Theme of 2016: Live Your Values, Part One

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Yowza. It’s been a long time since I sat down to write for this blog.

The ultimate goal of this blog is to document and explore creativity, whether it’s sharing my own creative ebbs and flows and utilizing the blog as a reflection and growth tool, or interviewing another creative person who is making a go of their craft.

Due to an insanely busy January I’ve been unable to write either. Although the next few months are set to be pretty busy, I’m still hoping to make time to reflect on my artistic and creative practices via this blog while sharing stories of artists and creative movers and shakers. It’s a pleasant excuse to do some non-academic writing, and to unwind my thoughts from the tight little tangle of complex, and at times pompous language that forms my thesis.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how I want my 2016 to look; in addition to graduating from my Master of Education program, I’m hoping to make this an amazing year for my art business, and hopefully earn enough to take a sizeable chunk out of my student loans so that my sweetheart and I can look at buying a home. But more importantly, I want to make this year matter; not just in terms of ticking off some goal boxes, but also in terms of making some important adjustments that bring me to be more in line with my values.

Live Your Values

Why Living Your Values Matters

When I was working on my recent painting, Sarah’s Sunset, I listened to the audio book of The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. The book was recommended by the blog Un-Fancy, which is one of my favourite blogs of all time. Darren Hardy is the publisher of SUCCESS magazine, and has made his living both studying successful people and applying the principles of success in his own life. One thing that successful people have in common? They live their values.

When I sat down to plan out my 2016 and all the projects I want to take on, as well as all the life adjustments and changes that I’d like to make, I thought about ways I could alter my habits to be in better alignment with what I believe. Creating change is a work in progress; regardless of whether I’m tinkering with a painting or making major shifts in my behavioural patterns, there’s always something to tweak. Here are some of the goals I’ve set for the year to come.

Life Principle One: Quality over Quantity, aka Live More with Less

love this concept. I have read countless books on the subject. Now, I just have to live it.

Living in a society where our collective livelihoods are dependent on capitalism and consumerism, it’s rare to ever feel enough. There’s always something missing, a product that can fill the gap in your living room, your driveway, or in your beauty routine, that will somehow bring happiness. Obsessed with attaining peak levels of whatever, it’s unusual to hear someone say, I have enough. I am enough. I have enough things. I am healthy enough. There is abundance in my life already, I don’t need more.

Since September, I’ve been working diligently to eliminate the clutter from my life and replace multiple items that I sort of like with one item that I really love. Rather than feeling dissatisfied with many items, I sought to become very satisfied with fewer objects.

It started with my closet; I went on a purge and got rid of a huge portion of my clothes. I’m slowly replacing them with staples that fall into the guidelines of a capsule wardrobe, or a French wardrobe. The idea is that you have a small amount of clothes, but they are all relatively neutral, match with everything, and fit well, taking all the stress out of deciding what to wear every morning while guaranteeing an elegant, polished look. From a mathematical perspective, one item that looks fabulous > five items that are too loose/tight/see-through/whatever. See an example below, taken from Un-Fancy:

Photo Credit: Un-Fancy

Photo Credit: Un-Fancy

Last year, I went in an entirely different direction. I thought that I would try to live in alignment with my belief that we as a society place too much of an emphasis on physical appearance. I believed that this would make me a better person; after all, I was transcending our image-obsessed culture, and forcing people to look past my appearance to see my positive qualities. I allowed my highlights to grow out and my grey hairs to grow in. I didn’t put on makeup. I wore old t-shirts with silly messages on them, sometimes at the same time as my pouffy orange cotton pants that I picked up while backpacking in Indonesia.

No one took me seriously. And really, can you blame them?

My new philosophy is dress how you want to be treated, and less is more. Truth be told, I’m not that great when it comes to fashion, so turning to a capsule/French wardrobe just makes sense. In addition to the above link to Un-Fancy, I strongly suggested checking out The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and taking a look at Pinterest’s results for “capsule wardrobe.”

Of course, this doesn’t only apply to clothing.

This applies to pretty much everything, which is why I consider it to be a core value. Fewer friends, but richer relationships. Fewer objects cluttering up my home, but each one has a purpose or brings me joy. Fewer projects, but each one is more meaningful and receives my full attention.

This week, I sold a bicycle rack that mounts on the back of a sedan vehicle. Four years ago, I bought it for $300. I haven’t owned a vehicle for three years, let alone a racing bike that I’d want to transport with it. Never mind that it no longer served any function whatsoever; I had paid good money for it, and therefore I felt that I had to keep it. Until I realized, hey, I’m being ridiculous. I sold it for $75, a fraction of what I’d paid, but put the money I received into a jar to go towards a new watch. Rather than having something useless take up space in my closet, I now have the means, in cash, to buy something I’ll love.

I took the same principle and applied it to my decor. I moved into my current abode 7 months ago, but the walls are still mostly empty. Rather than cluttering them up with posters and knickknacks, I’m taking the time to select pieces for my space that are in harmony with my vision. It’s a slow process, but I’m in no rush. I’d rather have a proverbial blank canvas primed and ready to go for when inspiration strikes than allow something mediocre to serve as a placeholder for the extraordinary.

This goal has everything to do with art

In 2015, I fell into being an artist. It didn’t happen on purpose; up until January 2015, I had simply painted for the joy of it. Suddenly, I found myself negotiating commissions and getting paid for my work. With more paintings equalling greater income, it seemed natural to want to squeeze more work into my schedule. Before I knew it, I wasn’t doing art for fun anymore. Although my projects were each uniquely enjoyable to work on, I no longer had time to create for myself, or to experiment, or to have a margin of error.

So, when I set up my schedule for 2016, I kept that in the forefront of my mind: quality over quantity.

I could realistically squeeze in another commission or two this year, and work solidly until Christmas. But to what end? My walls are still empty, and I feel that they are nudging me now to fill them with new work. And so long as I’m unable to experiment, play, and dabble in other media, I face a sincere risk of stagnation.

As an artist, I crave growth. But if my practice becomes an assembly line, then I may as well give up and go get a desk monkey job. Heaven knows I’d likely be making more money as an office worker, so as long as I’m dedicating myself to art, I may as well be an artist in the sense that each piece requires mastery, patience, and vision.

I gave myself permission to take a break from art, and to include time in my schedule to work on non-commissioned pieces for my own enjoyment. I’m training for a week in Mississauga in oils, which will open up whole new possibilities for work. But most importantly, I’m allowing myself to focus on my thesis, to get it out of the way, rather than splitting my focus between school and art. Right now, school comes first. When it’s done, art will take over. Each discipline will be the better for it in the long run, and the quality of each piece will ultimately be higher.

Which is in alignment with my value of quality over quantity.

Which fits the very definition of success; growth, quality, satisfaction, and joy.

Which means happiness.

Which means a life well lived, the best any of us can hope for.

I have a few other core values or life principles that I want to develop this year…I’m excited to share them in subsequent posts. 

And if you haven’t already, you should definitely check out The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. 

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