The most powerful thing we have to offer is our story. Be inspired by lovely stories of lovely lives.
What prompted you to become an artist?
I’ve always been drawn to beauty– and I never remember a time that I didn’t want to be an artist. I loved painting and Play-Doh and drawing as a kid. My family jokes about my “sensitive artist’s soul” and I doodled or drew any chance I could get. I’ve always been happiest making stuff. It validates my existence and keeps the crazy at bay. I feel like creating is the best possible way to honor the Creator, and it’s why I’m here on this planet.
Did anyone ever try to talk you out of being an artist or think you were crazy for not pursuing a more traditional career path?
I’ve always wanted to be an artist. When I was 7, I clearly remember a conversation with my grandfather (who was like my dad) where he asked what I wanted to do when I grew up. I said that I wanted to be a painter. He laughed and said, “Why don’t you go into real estate? Then you’ll have money and you can paint on the weekends.” Now I think about that conversation with humor, since the real estate market is so terrible, and I’m making a living as an artist.
Later, in high school, I tried to take advanced art classes, but my teacher discouraged me because she only had a few spots available and she thought since I was academically strong, I’d be eligible for academic scholarships instead of art scholarships. Her words to me were, “You’re really unlikely to ever use art for anything other than as a hobby, so why don’t you make room for others who won’t have as many opportunities.”
I know that my family and that teacher had good intentions, but there ideas threw me off course for a few years. I became a teacher, and later the vice-principal of a small school overseas. I treasure that experience overseas, but realized quickly when we returned to the States that I needed to really follow my dream. So at 30, I went back to school at Gage Academy in Seattle and began pursuing art seriously for the first time
Can you tell us about your daily paintings?
In 2009, Chris and I had a big upheaval. I’d been making a few inroads into the local art scene in Seattle, but for several reasons we knew that moving to Portland was the right thing for us. But it was very hard to move to a new city where I knew no one, and had no connections to anyone. I spent a lot of time alone, and I was depressed. I only completed one painting that year, and questioned whether I really wanted to be an artist at all. Chris was really encouraging and patient with me, but I knew that 2010 had to be different. So I came up with a plan. I’d complete a painting everyday. It was a bit scary for me, because up to that point, I’d never considered a painting complete unless I’d spent at least 30 hours on it. So painting quickly was my first challenge. I committed to 100 paintings in 100 days, because I thought that I could deal with anything for three months.
Two years later, I’ve just finished my fifth 100 painting series, which means I’ve painted 500 daily paintings. I’ve created a structure for myself with each project and found a way to stretch myself a bit with each one. In fact, on the days that I don’t finish a painting, I feel as if I’ve forgotten something somehow.
Our course participants are interested in creating a lovely life – a life in which they cultivate beauty and joy everyday. Some are unsure where to start. Can you share a few tips that have helped you create a lovely life?
A big shift for me was learning to make choices based on my own values, rather than on what I thought I “should” be choosing. Sometimes that’s about the things I surround myself with. For example, my studio is pretty functional and basic, because I don’t want to worry about getting paint on something expensive. But one wall is filled with inspiration. Paintings and prints from other artists, a cherished poem that hung in my grandmother’s bedroom, my own painting that represents my word of the year– things like that. And I curate it carefully. Each month I make a quick list of what’s most important to accomplish for that month, and then I look at my inspiration wall. Is there anything there that doesn’t immediately make me smile? Anything that isn’t serving me? I take it down. Then I check to see if there’s anything that I’m missing.
Another way this works is how I spend my time. I’ve created a few rituals around my week, and I keep those appointments with myself as the highest priority. For example, I spend a lot of time hunched over an easel or a computer, so yoga is a must. But, sometimes life gets in the way. So I’ve found a class that starts at 8 am on Sunday mornings, because it’s a time that I’m pretty much guaranteed to be available. And I’ve created a ritual around it. We’re car-free, so I ride my bike to the yoga studio in the early morning, and I set up my mat as the sun starts to fill the room. This ritual is kind of like the reset button to my week. When I get off the mat on Sunday, I feel ready to start my week again.
We’ve also simplified. Like Tammy, I ride my bike around Portland. I choose to spend money on things that I value instead of on car insurance, or gasoline. We obviously value travel, so we structure our year around a vacation together every December and these rituals make my life more lovely to me.
There are many very creative, talented people working jobs that don’t showcase their abilities and passion. What would you recommend to them if they want become a full time artist?
I’d like to think that everyone can have the job of their dreams, but I know that circumstances can get in the way. So I think small steps are important. Maybe you can’t become a full time artist this year, but you can take (or teach) a workshop.
A big part of taking your creative side seriously is carving out a dedicated space. Make a space in your house for your creative work. Make an appointment with yourself every week. A big defining moment for me was realizing that painters paint. Writers write. So paint, write, craft. Without pressure. Without ceasing. Without question.
We believe everyone has unique talents and call these talents superpowers. What is your superpower and how does that power make your life lovely?
I think my superpower is recognizing patterns. Visual, verbal, emotional, and behavioral. It helps me as an visual artist, because I notice details. And it’s helped me in so many ways as I’ve structured my life in to what I really want it to be. I’ve noticed patterns in my thoughts or in my relationships that allow me to change course a little earlier if I’m heading in the wrong direction. Or I’ve recognized patterns that worked for me, and figured out how to repeat them so I can build something successful, or lovely.
Learn more from Jolie at jolieguillebeau.com.
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