I’m often asked how I became an artist during my 20-year-career in the defense industry.
Hindsight is definitely 20/20, and, looking back, I can see how a path emerged …
During the early part of my career, when I was enrolled in classes for a master’s degree, one of my instructors taught the importance of seeking a balanced life.
To illustrate the point, he told us to visualize our life as being like a pie with each piece representing a category important to us, i.e., family, church, career, hobbies, creativity, volunteering in the community, etc. If we allow one piece to dominate all the others, we will experience stress.
Life balance is the key – it’s important to make time for all of the pieces.
This was excellent advice for me as a production control planner and manager assigned to projects that manufacture products for the military men and women who protect our country. My job often meant long hours of resolving challenges and meeting deadlines, so creating art became a wonderful way to unwind and recharge.
I have always enjoyed writing and photography. After a long day of working in a manufacturing environment, I relaxed by writing stories or capturing images.
Interestingly enough, my technical career actually benefitted me as an artist. My life experiences gained during those years became inspirations for me to create art along the way.
For example, I know what’s like to work on teams pooling their talents together to build things to benefit others. Photographing classic vehicles, vintage machines, and old structures is my way of paying homage to the teams who built them. Even within the decay and deterioration of abandoned vehicles and buildings, I can still see glimpses of carefully designed details which made them icons.
If you’re in a demanding career and seeking to add creativity as a way of achieving life balance, here’s some ideas and suggestions that have worked for me:
Stay on the cutting edge. Keeping current on the latest methods and techniques is important for professional growth throughout a career. Similarly, being involved in your local art community is a great way to learn more about your favorite art medium or try a new one. Visit galleries and museums. Join an art league. Sign up for art classes. Many organizations sponsor art events and contests, which can lead to having your work displayed in galleries and local buildings. I’ll never forget my first photography contest when I shyly entered my images in three categories and won two First Place Ribbons.
Mixing experiences. The possibilities are endless when it comes to applying the skills and methods we’ve learned in the past to other projects. For example, when I supported the assembly line, I used spreadsheets and planning tools to track materials and schedules. As a result, I relied on these same tools to help me set up checklists and plan the details when I began displaying my work in art festivals.
Learning to deal with competition and criticism is tough, but part of being an artist. Submitting your work to contests requires courage, but can be very rewarding and may even lead to having your art displayed in a gallery. Contest judges will often provide insights on their score sheets which is very helpful. If you desire to sell your work in art festivals, your application will be reviewed by a panel of judges. Not all applying artists are invited to participate because festivals have a limited number of slots, and some receive hundreds of apps per slot. If you exhibit in art festivals, you’ll encounter viewers who appreciate your work, and those who don’t. The bottom line is that it’s important to develop a thick skin and keep trying.
Adding value. Just as a team works together to meet an objective, art can also be created through encouraging others to be artistic. The best part of being an artist is when I lead photoshoots for kids and help them edit and print their work. I’ve found that I didn’t have to be an expert to teach, just a desire to study, prepare and share what I have learned.
If these tips encourage you to explore your creativity during your career years, and beyond, please stay tuned …