Monday, March 29, 2010

Pass İt On

Recently, İ came across a colleague at work who answered me quite frankly when I asked how she was doing. Normally, most of us say we are fine when we are really not. İt is understood that such questions are just social niceties and rituals rather than actual inquiries. After confiding in me with how she was hurting, she quickly apologized, perhaps remembering that the normal ritual is to suffer in silence rather than sharing her struggle. Her honesty impressed me and İ was moved to think of some way I could respond in kind. İ came across a book in my bookshelf that seemed like it might be hers now. As it turned out, after giving it to her and hearing that she had proceeded to read it three times, it seems my intuition was right. İ am continually reminded how the small gesture becomes a lever for larger goodness. Or İts opposite.
İ believe that taking to your own path affords you an inner strength that grows as you meet the various characters and situations that help you create the story of your life. İ can recall those that came to my aid and shared a bit of their strength with me when İ needed it.İn addition to being grateful to them, it seems to me that İ have an obligation to pass it on. Years ago, İ read an essay about a Japanese company who required its new hires to go into a village and go door to door asking to be of service. After being turned down over and over, these people discovered that they were grateful when someone actually took them up on their offer and let them rake their lawn or perform some other small task. This story struck me with the notion that if there is no receiver , there can be no giver and vice versa.İt is a symbiosis that İ see all around us. Along these lines, İ am rather fond of the notion that each of the drawings İ do has an owner out there and part of my work is getting that picture to them. İ have found quite a few of them and its a great feeling when İ find the person who a particular piece belongs to. One of my favorite memories of this is when one of my pieces,one of my absolute favorites, was stolen from the church office where it was hanging. İn closing, İ would love to hear from you about when somebody passed it on to you or when you passed it on to someone else.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Journey

My thanks to Chris Guillebeau for sharing this poem in his blog. I am sharing it here, though it seems I am copying his blog entry this week, because its message so totally speaks to what I am thinking about these days that it seems heaven sent. It is by Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets:
The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late enough,
and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world, determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

I have been going over the lines in the poem quite a bit. The fact that I can completely see myself in each of these lines gives me comfort, tells me I am on the right track. Though the path is parlous, the risks are the price that must be paid if you want to have any chance at your own life.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Whole Catastrophe

You must know the adage," Be Careful What You Wish for, You Just Might Get It." Last week, I admitted that in stepping back from my current situation, I could see that significant changes were in order if I wanted to remain true to my words and myself for that matter. Apparently the Universe agreed with me and now those changes are now unmistakeably underway.I have had my Dog or Landlord moment. To be honest, those changes were a long time coming and if I look back to their genesis, the exact moment keeps retreating to another moment before that ad infinitum. These changes bring to mind another of my shibboleths, The Whole Catastrophe.
This phrase comes from Zorba the Greek, one of my favorite characters of all time. For those of you unfamiliar with Zorba, let me introduce him. We meet Zorba in a harbor waiting for our ship to sail to the small Greek island where our relative has bequeathed a small inheritance. We, at this point, are a rather inhibited teacher from the British Isles who spends way too much of his time with his nose in a book, watching and judging from the sidelines rather than living his own life. Zorba erupts into our life and proceeds to turn everything upside down, spilling all sorts of madness and delight on us. He is everything we are not- supremely confident,a lover of life, a con man, a boozer, a ladies man, a feast or famine sort of fellow. Zorba lives on the edge. He lives from risk to risk, sucking all the marrow out of life. Carpe Diem and all that noise. The Whole Catastrophe is his characterization of life, his recognition that real living means being able to surrender to not only the beatific, ecstatic joys but also the shattering pains and losses. Before we met Zorba, we are a play if safe, always in the middle sort. Life is never too high nor too low. After we meet Zorba, we find ecstasy , agony and all the fine gradations between.
So I find myself disentangling myself from the dire miresome middle, veering,cheering and careering back toward the edge of things where I know the center of all things exists. You can trust that I will keep you apprised of the situation.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

An Interview with Myself

To begin with, I want to thank those of you who reached out to me after my rant last week. The notes I received touched me and to those who help me have my first sales through Red Bubble, a big thanks. It was a real treat to get notice of those sales. Oddly, Red Bubble did not give me information about who exactly to thank so I don't know who you are, which seems to be an odd quirk of Red Bubble. I receive a blog from Chris Guillebeau, whose Art of Nonconformity has been a source of inspiration for me. His latest blog is about interviewing yourself in order to take stock. Last week I touched on the need to reassess what I have been doing and since Chris's blog addresses this, I am going to proceed with the interview that he suggests.

Dear Tony,
You are 39 years old. What do you have to show for it?

My family here in Turkey, meaning my wife Pinar and son Sinan as well as our relatives here is something that I have to show for my time so far. These relationships as well as the many relationships I have developed and maintained throughout my years are certainly a large part of the bounty of my life. Moving to a new country and starting a new chapter in my life over the last seven years has been full of laughter and tears, hellos and goodbyes. I lament that creating this new story has also meant the conclusion of other tales. When I look at all the people I send this blog to, I always wish I could sit down with each of those people and visit for awhile.

