You have to show up for your art. It will pout if you don’t. Your art wants to be picked up, played with, joked with, and present with you. It wants to stare into your eyes like they hold the answers to the meaning of life. It is your child, your pet, your Best Self. Just because your Usual Self doesn’t want to be its Best Self is no reason not to show up for your Best Self.
It’s kinda like that movie Gremlins, which I may or may not have been forced to watch at summer camp as a child. For those who weren’t tormented by that one rainy day in day camp when we couldn’t play outside, Gremlins is a movie about how you have to treat your tiny gremlin right (ie, adhere to a set feeding schedule) lest it burn down your city. Your art is a gremlin and it, too, has very particular needs that keep it healthy and collaborative. As with gremlins, you can’t feed your art after midnight- it’s too late. You have to feed it with your bright and fresh energy, not your ‘dregs of the day’ energy (whatever time of day that actually is for you). You must take care of your art because if you don’t it will turn its inherent power against you. It will become a fed-after-midnight-gremlin and use its vast stores of pent-up energy to burn the city to the ground and slice you down from the inside. Because your art knows you inside and out.
You must show up for your art so your art can feel safe to take risks with the knowledge securely in place that you, its keeper, won’t chastise it when it’s bad or having a rough day, rather you will tend to it, nurture it, and help it through that time. Your art needs your patience. You must take your art in and let it know it can make a mess, be itself, and draw upon you for support.
Your job is to show up and invite art in. Your job is to create such a bountiful, supportive space that art wants to stay. It might need space, it might need encouragement, it might need a thunder coat to calm it down, and your job is to recognize its needs and meet them. You are not a creator, you are a caretaker. Art is its own self and all you can do is appreciate it. If you try to force it into a shape it doesn’t want to take, you will kill it. Art does not want to be caged or shoved or talked down to. It is an awful thing to not appreciate your art. Your art is not you, but it needs you survive. The more you recognize that your art is emergent, new, and not you, the tighter your bond will be.
Listen to your art, don’t just talk. It’s saying things, too, and it wants to be heard. If you allow your art room to grow into itself, you will be better able to communicate with one another as you grow together. At first, art might get lost, come and go unexpectedly, or point to parts of you that feel exposed, scared, angry, and defensive. This is art figuring out if it can trust you to translate its own vulnerability to the world. It is asking you to be its partner. You, too, must decide if you like art and want to work together. You must decide whether you and your art want to be ‘just for you,’ ‘also for those close to you,’ or for a ‘wider audience,’ and how wide? You must ask art who it is for, how, and why. This decision is not yours to make alone.
When art does show up and you are happy it has, you must be patient with one another, take your time getting to know each other’s patterns and tastes, inclinations, and off-limits subject matter, at least until you know each other better.
Showing up for art can be a difficult thing to do. Art can be finicky and recalcitrant, dull and cliche; just like you. Since your art has to get used to you, as well, the best thing you can do is to start things off on the right foot and show up for your art. Without knowing what will happen, but knowing that it’s the best place for you to be, show up for your art. Do it not because it always feels good but because it’s the right thing to do for someone close to you. That someone is your art.
Showing up for your art can sometimes mean not showing up for something else. Art can be needy that way, it wants to have your attention when it wants it and not a half-second later or before. Sometimes you need to tell art to respect your time, too. In time, it will listen.
You do get to bring your own gear when you show up though, be it paints, your body, pens, or a camera. Showing up for the art party with gear is a generous offering, whether you know what to do with it or not. Gifts matter. You have no idea how art may provide for you, or even heal you, in the future so provide for your art now, while you have the chance to give back what you will get tenfold from your art in the future. Commit to a few more dates, set them in your calendar, bring your gear, and show up for art.