THE INSPIRATION PLACE PODCAST
Hey there, this is Miriam Schulman, and you’re listening to episode number 89 of The Inspiration Place podcast. Today, we’re talking all about evolving, so for that, stay tuned.
It’s The Inspiration Place podcast with artist Miriam Schulman. Welcome to The Inspiration Place podcast, an art world insider podcast for artists by an artist, where each week, we go behind the scenes to uncover the perspiration and inspiration behind the art. Now, your host, Miriam Schulman.
Well, hello. This is your host, artists Miriam Schulman, and you’re listening to episode number 89 of The Inspiration Place podcast. I am so thrilled that you’re here. We’ve got a lot to talk about, you and I. In today’s podcast, you’re going to discover how crises have a way of forcing us to redefine ourselves, often for the better, why now could be just the inspiration you need to show up in a different way for yourself, why finding meaning in your life through art is a wonderful way to heal yourself and the world around you.
Before we get there, I wanted to share a conversation I had with my mother. For a little COVID humor, and it actually ends up most of the conversation is relevant for what we’re talking about today, but listen, it’s okay to laugh. I know we could all use it. Here’s the story. I was on the phone with my mom.
Initially, I wanted to ask her for some feedback on the podcast. She actually doesn’t listen to the podcast, but she was perfectly happy to let me read my script to her, which was great, and then she gave me some feedback on it. For my mom, what a feedback usually means is, “I have a poem that reminds me of,” so she’s shared with me a poem. I’ll get to that in a moment, but before we get there, I promised the COVID humor. My mom, bless her heart, is down in Florida.
Normally, she’s home by now, but, of course she had to stay down there. It’s because it’s safer there than in her home in New Jersey. Now, as you can imagine, she and her friends like to sit by the pool. She tells me that even during normal circumstances, they don’t invite each other over to each other’s apartments, so she was describing to me her, I’m going to call it social distancing cocktail party, which means they were sitting six feet apart. Of course, you can imagine with senior citizens, that was a fiasco, because nobody could hear each other.
I just thought I would start you off with a little social distancing COVID humor. I’ll talk to you about the poem that my mother shared with me. It’s by Saint Lucian poet and playwright. He received the 1992 Nobel Prize in literature. His name is Derek Walcott.
It’s a truly beautiful poem. You can search for it on YouTube to hear many actors and actresses perform this, including Oprah Winfrey. I briefly considered hiring a voice actor to perform it for you, but I’m going to read it to you because there are certain things that I want to emphasize. Then, we’re going to talk about how it relates to now, and really dive into what this time means to us as artists. Okay, the poem is called Love After Love by Derek Walcott.
“The time will come when, with elation, you will greet yourself arriving at your own door in your own mirror, and each will smile at the other’s welcome and say, ‘Sit here. Eat. You will love again the stranger who was yourself. Give wine. Give bread.'”
“‘Give back your heart to itself to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes. Peel your image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life.'” That’s the poem.
According to my mom, she feels this poem is about taking back your life and finding yourself. I agree with that. She also says this is the poem she wishes someone had given her when she was 45, and she said the poem is not about not running to another man, but finding out who you really are. Now, I don’t think the poem is about running to another lover, but that’s my mother’s interpretation and that’s probably because she’s been married a few times. When she was 60, she started reading poetry to seniors in assisted living homes, so at age 60, she found herself through that, and that’s why poetry is always so meaningful to her and becomes part of our conversations.
What I think is so beautiful about art and poetry is that everyone can find their own interpretation of it and find themselves in it, and that’s really what makes a really good poem, when you can see yourself in it as well, even if it was written specifically about somebody else’s point of view. Now, here is what I think this poem is about and why it’s important to us during this time. He’s talking about greeting yourself, arriving at your own door. Now, who is that? I think that is your future self.
That is the person you can evolve into. Then, at the end of the poem, he said, “Sit and feast on your life,” so it’s about nurturing yourself, not hating on the person who is your past self either, not sitting in regret of the past, because he says, “You will love again the stranger who was yourself.” To me, this poem is about evolving into some future self, and maybe you don’t even recognize the person you used to be. The person you might be today is not going to recognize the person who you can become three months from now or a year from now, so it’s about greeting your future self. You’re not going to recognize that person you’re going to become, and it’s time to stop putting yourself on the back burner.