I have lots of memories and experiences to show for my time so far. I have tried to think about my life in terms of what I would want to recollect as a man taking his last breaths. I am have had some success in that regard, but I can do better. I think I have held onto some things in my life longer than I should have and let go of other things much too soon. I guess in the living of things, one hopefully develops the wisdom of discernment for such things. I still need to keep going out on those limbs, cause that's where the fruit is. Now that I am a father, I think about the legacy I want to leave for my son, I want him to see taking risks as a vital part of living fully.

Are you living the dream?

I am really fixated on the dream being living as an artist. I am living as a teacher right now. I love teaching, but I love art more. So, I am not satisfied. Because right now it seems easier to take care of my responsibilities through being a teacher, I am at risk of becoming complacent, of letting Ease take charge.

As you look back on your life, what are you most proud of, what do you regret, and how do you feel about each of those things?

I am most proud of what I have done to maintain my individuality. I have always felt it important to find my own way. As a child, when my parents would tell me how to complete some task, I always insisted on finding my own way to complete the task. Though my parents would often have been correct in suggesting an efficient way, I think that my insistence in making my own way has helped me to navigate the multifarious traps of conformity that this life holds out to us. I am proud of my ability to self-reflect and admit to my follies and course-correct. I am not afraid to be the fool nor am I too proud to admit when I have been. I regret those who have been hurt by my foolishness. Though I think I was generally acting on what I thought was true at the time, on my own best judgment, hindsight shows me that I have made mistakes in judgment and those mistakes have touched the lives of others. I have a range of feelings about those things, ranging from bemusement and delight to anger and shame.

* What's next, self?

Art. I wont be satisfied until I am fully living my dream of being a full time professional artist.

* If you had one year left to live, how would you spend it?

I would leave my current job IMMEDIATELY. I would set up an art studio and divide my time between making art, visiting with the people I love and traveling to the places I have always wanted to see.

Since I don't know that I even have that year, none of us does, I think I should give more credence to my answer to this question. This has been a really useful process. Here are some other questions to consider:

# Why do you do the things you do?

# What do you really believe in? (What do you know to be true?)

# Where do you find your security?

# What bothers you, and what are you doing about it?

# What worries you?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Is My Art Career In the Toilet?

I must admit that being naive has continued to be one of my character flaws. While I will allow that it also represents an ability to trust others, life and my experiences, I must confess that it also seems to mean that I can be a complete fool. Perhaps some of you who are reading this, the few that do seem to be reading this, will be readying your "I told you so" or " I knew it" at the very least. So, to get right to it, I must recognise my own naive hopes when I started this blog and my online art efforts. I thought I would find a few people who would want to have some of my art for their very own and pay for it. So far, I have not found them. I have found plenty of people who praise my work, who tell me how much they enjoy it, but none of that has been converted into cash. I have certainly enjoyed the wonderful feedback, but so far I haven't been able to convince my local art supply store to accept that praise for my art supplies.
It is not so much the originals, I can see how that may be a tougher sell online. To be honest, the bee in my bonnet is the lack of print on demand sales. I had thought that between the people I know who like my stuff and the people who visit my print on demand site and look at my art, and there have been over 2700 views of my work on Red to date, that I would have seen some sales happen. Nada. Zip. Nothing. Big Goose eggs. I really don't get it. I mean, the high quality prints and such I have on offer, with greeting cards at $5, I really did think that somebody would pony up. I recognize I am a neophyte when I comes to sales and self-promotion, but come on now. My sales are beyond pathetic. They are embarrassing. I don't think its because my art is crap, I mean I have seen much worse stuff sell for quite a bit. I have had people comment on my art that some piece or another was one of the most amazing that they have ever seen but couldn't be bothered to buy a copy of that amazing piece. What is that about? Is it just poverty? Am I being intolerant here? I have heard it said that art is something that everybody loves but doesn't want to pay for. I think part of the reality of the internet is that we are all used to getting stuff for free so few are willing to pay for anything. I am guilty of this as well so perhaps its karma.
I found this article about the internet the other day that seemed quite germane : The Information Super-Sewer:Will the Internet Be Hijacked by Corporate Interests? by Chris Hedges. Read it. Its good and it makes some cogent points.
The article discusses self-promotion a bit and warns how this part of the internet seems to be pumping up the advertising aspect of internet. I can certainly see how this can turn everything into sales flogging, trying to commercialize every aspect of human interaction. I have no interest in becoming another billboard for corporate interests. I advertised some products that I used (books) and some Internet sites/products I have used to my benefit. I have thought that these endorsements were not problematic since my endorsements were honest, but I did pull the book endorsements because it felt a bit off to me. The jury is still out for me on some of this. In the end, so few people seem to care about what I am doing here that it probably doesn't matter. And no, I am not looking for sympathy here cause I know my concerns are quite high on the Maslow hierarchy; I am lucky to be able to have such concerns. That is,unless that sympathy comes in the form of Franklin, Grant, Jackson or even Lincoln. I know, I am a Cheeky Bastard.
I also know the literature says to have have patience and trust in the process, but I have to say that I have been underwhelmed by my sales. This is not to say that I am giving up, not in the least. I realise that this point represents the need to look at what I have been doing, evaluate and find some new approaches. I just haven't found my paying audience yet. So I shall look into what to do next, but since this is my blog and it is devoted to my process in all of this, I have decided that ranting is part of my process.