Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Art Blog: Artist Support

Time to talk art again!
I titled this post “artist support” because I want to speak about things that keep artists going, creating, and feeling valuable. I am not talking about financial support via grants or sales or other economic systems. I am speaking of helping an artist feel supported emotionally and spiritually. Artists have all kinds of things that help to motivate them and keep them making the work they are meant to do. Some are external motivators and others come from an internal source. I for one wish I could rely on purely internal attributes that would motivate the making and creating. I would like to be so driven sans any need for the cheers of others or scheduled activities that make me want to produce.

Here is my Treasure Box.

As some of you know, I work with students who have emotional and behavioral challenges. It is common in special education to use various kinds of external motivators to change behaviors. This is a very common behavior modification practice. Rewards are used to shape behavior. For years, I have offered minor treats or activities to reward good behavior and successful art production. The primary goal at our school is not to make great artists. It is to get these kids out of there so they can function at a mainstream school. Therefore, I jumped on the reinforcement bandwagon long ago to help mold behaviors.
Last year, I was at a thrift shop and found a rickety, old treasure box. It was made of wood. I looked as if it had been made as a prop. Perhaps it had been used during one of the many annual, pirate related events down here in Florida. I bought it for $5. What a deal. I hauled it to the art room and let the kids have at it. We primed and painted. We stenciled. We put all kinds of plastic jewels on it. Then I filled it with crap. Inside the lined chest is a candy jar, snack size chips, fruit roll ups, Little Debbies, and bunches of silly, little toys. The kids have to get a star a week on the STAR CHART. If they collect 4 stars, they get to pick from the treasure chest. So basically, they get one pick per month if their behaviors earn them a star per week.
It is amazing to me that these kids will come in every week and check the chart. They love that chart and treasure chest. They work an entire month to get one, tiny treat. However, this made me think about myself. Even though it seems so trivial, I can relate to this external motivation.

I have been thinking a lot about why things are different for me now. I remember years ago, I would make art all the time. I was driven. Now, it is different. Sometimes I don’t see the point. This really bothers me. So what is the difference between now and then? Well back then, I had a figurative Treasure Chest. There was always an exhibition coming up. There was a resume to be filled. I lived in an art community so I needed to make art to be one of the gang. There were art collectors where I lived. Even my jobs were ARTIST related. Oh yes, my job now is art related, but I doubt a handful of people I work with really knows or cares that I am an artist. There are no expectations for me to make my own art. There is no art community I care about. Even showing my work is a bit sketchy now due to the expense involved in keeping that fire burning. Currently, I have no external motivators.

I wish I could say I don’t need any kind of support systems other than the spark of my inner self. I am not there yet. I am not sure if I will ever be that strong and self directed. In the meantime, I have to find a way to pick the lock to get inside my treasure chest of now. I have to find something to help me want to perk up and enhance my artistic verve.


JafaBrit's Art said...

Are we twins LOL! My god your post so hit a nerve. I LOVE the treasure box idea.

I will say this, living in this village has made a huge difference for me. I have blossomed with such wonderful support from the community and fellow artists. Right now though I am in flux a bit, which is why your post resonates. I am trying to remind myself that my slow output is not so much a lack of motivation as much as letting ideas percolate and when the time is right a good painting will come out of it.

Fabulous post and so insightful.

Sheree Rensel said...

You have no idea how much I needed to read a comment like yours. Even though I don't like to write things that show my "fragile" side, I think it is important. I am a hard ass girl and I take no prisoners. Yet, I am going through a time that is spooky. I feel like I am going insane. I know I am not, but still it is freaking me out a bit.
When I read your comment this morning, I had a sigh of relief. I was so thankful SOMEBODY understands what in the hell I am talking about. I am not ashamed or feel bad because I am not in a manic mode of creativity. In fact, I can't seem to get a drizzle of momentum or continuity at the moment. It is ok. Everything is ok. We (BOTH) have to just ride it out. In fact, this is part of the deal. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.
I think I am growing some really BIG muscles right now. Who knows. When my "art biceps" get huge, I might even get tattoos on them that say:

Thanks so much for your comment!!