I thought this poem was beautiful, and my mom and I had a great conversation about it. Of course, we did get into an argument about whether or not Derek Walcott is a black man. I’ll let you ask the Google so you can judge for yourself. I won’t tell you which side of the argument I was on, and this reminds me of a similar argument I have with my mother, which is about whether or not Emily Dickinson is a lesbian. Anyway, let’s go back to what this whole idea of future self, what that means to us during this time, because what if you show up in a different way right now because of this time?
What if you get inspired to create the life you really want, because up until now, you’ve been living your life on autopilot? When I was working for a hedge fund in Greenwich, Connecticut almost 20 years ago, that’s what my life looked like. I was pulling on uncomfortable pairs of pantyhose every morning, and for you, millennials who never wear hose, except for the chicest amongst us, women still wore pantyhose in those days, and my 72 year-old mother still wears pantyhose, but I digress again. I remember with these pantyhose, which ripped very easily, they got to be quite an expense. I remember calculating how much money I would save if I didn’t have to pay for pantyhose, dry cleaning or childcare if I quit my job.
In other words, how much money was I really taking home after all that other nonsense? My toddler daughter was being watched each day by a woman who would remind me at the end of my workday that mothers belong with their children. I don’t know why she thought this helped her job security, footnote. It didn’t, and so when my belly got so big that my commute was really uncomfortable, I did quit. I didn’t even wait for my paid maternity leave.
I didn’t have a plan. My husband freaked out. I just knew I couldn’t go on this way. Then, when 9/11 happened, that temporary break became more permanent. There’s something about crises that lifts a veil on whatever is not working in your life.
Is this happening to you too? Because when suddenly, you stop doing that job you dread or the commute you hated, the question becomes not, “When will this current circumstance end?”, but, “What else is possible?” I’m not sure if this is sad or funny or both, but divorce inquiries have skyrocketed in Wuhan, China, whether that’s because the lockdown created additional stress, or couples that weren’t getting along before could no longer pretend about what wasn’t working, and I think it’s the latter. One of the newest artists to join my Artist Incubator program said there was no way she wanted to go back to her accounting job when this was all over, and another artist told me that not only did she not want to learn this online teaching thing, but she didn’t want to teach anymore at all, and decided that this chapter of her life would be dedicated to discovering her own artistic voice and what making art means to her. Although I applaud teachers, this decision is a beautiful thing. What’s important is listening to that voice inside of yourself.
What is that voice saying? I’ve been hearing from a lot of my listeners that they see this quarantine as the perfect time to either learn how to paint portraits or work on their art business. If you’re one of those who have always wanted to learn portraits, there’s never been a better time to experience the magic of watercolor, and that’s why from now until May 20th, and this is being recorded in 2020, registration for Watercolor Portrait Academy is open. I don’t open it often. This will probably be the only time this year that I open it.
If you’re ready to jump in, you can sign up at schulmanart.com/enroll. Okay. Here’s a crazy thought. There are some aspects of this current circumstance that you might actually miss. Crazy, right? I know there’s plenty to complain and hate on.
Believe me, I see the devastation is causing. I’m not telling you that that isn’t true, but when I asked my daughter what she liked best about the lockdown, and my daughter is 22, she’s a college music major, so there’s plenty that sucks for her right now. She had to give up her senior cello recital, she can’t play in her ensembles, and she misses her boyfriend, but when I asked her that crazy question, she admitted she loved the food at home and was getting better sleep. For me personally, my life actually looks pretty similar to how it looked before because I’ve always worked from home. Now, I look very different.
We’ll discuss that in a moment. Being home with the rest of my family has been a big adjustment. In the beginning, there actually was too much togetherness. Now, I know that when I look back on this time, I am definitely going to miss the deeper connections I formed with my husband and children, and yes, I’ve definitely gotten use to having all this togetherness. The beginning, I had to curb my more murderous tendencies, but now I have to admit I like it. Like having them around, that is.
Now, about the way I look, that has changed quite a bit. My husband has not adjusted to my new look. As it turns out, my hair is completely gray, and all the fake eyelashes have fallen away. I’m toying with the idea of keeping it gray because I kind of like it. It’s a silvery gray, but I know my husband doesn’t feel the same way. He told me that …
This is what he actually said to me, “Miriam, you really have to keep up your image for your audience,” and of course, I saw right through that. However, with less time getting my hair done, I’m trying to pretend that all of my silver hair is still a youthful shade of brown. That was like a full-time job, by the way, so without all that hairdresser time, I have more time to read and more time to paint. Oh, by the way, since the lockdown started, I’ve committed myself to rereading the entire Harry Potter’s series from scratch. I’ve read it before.
