THE INSPIRATION PLACE PODCAST
This is Miriam Schulman. And you’re listening to episode number 63 of The Inspiration Place Podcast. Today, we’re talking all about why art is your legacy. So for that, stay tuned.
This episode is sponsored by Pet Portrait Academy. If you’ve always wanted to paint your fur family but been afraid to try, then the Pet Portrait Academy will help you discover how to paint pets with personality. Find the confidence to finally create paintings of your pets that you can be proud of. Even if you haven’t picked up a paintbrush since college. Registration is open until November 20th. Just go to Schulmanart.com/pets to learn more.
It’s the Inspiration Place Podcast with artist Miriam Schulman. Welcome to the Inspiration Place Podcast. An art world inside a podcast for artists, by an artist, where each week we go behind the scenes to uncover the perspiration and inspiration behind the art. And now your host, Miriam Schulman.
Well, hello, this is your host, artist Miriam Schulman. And you’re listening to episode number 63 of the Inspiration Place Podcast. I am so thrilled that you’re here. Today we’re talking all about why art is your legacy. In this episode, you’ll discover why art is your legacy, why art connects and brings us together and why it doesn’t matter if you become the next Georgia O’Keeffe. Art is still your legacy.
But before we get there, I wanted to talk to all the fur moms out there. If you love to paint, you’ve probably thought about painting your pets. Whether you want to memorialize your lost pets or perhaps your friends want you to paint their pets. I get it. Your cats and dogs are your furry family and you love them. So painting them might be something that is on your bucket list to learn to do. Or maybe you even want to start taking commissions for painting pets to earn a little profit for your passion. If any of that rings true for you, perhaps it’s time to learn the joy of painting your pets. Everything you need to know about drawing and painting your furry friends from A to Z lovingly broken down for you and made simple. I’ll hold your hand every step of the way through my step by step videos, which include captions as well as written instructions. Enrollment is open, but only until November 20th. To join us, go to Schulmanart.com/pets. And now back to today’s show.
Have you ever gotten a message from beyond the grave? A few years ago, I got a phone call from a stranger. He called because he had received one of the postcards I had sent out. I had addressed the postcard to his wife, who had purchased some of my original artwork. However, she had recently passed away and my heart sank when he explained this to me. Oh, I’m so sorry. I’ll take her name off of my list. I apologize. I really felt horrible that I had unknowingly caused him pain. But to my surprise, he actually thanked me for sending that postcard. He explained to me that receiving the postcard brightened his day, and it almost felt like it was a gift from his late wife.
He asked me if I would keep his name on my mailing list so he could continue to receive my postcards. And he did say he would consider collecting more of my art in the future. You see, his wife was an avid collector of original art during her lifetime, and all the art decorating in their home comforted her husband after she had passed away. This phone call was a very important reminder to me about my why. Every time somebody collects my art, like in this late collectors case, which was a floral triptych, I’m creating a legacy. And every time I create a portrait that goes on to people, I’m creating a legacy not just of the art that a crate, but a legacy that is a family heirloom that they will treasure for generations. So to this art collector, the art his late wife collected was part of her legacy.
A lot of my students wonder about the art that they create. And I can tell you that if you paint, it is part of your family’s legacy as well. I know this first hand because my husband’s grandmother was also an artist. When she passed away the adult grandchildren divided up all over their favorite paintings. Each one held a special meaning to them that stroked a warm memory of when their grandmother painted it. She wasn’t a professional artist, meaning I don’t believe she ever sold her art. She did train in high school and in fact, she actually went to the same high school at the same time as Lee Krasner. So who knows, they might have been friends. But anyway, her art played an important role in the family’s memories of her and the farm that she painted also was a deep part of the family’s memories.
