Celebrate your Supporters
first published July 2018
I love the aspect of painting that allows me to feel self reliant and free in making decisions. When the part of me that ‘sees’ appears, the decisions no longer feel as if they’re being made by my mind, but that something else in me* knows, from one moment to the next, what to do. When there’s a spell of creating, where that level of flow feels like the norm, life is a joy. During the long periods when it’s not, we can help ourselves up to a point; we all have learned little tricks that let us experience our work with fresh eyes or ears. But sometimes, help comes from others. It’s an art in itself to develop a good sense of who really helps us and who is comfortably familiar but unhelpful. We’ve all known people who keep looking for support from those who can’t or won’t give it. Of these seven types of supportive relationship, some which can overlap, I wonder which ones you appreciate most. Mentors: I’ve had some wonderful mentors who understood that creating can be a struggle, but redirected my attention towards the beautiful possibilities - within whatever I was struggling with in my life, as well as within the paintings. What my mentors had in common was that they helped me to see the bigger picture, and brought in a feeling of increased light, like sunshine. To remember our mentors, and send them thanks, even those who have passed away, can reactivate their wisdom in us. Teachers: There are also teachers who pass on skills. A good teacher, who gives enough information, and leaves enough space to learn the skill through doing it, is invaluable. The skills might relate directly to our specialism, or we might also require lessons in how to work better with our bodies, minds, emotions – Alexander teachers, yoga teachers, masseurs, mindfulness teachers, therapists. If we’ve had a teacher who was also a mentor, it’s easy but very unfair, to expect it of the next teacher. If they too have mentor qualities, that’s a bonus, not a deal breaker. Admirers: To have just one person in our lives who loves our work, is fortunate. They can make a huge difference to our commitment to keep going. We might feel the compulsion to brush away their appreciation. But learning to re-experience our work through their eyes, despite shyness or embarrassment, can help us to renew our connection with the qualities they’re appreciating, and open up new possibilities. If yours supports you financially too, as Theo supported Vincent, that’s wonderful. If not, give them a discount, give them a gift – their support matters. There are also those we only meet once. Remember them. Critic: We tend to be more used to looking at our work through the eyes of those who don’t resonate with our work, and imagining their criticism. This can have its uses if we’re working on editing and revising, but otherwise can suck the life out of us. If we have someone who can tell us with honesty what needs revised while enabling us to feel otherwise worthy of respect, they're gold. Peers: It’s great to have peers to whom we don't have to explain everything. They know what matters most to us. They know that sales or good publicity give us a tremendous boost and are worth celebrating. And that nevertheless, they’re not what drives us. They understand the roller coaster of inspiration and barrenness and help us to keep it in perspective, to remember that it’s normal, ordinary, and all right. And they might share an image or idea that you both love. Fellow enthusiasts: Which brings us to those who see and talk about things that inspire you, who open up discussions that thrill you, show you work that you love, fire you up to attend a workshop they’ve told you about. They share enthusiasms and passions, which fire yours. Phone them, meet them for coffee – and perhaps they’ll suggest an exhibition, book or poetry reading that you’ll both enjoy. Networkers: There are also those networkers, who, despite different enthusiasms, will share relevant news of opportunities to exhibit, sell, publish, apply for grants, attend or run workshops, that they know will suit us. They seem to know more of what’s going on than anyone else, they’ll remember that you once said you’d love to learn an unusual skill, and email you with a link to a workshop where you’ll learn it. Thank them, and if you ever get the opportunity, introduce them to another networker. They’ll both appreciate it. You may have others who support you, collaborators, patrons, editors. There are people who changed the direction of my life, and then I never saw them again, I lost touch. At times I have forgotten about just how much generosity and support I’ve received, some I might never remember. But sometimes giving or receiving a heartfelt thank you can change the course of a day, a week, or more. *or is the Muse external? Image of the late Dr Ramona Sue, mentor and friend, painted by fellow traveller, the late Jessie May.