist, teacher and registered stock broker. She loves to share thoughts and images that inspire, guide, and heal. Find her book, “Fit, Fueled and 50” on Amazon.com. Contact –LinkedIn – Books
Photo Credit – Peggy Wyman, Artist