If she ever thought for even a moment that she wasn’t good enough to paint, her family would beg to differ. Based simply on the memories that she gave them and the place of honor they bestowed to her artwork in their home. So I see the artwork any time I go to my sister in law’s house, my brother in law’s home. Their cousins’ homes. And my father in law’s home. The artwork is everywhere. My husband, for his part, chose a gentle watercolor of children looking out a window at a flock of birds. Every time my husband looks at that painting, which hangs in our bedroom, it’s actually over his dresser. Every time he looks at it, he’s brought back to his childhood memories of the farm. I don’t know if he imagines that the children looking out are him and his sister, or maybe it’s somebody else. But his father was a chicken farmer and his father and his grandfather, his grandmother’s husband. Their dream was to move from the Bronx and to create this farm in the Catskills. And part of that whole dream which came true for them was that Harry, the grandfather, would run the farm with this son. And Irma painted. This artwork is part of her dream, and the art was part of her legacy.
Now, whether you collect the artwork of others, like my client did, you create your own or a bit of both. Which, by the way, I do encourage you to do. It’s important to collect work from other artists because you’re basically telling the universe that you value art and that will come back to you. That vibration of valuing other people’s art raises the vibration so that other people value yours. Anyway, that’s a different podcast. We’ll talk about that again some other time. But let me circle back. Whether you collect the artwork of others or create your own or a bit of both, art becomes a piece of you and your family’s personal history.
Art is part of your life here and now. And it also becomes a legacy when you’re gone. Whether it’s art that you collect or art that you create. When I wasn’t teaching art and I was only selling my art, I was creating a legacy both for myself and my art collectors. But what I’ve also found through teaching art is that I can create a legacy that’s far greater than the legacy I created when I was just selling my art. So for those of you who also teach. This is true for you, too. Whether you’re teaching art or something else, maybe you’re teaching music like my daughter wants to do or you’re even teaching English. Any time you’re a teacher of anything, you’re creating a legacy. Now you’re creating a legacy. And I am leaving a legacy behind for my art students because I’m passing down years of knowledge of painting as well as, of course, not just how to paint, but how to sell art to my students. And each of these students, then they’re able to create their own legacy. So each student I’m able to teach creates a legacy. And that ripple effect is so powerful.
Now, what’s funny is when I first started teaching online, I wasn’t thinking at all about legacy. I initially just liked the idea because I could teach without leaving my house or change into my pajamas. So I found the teaching online preserved more of my energy. But what I quickly learned is that I am a natural teacher and I am a natural coach. That’s because this happens whether people are paying me to do it or not. Whenever I talk to my artist friends, I just can’t help myself. I just share everything I know. More than that, teaching art online has been a wonderful way for me to marry what may not seem at first like related skills, seemingly diverse skills. I have skills from my days as a computer programmer on Wall Street. When I used to create user interfaces to help the traders interact with the complex models that the quants came up with. Back then, what I was doing was creating an environment in order to translate their very complicated models into a simple way. To a way that could be understood in graphical terms. And to be perfectly honest, those skills are used as a computer programmer in Wall Street. That same skill is really what I’m doing now. If you listened to what I talked about during last week’s podcast episode, I talked about how you do one thing is how you do everything. So listen to how this works. As an art teacher what I’m doing, I am translating something that is seemingly very complicated and breaking it down and making it simple.
For example, when I teach how to draw animals, I break it down into simple shapes. Or when I teach how to paint with watercolors. It’s all about layering colors and breaking down something that might seem complicated into simple step by step. And whether it’s pets or people, I do know how to break down my process into manageable chunks and make it simple. And really that’s the same exact thing I do when I’m coaching people. I’m breaking down my selling processes into simple step by step how to start here. Do this next, do that next. And of course, what I love most about teaching is creating this environment and the experience for the students to learn in the best possible way. I am creating the experience I wish I had when I was learning how to paint. I never went to art school, so creating the kind of experience for other people to learn all over the world and to give them the thrill as well. So either you didn’t go to art school either like me, or maybe you just want to learn how to paint watercolor because they don’t teach how to paint watercolor in art school anyway. It always amazes me how many different people I reach.
