Thursday, September 09, 2010

What's your story?

One of the most difficult things to do as an artist is write your own story. Art school training--if you have it--may give us the vocabulary to discuss art, but getting to the heart of your own work is something entirely different. Just last night one of my friends and I were joking about this same topic when she threw back her head and laughed, "Well, I kind of painted it so I wouldn't have to talk about it!" I couldn't agree more.

But the fact of the matter is that you are never going to get anywhere without a good story. At the very least, your journey is going to be a lot more difficult. Without a story, you are just another face in a sea of faces. Yes, your images should speak for themselves, but people who buy art usually want more than just a pretty picture, they want to know Who-You-Are and Where-Your-Art-Came-From.

I have been writing and re-writing my own story over the years, without ever feeling satisfied. I had a lot of facts about myself--born in Loveland, CO in 1976, B.A. in Drawing, Painting and Printmaking from Portland State in 2002, single mother, blah blah blah--but I couldn't seem to pinpoint the heart of the matter and put it into words. I read other people's bios on Etsy, on artists' websites, at gallery shows. Many struck me as awkwardly as my own, many others used pretension to plow through. A glowing few struck my heart and actually explained where in their souls their art really came from. Then, finally, a few days ago, my own story came to me:

Lea's mother gave birth to her on the principle's desk, which sent her sailing on a long career of following rules and being an excellent student. Nevertheless, Lea spent her childhood sucking her thumb and twirling her curly hair through her fingers while staring off in the distance into her her far-more-daring-than-reality imagination. Her playmates were frequently imaginary as well--she had so many of these that she was often caught playing tag or hide-and-seek "by herself."

Today, Lea's art work continues to explore the places in her head. These are places where all women hold their own beauty, and each possesses a power so strong it surges through her long electrifying curls. Places where friends come in all sizes and their forms are often surprising. Most importantly, places that are free of rules and ever-changing, where anyone and everyone can find that wild piece of themselves that they have always been seeking.

When this story came to me, it gave me a sense of power that I did not expect. It tells something of my roots and how I came to be where I'm at, but it also gives me a reason, an explanation of who I am and why I do what I do. Something I planned to give to my patrons, so I was incredibly surprised when, as the words flowed onto the page, I found I was really discovering something new of myself.


Anonymous said...

Wow - it's great using a 'fictionalised' way of writing it. It has opened a door for you. You can tell your story without being bogged down by facts, dates, time etc.

As a writer I find that bits of my 'story' leak into my fiction writing all the time (whether I intend it or not). If truth be told, if I were a character in any book I'd have a rather 'heavy' backstory. For this reason I don't always tell it to people - because in my opinion, things that happened around me and to me do not define me. If I keep retelling I become identified with the story and not in the present.

Here's a thought: two people could have the same events in their lives and react totally differently. As you say, the real story is what was in their hearts/ their soul - how they walk through the world. And this is what will resonate with people.

Very interesting post!! What will you be doing with your story?

LeaKarts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amanda said...

I LOVE this story! It's really touching, and gets right to the heart of your inspiration. So perfect. <3

LeaKarts said...

Thank you Amanda! <3

LeaKarts said...

Thank you Stoneweaver! I love the fictional feel to it, too, even though it's true! (Although the principal's office may have been a joke between my mom and I because I was such a schoolgirl and the hospital I was born in used to be a school...) ;)

I've already used this story as my bio on my website and on my Etsy shop under "profile." I plan on adding it to my other marketing materials and I am working on a version that I can tell out loud when people ask about where my work comes from (more blog posts about talking about work to potential buyers to's something I still need to work really hard on).