All of the artwork featured in this blog post was created by students of the Art Sampler class that I taught in the fall of 2019 at Flathead Valley Community College. The paintings are pallet knife paintings. Two of the students had previous painting experience but not painting with acrylic paint. None of the students had painted using a palette knife before.
In college, I took a class on American women’s history. The class started with the colonization of the original 13 colonies. It focused on women who settled in the north (the area of what is now Massachusetts) and women in the southern colonies.
The women who settled in the north were primarily wives and daughters. They arrived with their husbands and fathers. As long as they stayed within the confines of society and family these women had comfortable lives and very little risk.
The women who settled in the south were wives and daughters also. But most of the women who settled in the south went as indentured servants (their voyage is paid for by a third party [usually farmer or landowner in the southern colonies] and then they had to work for a certain amount of time to pay off the debt). Once the debt was released, they were free. They could buy land, start businesses, etc. These women faced huge risks but if they survived the rewards were big and they had the opportunity to make choices for themselves.
One could argue that settling in the original thirteen colonies was a huge risk in and of itself. And they would be right. Some parts of those colonies were wilder and riskier than others.
The bonus question on the exam for this portion of the class asked where we would live if given a choice? Would we live in relative safety of the civilized north? Or would we live in the wild south? We had to explain our reasons for why we made our choice. I chose the south because if I could survive, I would earn my freedom and the ability to make decisions for myself. There were only two of us in a class of 20 who chose settling in the south or greater risk for greater rewards.
“If you risk nothing, then you risk everything.” -Geena Davis
Where is all this talk of risk going? Creativity is about risk. I was talking to a friend recently about how the images in the sketchbooks doesn’t always turn out like the finished piece of artwork. That the artwork is often better than expected. Creating a piece of artwork, writing a poem or a novel, acting in a play, taking a photo, any and all creative pursuits are about risk.
Think about it like this, if everyone only listened to the music of Mozart it would get pretty boring after awhile. But there is a lot more than the music of Mozart to listen to. There is rap, jazz, blues, polkas, chants, rock, pop, etc. You get the idea. Here is the important part to remember the next time a song that you like comes on, the artist who wrote that song and the artist who is singing it (it may be the same person) had to take risks to get that music on the radio. They had to have faith in their creative choices. They had to be willing to grow creatively to reach the rewards.
Speaking of creative choices. My friend Samantha was at a point where she needed more business cards. When she went to reorder ones like she already had, they didn’t have that design any more. Samantha felt that she was at a crossroads. She had branded herself with the old design. Did she want to keep the old images? Could she still keep her brand and create new and exciting business cards?
Samantha chose to take a risk. She created new business cards, using new images and her original business name. And the new business cards turned out beautiful. So beautiful that Samantha ordered a banner with the same design.
Teaching art classes can be a challenge. Teaching often forces me to grow as an artist and an individual. As an art teacher, I take risks in teaching my students. There is standard techniques that one can teach over and over to each class. And teachers often do this to make sure that their students learn the basics. But teachers can take the time to really get to know their students and tailor the class around the skills and abilities of the students. It is these subtle additions that really makes the difference from an okay class to an amazing one. I decided to teach the acrylic technique of palette knife painting with this group of students because I knew it would be a positive challenge for them. My taking a risk, helped my students grow and the reward was to see the amazing artwork they produced.
Just because you take a creative risk does not mean that you will not have anxiety and fear. Part of taking a risk is learning how to manage the fear and anxiety that comes with it. Not every risk you take will produce a reward. Some risks will turn into creative disasters. That is okay. There is opportunity to learn from failure and that is one of the ways in which we grow. That growth helps us reach future rewards.
What do you need to do today to take that next creative step? What risk will help you grow regardless of success or failure? How can going further with your art and creativity provide you with an opportunity to learn and challenge yourself? What reward are you seeking?
Remember risk causes growth. Growth helps one reach rewards. Risk = Growth = Rewards