I’ve seen all the movies, and I also listened to all of the audiobooks, by the way, but this is the first time I’ve gone back to reread the books. As of the day I recorded this, I just finished book four, The Goblet of Fire. I see metaphors offered up by the fiction that is really helping me cope with this changing world. The poetry I offered before helps. Fiction is helping me. Art helps me. Dealing with the outbreak of Corona isn’t much different than how the magical world dealt with the return of Voldemort.
Another metaphor, Harry’s hunt for horcruxes is a metaphor for science searching for vaccines or for a cure, and of course, there’s the issue throughout the book of the search for immortality, of resurrection, and of a character evolving. Now, there’s something so calming about escaping to a fantasy world, and even more so, that I know that in the end, the dark forces plaguing Harry Potter will be conquered. Art, poetry, fiction, painting, plays, music, they all have the power to do this. Before I move away from Harry Potter, I just want to let you know, if you love that series, whether it’s the books or the movies, you’re going to love next week’s episode because my friend, superstar copywriter, Tarzan Kay, is teaching us how to look at our email subscribers, our collectors as being sorted into the four different Harry Potter houses. I’ve never looked at it this way before, and you’re just going to love it.
That is coming up next week. Okay. Now, let’s get back to today’s topic. When there’s so much that we don’t have control over, creating art is the most powerful, calming action that anyone can take at this time. What’s so beautiful about being an artist, and I’m using the word artist in the broadest of terms, so whether you are a writer, or a musician, or a sculptor, or a painter, you’re all included. What artists do, what artists have always done is that we work alone in our studios on our craft, and we’d never know if in the end, it’ll be sold.
To be a working artist, you accept this. You do it for the love of your art. Sure, we have commissions and yes, we have sales, and that’s why I believe so wholeheartedly in commissioned portraits for painters because it does build a sustainable and thriving career for your art practice. Artists fulfill such an important function in this world, and during this time, we’re creating beauty in a world with raw materials and only our imaginations to guide us. We use our thoughts to create things.
It’s manifesting a vision. You have an idea, you take action, and you create. Creating art is truly spiritual, magical even. If you’re creative, you do not want to waste this time. You do not want to waste this life.
Stop putting yourself on the back burner. You want to greet that future self in the mirror with open arms, and greet yourself at the door and feast on your own life. Now, for some of you, you may not have the gift of revenue right now, but you do have the gift of time. We are slowing down, we are at home, travel has stopped. We’re all walking out of this, and I say that with a little hesitation in my voice because I can hear what you’re thinking, “Oh, no, Miriam, we’re not all walking out of this. Some of us might die.”
Guess what? That was always true. We’re not immortal. Someday we’re all going to die, but during this time that we have on this planet, during this time that we have right now, your time on this planet, whether it’s a few months or longer, or a few years or many years, you want to hold your head up high, and you want to show up for yourself in the most honest way possible. By that, I’m talking not just about creating your artwork, but marketing your artwork as well, because it’s okay to sell your art. Remember what I was talking about earlier about during a crisis, everything becomes magnified?
A veil is lifted and you see things more clearly than before, but what I’ve also noticed is that for some people, their excuses have become magnified as well, because the people who tell me they don’t want to send emails out right now because they don’t want to bother people, they were the same people who were saying that a few months ago in January, and I truly think it’s a mistake to stay quiet right now. If you listen to my episode last week with Amy Porterfield, I shared that if you treat your art collectors the way you treat your friends, and by the way, you should always treat your art collectors as friends, you would never go for months without reaching out to them. Not only is it okay to email them, but yes, it’s okay to sell, and yes, people are shopping right now, and not just for basic necessities. While I was writing this episode, I took a peek to look at my print on demand sales, and I had more sales of prints during the last two months of this lockdown, during the last seven weeks than I did during the previous six months, so artists can thrive even in turbulent times, but as always, you have to be willing to put yourself out there. You have to be willing to invest the time.
You have to learn the skills to market yourself, to market yourself online, to put yourself out there. The art world is not looking for you. You’re not going to get discovered if you aren’t doing the work for yourself. Hey, I know I’m giving you a little tough love right now, but you do not have to give up on your dreams. Sure, of course, there are some negative Nellies who don’t want your emails.
