Thursday, March 22, 2007

Being at the Right Place

"The greatest sin against your own life is to know what you want, and not act."

"Kim R. Strafford, Lochsa Road: A Pilgrim in the West, copyright 1991

Alyson B Standfield's St. Patrick's Day post entitled, "Do you feel lucky?" commented: "Luck has little to do with your art career." I understand what she was getting at, that we can't sit around waiting to be discovered, that we have to put in a lot of hard work to be successful. (Read entire post here.)

However, having just listened to the Chuck Close interview with Charlie Rose, I'd have to think he might disagree that luck has little to do with your art career. Rose asked him why he thought he had had such great success while many of the artists he'd gone to school with had worked hard, produced good work but remained overlooked by the art world. He explained how what the art world is looking for at a given moment may not be where an artist is with his work. That's probably a bad paraphrase, but I remember him moving his hands back and forth as he talked about how important timing is in intersecting with the art world. Some artists are never fortunate enough to be doing the "right" work, or be in the right place when their work would be noticed. He wasn't advocating trying to anticipate what the market or critics would decide was the next great trend or fad. Far from it. He advocates putting blinders on to not be swayed by these winds of change. Then work hard on your particular vision so that the work is done and ready should anyone notice. And so he felt he'd been very fortunate to have his work happen to intersect with something the art world wanted to grab on to and promote. He felt it just as easily could have happened to one of his schoolmates instead.

Sounds like luck to me. Or at least the stars aligning, as I like to say.

Which brings me to a story of my own luck. I accepted an invitation to attend a meeting of a local community service group on the basis that the program was quilt related. I've been told this is a great group for meeting the movers and shakers of the area and so a perfect place to network without having to commit to a lot of obligations. Part of me knows this is the kind of thing I should be joining to further my goals to become a working artist, yet I was pretty sure this was exactly the kind of group that would drive me crazy and feel like a huge waste of my time, contacts made or not.

I was also told that everyone was encouraged to bring a quilt to share after the speaker had finished. I was gently prodded to be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to show what I do to another segment of the community. All I really wanted to do was listen to the speaker, scope out the members, and lay low. But she was right, I needed to bring something along. Wisconsin Memories seemed a good choice. And since she introduced me as a quilt artist, it probably would have looked funny if I'd not shared anything.

To be honest, it was the longest 2-1/2 hours I've spent in a long time. The business meeting ran long and was the epitome of everything I dislike about organizations. The speaker spent a little too much time promoting some books she had for sale, and not enough on the actual history she was billed to present. I wasn't sensing any kindred souls in the room, so was ready to chalk it up to experience. As we were gathering our things to leave, one woman approached me about teaching classes. I've really sworn off teaching for now, and I thought - oh great, a test of my resolve - when she clarified it was a class on making jackets she was after. Well, no contest there. As I told her, I'd have to take a class first to learn how to make them myself! Oh, get me out of here...

And that's when another lady stepped up to introduce herself. She is with the Pend Oreille Arts Council which is the umbrella organization for all art events in the community. I knew at some point I needed to approach this group to see how I could get into one of their exhibits, but oh how I hate marketing myself. I just didn't quite know yet how to go about it. Instead, here she was approaching me. She got right to the point of telling me they were organizing a special exhibit of art quilts and wanted to give my name to the coordinator, Marty Bowne, an art quilter in her own right. Talk about being in the right place at the right time, and with a piece that must have represented me in the right light. I could hardly believe my luck that our paths had crossed this way. And that I'd considered backing out of attending this meeting at all.

Yes, I've done some hard work to get my quilting to this point. I actively searched for an artist friendly community. I uprooted and nearly broke the bank getting myself here. But if I end up garnering a bit of success now that I'm here, there will be many lucky events I can point to that helped it to happen.


Claire Joy said...

sounds like a 2 1/2 hours well invested after all...
(and the part about keeping the blinders on is such great advice) not that I ever take it... but sometimes :)

Olga said...

Great! It is luck, you are right, but it is also being ready to jump when the right opportunity arises. I'm a believer in the saying that success comes to the successful and that it is appearing confident and not needy that attracts the very results we want.

The Idaho Beauty said...

I wondered if anyone would make it all the way through this one!

You are both so right. All the luck in the world won't make us successful if we aren't prepared to take advantage of it, and all the preparation in the world will go for naught if we don't get out of the studio and engage in what the rest of the world is up to now and then.

Olga, I really like what you say about appearing confident and not needy. A year ago, I was not confident enough (and feeling pretty needy)to have handled this situation without tripping over my tongue or making a fool of myself. I keep building on each positive experience I've had since moving and know I'm projecting a belief in my abilities I didn't used to have. The more confident I feel, the better everything goes and the easier it is to talk about my work and the more interest I seem to generate. Win, Win, Win!

Alyson B. Stanfield said...

Excellent point. And I'm sure it was a terrific interview. I think Chuck Close is probably very articulate. Glad you caught it. Wish I had. :(