What keeps you going throughout the day? Is it the small pleasures? That morning cup of coffee, the anticipation of your lunch, the excitement of the next episode in your current binge-watching series, or the comforting thought of your cozy bed awaiting you at night?
Certainly, these daily comforts bring joy, but it's our interactions with others that truly sustain us. It might be the warm hug from your children as they head off to school, the engaging conversation with your colleagues during lunch, the interactions with your Facebook friends, a heartfelt visit or phone call with a friend, or the warmth of a family gathering.
As a public school art teacher for elementary and middle school students for more than 35 years, I had the privilege of connecting with hundreds of remarkable souls each day. After retiring, I knew I would miss it, so I occasionally substituted until the pandemic struck. Then, we relocated to another state! The move was to be close to our grandchildren, who bring more joy to our lives than I can put into words. Totally worth the move to be able to have them in our lives and watch them grow.
While I remained grateful for a stronger bond with them and for the family and friends I stayed in touch with, I found myself in a new state, during a pandemic, wondering how to fill the void of connection with others.
I made the decision to join a pastel society and began meeting some incredible people. I eventually became the president, and although it came with significant responsibilities, it opened the floodgates of connection. I also joined several local art associations and for the first time in my life, I was making friends who were fellow artists. We spoke the same artistic language! Then I began showing my work and I forged wonderful new relationships from those events as well. My hubby and I are enjoying getting to know many new people in the area!
Not only have I formed new connections, but I've also rekindled many old ones. I've had former schoolmates reaching out for commissions, and there was even a woman I met at a late 90's show who contacted me. She asked if I still had a painting I created from photos she had invited me to take at her home back then. It turns out she regretted not buying the piece earlier, and last year she got in touch to purchase the painting so she could have a memory of her former home.
I started taking and teaching pastel workshops, getting to know more and more artists. Recently, I was a part of the faculty for PASTEL LIVE, an international online art convention organized by Eric Rhoades and Streamline Publishing. Initiated during the pandemic , its success is rooted in the power of human connections. People seek to share their excitement about art and want to forge relationships with the artists they admire.
I understand this concept isn't new to anyone and we all recognize the need for relationships outside of the family. Yet, reflecting on the idea of connection has made me realize that everything revolves around it, including my need to create. The art world embodies this concept in so many ways. Through art, we connect with the beauty in the world, with our higher selves during the act of creation, and with others through the sharing of our work.
Have you ever seen a piece of art that took your breath away or one that stirred a cherished memory? You were touched by what that artist shared of themselves. The cliché holds true: artists invest their hearts and souls into their art, and when they believe their expression is ready for the world, they release it with the hope of touching someone. While likes and compliments feel great, and getting into juried art shows is great validation and serves to get us known and respected in the art world, it's the genuine connection with a viewer who feels something that we aspire to achieve. We aim to touch hearts, provoke thoughts, elicit emotions, and incite reactions. Without viewers, art becomes a more introspective pursuit. Many artists, musicians, and writers may create solely for their personal growth or healing, but for me, there is also healing and growth that emerges from the relationships I have cultivated within the artist and art collector community.
Art has the extraordinary ability to unite us. Whether it's a concert, a dance recital, or an art reception, art initiates conversations or leads us inward to tap into our own memories. It fosters a sense of appreciation for the things we may have started to take for granted or reinforces an existing appreciation for moments of beauty, capturing them for us to revisit.
In the years since my retirement, as I transitioned to a career as an artist, I've connected with numerous wonderful individuals. Some are adult students (as I still enjoy teaching and nurturing others' growth), some are fellow artists who guide and inspire me, and some are simply people I share a unique connection with on some level. They all bring joy to my life.
So when I share my work on social media, bring work to my gallery, or enter an exhibit, it’s not just about making a sale. I love knowing that someone, whether I have met them or not, has a small piece of my heart on their wall, and hopefully that brings them a little joy every day. It feels great knowing my creation has meaning to them.
When I create art, it's because I yearn to connect with beauty, and when I share my art, it's because I cherish the beauty of connection.