I get those responses occasionally too from people, they don’t like me. You know what? Not everyone’s going to like me, but I can’t sacrifice my dream because of what a few people might think, and you shouldn’t sacrifice your dreams either because of what a few people might think. I haven’t stopped showing up since the quarantine started, and in fact, if you go back to an episode I did a couple weeks ago, I don’t remember the number, it’s called Creating Calm, you can actually hear how sick I was during that recording. Considering that I live in New York in the epicenter of the largest outbreak of Corona in this country, that’s probably what was going on with me. That was middle of March, and unless you were in the emergency room, you did not have access to testing, which was the case of me as well.
I never got sick enough to go to the hospital, so there were no tests to be had, so I’m fully recovered now. I may never know. In case you’re wondering, while I was sick, I had the weird cough, the sore throat, the fatigue, so … Oh, yeah, the lack of taste. I checked off all the boxes. I did rest.
I did take care of myself. I’m not telling you not to rest and take care of yourself if you get sick, but as soon as I could and whenever I could, I was making plans for how to market and sell my art. I was making plans for how to market my art classes because I know that helps you, like this podcast. Who could I invite to the podcast that would have the most impact? What free videos should I put out about how to paint and what live streams can I offer?
All these things that I do, these free things, things that you don’t have to pay for, the podcast, the video, the live streams, nobody’s paying me to do it. I know that’s a common misconception. Even my husband sometimes forgets and asks me how much iTunes is paying me, and I have to say, “No, honey, I pay to put out this podcast,” but this is something I consider worth investing my time in because this is how I show up in the world, and I can hold my head up high and say I wasn’t afraid of this time. Now, with my Artist Incubator students, those are the artists who come to me for coaching to learn how to market their art, I even did extra sessions with them, because I didn’t want them to use this time as an excuse to give up on their dreams, and not even an excuse. I didn’t want them to get discouraged.
There’s so much noise out there that might be telling you to hide and be safe, and I’m telling you not to play it safe. Yeah, play it safe with your health, for sure. Wear a mask, social distance, but when it comes to your art and your dreams, you should never play it safe. I also invited my friends to come into the Artist Incubator group, Laura Belgray, who was a guest a few weeks ago on the podcast. She did an amazing job coaching my artists on crafting emails, and Heather Alice Shea, who is a life coach and a therapist, did two mindset coaching calls with them to help my artists uncover their psychological blocks, and the answers might surprise you because it was not really about the pandemic.
For most of them, the problems reached back to their childhood, whether it was because of an overbearing parent or an abusive relationship that left them believing they weren’t enough or failure wasn’t an option. If you’re an artist, if you’re a creative person, whether we’re talking about creating art or marketing your art, you cannot be afraid to fail. You have to be willing to fail and you have to be willing to fail often, but you don’t have to let your past define you. This is a time to listen to your inner voice and become friends with your future self. In a few months time, in a year time, you may not recognize that person you evolved into.
If you’re hungry to make meaning of this time, feast on your life. Whether it’s a few months or a few years, you want to greet yourself, your future self in the mirror with pride, because if you allow yourself to change, the best may be yet to come for you. I’m just going to end once more with the words of Derek Walcott. This is from the beginning of the poem. “The time will come, when with elation, you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror, and each will smile at the other’s welcome.”
Okay. To wrap up, I just want to remind you that Watercolor Portrait Academy is open, but not for long. Whether you choose to learn the art of portraits from me or someone else, I hope that the stories I shared with you today inspire you to do something bigger with your life. We’re closing registration probably for the year on May 20th. I would love to teach you the magic of painting portraits, whether it’s to immortalize your loved ones or if you’re looking to create commissioned portraits of others like I’ve done.
To find out more, go to schulmanart.com/enroll. All right, thanks so much for listening to me today. I really enjoyed having you here. Next week, I’m talking to the one and only Tarzan Kay. She’s got a real creative way of looking at your art collectors by sorting them into their Hogwarts houses, and then modifying your different emails and social media posts to appeal to the different kinds of art collectors out there.
You’re not going to want to miss that one. Now, to make sure you don’t miss it, make sure that you’re subscribed to my podcast, so not to subscribe to the emails, to subscribe to the podcast. If you are on iPhone and you’re on Apple Podcast, you just hit the purple Subscribe button. If you have an Android device and you’re on Spotify, I believe that you hit the Follow button, and if you want me to give you a shout out on Instagram, just drop your Instagram handle into a review over on Apple Podcast, and I will give you a shout out. Can’t wait to hear from you.
All right. Thank you 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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