Let me share a story that may not seem related at first. Whenever we travel, my family loves to play what we call the license plate game. Perhaps you’ve played it as well. You know, whenever you spot a license plate of a new state, you write it down and you make a list. So when our family did our annual road trip to Cape Cod this past summer, we actually printed out a map. My daughter did it. She printed out one of those maps that you can get for free online, a line drawing of the United States because she thought it’d be fun after she printed out to color in all of the states that we spotted. The fun of the game is to see people from all over the country, all traveling to the same place now. Not only is it fun to spot new states, whether it were on the road or when we go to a restaurant, we’ll be looking in the parking lots. But the other thing that made this whole game fun was my daughter channeled her inner artist and she used different colored neon pens to create a beautiful design of alternating colors to fill out the map. So by the end of our trip, she had an artwork to commemorate our travels.
When we returned home, I thought I would be fun for us to play that license plate game, but instead of with cars, with my students. Let me explain. So what I told my daughter to do is to print out a new map and using a different color scheme, just because it would be fun for her, she colored in different states that each of my art students had come from. It was absolutely amazing. I have students from all over the country, from Tennessee to Mississippi, from Minnesota to Hawaii, from New York to California and everywhere in between. And of course, I have students who aren’t Americans from Canada, Australia, Netherlands and Germany.
You would think that with all this geographical diversity, you’d have arguments in my student only Facebook groups, but truly there is zero drama in them. I know that might sound incredible, especially for people who want to stay away from Facebook because of all the drama you might be finding there. Right now we’re living in a time when our country has never been more divided.
But unlike politics, art is something that pulls people together. It does not matter where you live. It does not matter how you vote. It doesn’t matter how you worship. Art brings all of these people together. And that’s what I love about art. And that’s what I love about being able to share that. And that’s what I love about being an art teacher.
I was thinking specifically why art is such a strong connector. And I wanted to pull out some of my favorite Brené Brown books to help me out. To find like kind of a quote to sum it up. One book that I read recently that I absolutely adore Braving The Wilderness. In that book, she shares that true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world. Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self acceptance. And this, by the way, that’s the end of the quote. And this is what artists do. We are presenting our authentic selves, our imperfect art to the world. That’s why I always tell my students, your art does not have to be perfect. In fact, it’s better when it isn’t. Artists who share their work, whether it’s their work in progress in my Facebook groups or artists who are doing this at a higher level, doesn’t matter. Their imperfections are what make the art great. And that’s why strong connections and friendships blossom so strongly. Out of these art experiences and art communities.
One of my own best friends lives completely across the country from me in Portland, and I imagine that we both voted very differently in the 2016 election. But it really doesn’t matter. We’re both connected through our shared passion for art. We’re both creating our legacies and the drive to create art and make a living as an artist against all the odds, in spite of all the naysayers. Well that act of bravery, those everyday acts of vulnerability, every time we share a piece of ourselves on social media that is through our art. Those are connectors. It’s why most of my close friends are either artists or have collected my art. It also helps connect not just artists to other artists, but these acts of vulnerability they connect you whenever you do it. They connect you to other people. Art is a connector, not a disconnector.
Being able to teach people how to paint and how to do that, how to have that gift for themselves, I can impact more people than by just selling my art. Collecting original art is a luxury purchase and not everyone has the means or the interest in doing that, but learning the skills to paint for yourself. My ability to be able to teach those skills and to be example of what’s possible for my students, those things, they enable me to spread much more joy than just selling my art. You see, I’m creating a legacy and I’m also enabling all my students to create their own legacies. Now, it doesn’t matter how skillful you are as an artist.What makes art great is its authenticity, its feeling. I don’t actually think about teaching or discovering the next great art genius because that’s not really what it’s about. You do not have to be the next Monet or Berthe Morisot. You don’t even have to try to be commercially successful if you don’t want to. That’s not the point about creating a legacy. Sometimes it’s the process of creating. That’s your legacy. Not just what you leave behind. If you think about my husband’s grandmother, it’s the memories of her painting that was the legacy, not just the actual paintings.
