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Monday, January 02, 2006

Thoughts for a New Year

Many artists are motivated to set goals for their artistic development and careers, and quite a few have achieved them. Then the question pops up, "What next?" Do they set higher goals? More goals? Different goals? Each artist has a different response to these questions. One artist says that his retirement from his "day job" has changed his idea of goals. Now he is entering a phase of life that should allow him to enjoy his achievements, and he's finding that difficult. Seems like the inevitable end of life looms larger every day and the idea of setting goals becomes a quandary.

All of my life I've been goal-driven, and to a great extent I've been fortunate in achieving my goals. Then several years ago I realized my goals had changed dramatically–not the goals themselves, but the priority-ranking of each goal. Angeles Arrien writes of how to live the last half of our lives, and her discussion of the importance of "mentoring" made me see how my own direction has changed from personal achievement to freely sharing my knowledge and friendship with other artists of all ages and skill levels. While I have always done this in my teaching, I feel an urgency now that I wasn't aware of before. The most amazing thing about it is that the more I share, the more complete I feel and the more connected with those I work with. Thus, mentoring now resides at the top of my list of goals.

For the past fifteen years I've traveled throughout the United States and Canada teaching workshops. From the start I felt compelled to bring my students together as a community of artists working to help each other learn and grow, instead of individuals seeking praise for making the best or biggest painting in the class. Now more than ever I sense the value of this approach, and I am almost overwhelmed by the responses of my students and those who use my books and web site. My thanks to all who express your appreciation in your emails. It helps to keep me going.

In the light of the events of recent years I've been trying, like everyone else, to sort out how I feel, how to react, what to do. At this moment I realize the best I can do is to keep on mentoring and sharing what I know and love. I hope others will do the same. We still need goals, and these will be different for all of us, but high on the list should be the promise to respect others as we wish to be respected. Art is a labor of love, not just artists loving their art, but loving one another. Please, put this at the top of your list of goals.

Happy New Year!

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