The Value of a Signature: Sign Your Work!

Sign Your Work

“Mystery” by Unknown

I have a landscape painting in my office.  I love it because I don’t have any windows so it makes me feel like I am looking outside at the sky. I’m not kidding, it really works. Another reason I have it prominently displayed is – I don’t know who painted it!  I’ve had several visitors ask me about my mystery painting – some have wanted to buy it – but I can’t tell them any charming stories about the artist, I can’t explain when it was created or what exact mediums were used or what the creator was thinking about. It is unsigned.

A friend brought it to me and asked me to identify the artist but I don’t recognize the style so I couldn’t help.  We decided to leave it hanging in my office in case someone stops in and says, “Wow, that’s a nifty painting by Susie X – I love her work.” So far it hasn’t happened but I live in hope.

This mystery painting is one of the reasons I always encourage artists to sign their work and date it!  Seriously, why wouldn’t you?

I spoke to an art student who informed me that she was philosophically opposed to signing her work because that made it into a “commodity” and was thus, “selling out”.  I love the ideal of making work to clarify your unique and tortured soul in a world gone mad but let’s get real for a second.  Are you making work for yourself only or are you also hoping to communicate with other humans? If you plan to cover your walls with your work and never show it to anyone else, it’s your art – enjoy your delicious obscurity. But if you would like to pay an occasional electric bill or even become wildly celebrated and collected – signing and dating your work is very important.

An artist told me he didn’t feel as though he was “good enough” to sign his work because he wasn’t a “real artist”.  If you make art, you are an artist, you may be a horrible artist but you still deserve the description.  If you think you are terrible, keep making work until you are better. Take lessons from someone you admire, try a different medium, just decide not to make value judgments and enjoy making what you make. You are the only one who draws like you or puts colors together like you.  Celebrate your unique thumbprint.  Sign that painting! Continue reading

Wei Wu Wei: Being Passive vs. Doing Nothing

Dualism is key to wei wu wei.

Dualism is key to wei wu wei.

In the Daodejing we encounter a concept known as wei wu wei, or “action without action”.  This is seemingly a paradox.  How can you do something without doing something?  The confusion arises from our concept of opposites in the West.  We see them as distinctly different.  A central theme in Taoism is philosophical duality.  This means that opposites are seen as two parts of a whole, and not separate, opposing states.

Understanding this begins with the idea that opposites create and depend upon each other:

When the people of the world all know beauty as beauty,
there arises the recognition of ugliness.
When they all know the good as good,
there arises the recognition of bad.

Therefore being and non-being produce each other;
difficult and easy complete each other;
long and short contrast each other;
high and low distinguish each other;
sound and voice harmonize with each other;
beginning and end follow each other.

Sanderson Beck Translation

This coupled view of all things is a key tenet in Taoism.   The idea behind wei wu wei is to do without imposing on the natural process.  A common example is water.  A flowing river carves its way through earth and rock, but it does so without intent.  The path it creates is the most efficient and natural.

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Find Happiness Through Living Without Expectations

Do your work, but don't be defined by your expectations of it.

Do your work, but don’t be defined by your expectations of it.

One of our greatest sources of disappointment is unmet expectations.  Yes, anticipation of an outcome or desire for a certain response has it’s place, primarily in the context of keeping us out of danger.  Yet we are consumed with useless expectations as well: I want my ball team to win, I want my project to be a huge success, I want that person to like me.

These expectations cause us to attempt exerting control of situations that are not entirely within our means of control.  Wearing a lucky hat will not help your favorite team;  however, doing so adds a perceived personal connection to the win…or the loss.  For most of us, this type of disappointment is trivial, but other similar expectations can cause lasting problems.

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