Another example of this is for those of you who like to cook, you may spend a long time creating food that disappears in a matter of minutes. And yet the memories of that food, that’s your family legacy. And you don’t have to be a Michelin rated chef or even open a restaurant to leave behind a legacy. I still remember my grandmother’s brisket and her mashed potatoes with little carrots and not exactly restaurant food, but yet the memory of that still remains.
Oh, by the way, if you did listen to last week’s episode and if you an all a catch you up on the story. So last week I was talking about how I decided to invest in creuset pots with the family credit card. I actually wanted to buy it on my own card to try to hide the purchase from my husband, but it was declined because American Express didn’t expect me to buy pots. They figured was fraud. Well, anyway, thanks to the Chase app, my husband came home and wanted to know about those pots. And he actually thought it was fraud, just like my Amex did. He thought it was fraud too, because he was like, What the heck were you buying pots for? Don’t you know that you just eat peanut butter out of a spoon every day, yadda, yadda, yadda? And by the way, yes, he did complain about how heavy they are, which I predicted he would. We did make a joke about it. And that’s part of the secret of our long marriage, is we turn off these little things into jokes. But yeah, so he he did find out about the creuset pots. And just like American Express, he thought it was fraudulent. But no I do have the pots and they’re beautiful and I love them. Yes, they make my cooking better.
Let me get back to the show because I went a little off track. Let’s get back to the process and enjoying the process. Oh, yeah, well, it’s still related. I do enjoy cooking much better in these beautiful blue pots than I did in the pans my husband used to pick up at the grocery store that never lasted. But the point is enjoying the process. That is a goal. That could be a goal in and of itself. It doesn’t matter what the art looks like. Enjoying the process could be the end goal.
Yes, I paint professionally and I’m not really a great cook, but there are other things that I do where the process is the point. I work better at it to enjoy the process even more. Take tennis, for example. I play tennis. But the truth is, I’m never going to be in the U.S. Open obviously. I don’t even belong to the town tennis team. Not simply because of the anxiety that trying out would give me, it would it would probably take away the pleasure of playing for me. Also, the truth is, I really don’t think I could handle the drama of The Real Housewives of New York where I live. So I just learned to play to be good enough to play, to work up a sweat, to have a good time. It’s okay to enjoy a hobby at an amateur level. Art could be that for you. Just like tennis is for me. And it’s OK to continue to work better at something that isn’t for profit or professionalism. There are lots of things we do in our lives that we enjoy and that we don’t have to be a professional at it to enjoy it.
Some people thrive on the competition or they thrive on profiting. And some don’t. And all ways are valid. However, I do have to warn you, if you do start painting pets, like a lot of my students did after they took my pet painting classes, don’t be surprised if people start asking you to paint their pets. That has happened to so many of my students who never dreamed that they would be taking any kind of money for their art. Suddenly they have these little side businesses, extra money for art supplies, plus the perfect gifts for all their friends and family. Most importantly, they’ve created their legacy. They’re creating paintings of their beloved pets. They’re making friends in their painting classes from all over the world and they’re enjoying the process.
Now, I just want to give a heads up, though, to all of my perfectionists out there. And you know who you are. Perfectionism is a dangerous habit and it holds back many would be artists from actually enjoying the creative process, especially when it comes to painting their pets. I totally get that. I know your art is like your child, so of course you want to paint it perfectly. Now, people who do paint tightly like the way that I teach you how to relax and paint loosely. Remember how you do your art is how you do everything. It’s self-development when you learn to loosen up the brush. You also loosen up in life. It’s just one of the many wonderful things about making art.
Ok. This has been a long episode. Let’s wrap up. I just want to remind you, if you want to learn to paint your pets, then I invite you to join the Pet Portrait Academy. Registration is open, but not for long. And closes on November 20th for the year. Go to Schulmanart.com/pets to sign up before the deadline. I’d love to help you create your legacy if you have a furry friend of your own, or like so many of us, you’ve loved and lost a beloved pet in the past, this is a wonderful way to memorialize them. If you want to give pet portraits as gifts, you’ll be all ready to go this December.
All right, guys, thanks so much for being with me here today. I’ll see you the same time, same place next week. Make it a great one.
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