Wow, what a year it's been! My wife, son and I have been very blessed with our new life on the open road getting the word out about my art and peddling our collective wares. We've had our triumphs and our failures; we've had our dreams come true and our hopes dashed; but most of all, we've found that this new life suits us well and we are more excited than ever to see what's next for this humble trio.
As with any new experience, I feel that the key to learning the most from it is to pause and reflect from time to time. Being the end of the year and seven months into my new life as a full-time artist, I thought I would take a moment and share what I've learned so far from my family's adventure in art.
[ O N E ] Grit & Discipline
Painting is a lot of fun when your creative tank is full and you've got a pocketful of fresh, exciting ideas and a good night's sleep. Painting is not as fun when you're tired and unmotivated from being on the road for 9 hours the day before and that looming commission deadline is creeping closer by the minute. The majority of artists who I've talked to that are making this artist life work hold themselves accountable to be productive every single day, no matter how full their tank is. Being a successful artist takes grit and discipline and I admire those artists who've stuck with it through the easy days and the rough.
[ T W O ] Find Common Ground
From my experiences on the road (all 15,000 glorious miles of it) I've learned that we are all more alike than we are different. At festivals I set up my booth and talk to nearly every single person that wanders in, mostly about art, but often times our conversations go beyond that. My Jobs of Yesteryear series stirs up memories of grandparents, history, technology, how far we've come and so much more. The folks I meet don't always strike me as people that I would easily connect with, but I've found that it's not too hard to find common ground as long as you speak from the heart, listen attentively, and keep an open mind. One example is Doris (pictured below) who I met in Salina, Kansas. She took one look at The Ice Cutter and told me a comical story about her three year-old sister getting her tongue stuck to the ice chest when she was little. Like Doris, the vast majority of people are good-natured and would rather share a laugh with you than anything else.
[ T H R E E ] Trust the Path
There hasn't been a clear path down this road as an artist and I don't expect the fog to lift anytime soon. I've learned to trust the path I'm on and trust my gut (and brilliant wife) when it comes to decision making. I do my best not worry too much about the future, which helps me be present and enjoy every breath God blesses me with. Sure, there have been times when the bank account is dwindling and we're not selling as much as we'd hoped, but then, just at the right moment, an email will show up about someone interested in an original painting or we'll have an incredible show the next weekend. I've learned time and time again to trust the path because it'll all work out somehow.
[ F O U R ] Be Bold
I've learned to put myself out there and make mistakes. I try not to play it safe with my art and I do my best to continually push the boundaries of my abilities. This often takes the form of an uncomfortable feeling when it's time to tackle a challenging part of a painting. When I was painting The Reinsman, I was dreading painting the carriage and horses. I knew that they would be the focal point of the painting and challenging to depict. The only reason I had to not paint them was because I was afraid to fail. I've learned to choke that feeling down and just go for it. Paint hard. Be Bold. Throw caution to the wind.
[ F I V E ] Accept & Give Generosity
Life is too hard to try to do it all yourself. I've learned to accept generosity from others, to compliment strangers (even if it's a bit uncomfortable) and take time to pay it forward when the opportunity arises. Back in July, we were on a long stretch of road, traveling from Michigan to Washington in four long days. We had just hit Wyoming when the "Check Engine" light came on. "Uh-oh", I thought, as I exited the interstate to the nearest parts store. After checking the cause of the light being triggered, I talked over options with the store clerk. Lo and behold, the fella in line behind me was a mechanic with 20 years experience and he happily helped me fix the vehicle right there in the parking lot. Afterwards, he refused to take anything for his services other than a handshake. I always think of that man when I'm given the opportunity to help someone else out and be kind.
[ S I X ] Slooowww Dowwwnnn
There are always a million things to do and it's easy to sink into the mindset that you need to figure them all out right this instant. Even typing that sentence got my heart racing. I've learned the value of slooowwwwiiinngg dowwwnnnnn and enjoying the little gifts given to us each and every day. The most common form of this lesson from our life on the road is the frequent breaks we need to take so that our two year-old Ivan (and his parents) can retain a level of sanity during long days of travel. We've discovered some neat little gems along the way, simply because we took the time to seek them out and fought the urge to get to the next destination ASAP. The Pony Express station in Gothenburg, Nebraska, the amazing Ice House Museum in Cedar Falls, Iowa and the world-class smoked meats of the Konop Meat Market in northern Wisconsin would have all been missed, had we not slowed down and enjoyed the sights along the way during our journey.
[ S E V E N ] Celebrate the Small Victories
As we forge ahead on this new trail, my wife and I often take a moment and celebrate how far we've come. Five years ago, we did our first art fair in Estes Park, Colorado using a rickety green (green?!) tent and chains to hang the art on. It was a meager first effort but it was a place to start. Since then, we've experienced thousands of little victories that have led to where we currently are. We've learned to take the time and celebrate those little triumphs before pushing them aside and starting to work on the next task. We've had many brews to celebrate selling an original painting or having a successful fair or just finishing a long, stressful drive, and it's this practice that helps us cultivate gratitude and a sense of accomplishment about the new life we've created.
Thank you so much for supporting our adventures in art. Stay tuned for more big moves being made by this little art family in 2016. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year to you and yours from the Voorhees crew.
Tyler, Ashley, and Ivan