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"It’s about being an artist. Not just making the work, but creating an artful life. It’s about being bold, taking risks, making work, building a career, telling stories, finding inspiration, seeking information. It’s about owning who you are and the magic that happens when you JUMP."  - Crista Cloutier

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What Will Become of You?

I found myself at a crossroads when I was eighteen years old.
I'd grown up in a family where science and mathematics made proper courses of study for university. But my behavior gave my family reason to pause. We didn't have the vocabulary to understand what was wrong with me, why I was different.
I wrote poetry, took pictures with the camera tilted at a jaunty angle, and added purple food-coloring to the mashed potatoes at dinnertime.
The word "creative" was not part of my family's lexicon - but the word "strange" was.
"What will become of her?" they nervously asked one another. I wondered that myself.
Unable to envision a career path that didn't reduce me to tears, I would put off university for several years. Instead of focusing on what I would do for a living, I decided to think about the experiences I wanted to have. What did I want my life to be about?
Adventure and beauty became my calling. And this search would eventually lead me to college, to study art. I just took my own way of getting there.
Is your life's journey a true expression of your self?
Many people don't realize that we create our own lives. Instead of color, texture and line, we use our choices to paint life's canvas.
Choice. The word is deceptively simple.
But if, like me, life has sometimes found you putting your fate in a tossed coin, you know that making decisions can be difficult, especially if one is creative. Our interests are usually a little wider, our dreams a little larger, thus the risks a little greater.
And putting off decisions is a long-cherished pastime of creatives. We would much prefer to continue mulling the possibilities, perhaps begin a new project, or even watch paint dry -- literally.
This is where courage is called upon.
Our creativity is the most authentic part of us. So why do we often let our fears dictate our decisions? Why not trust our creativity to lead us? This doesn't mean that you're at the whim of some vague, artsy-fartsy fancy, it means you're living with authenticity.
Ask yourself, "What do I really, really want?" Then engage with your creativity and listen to where the work takes you.
If you find yourself hesitating to make an important decision, remember poet Rainer Maria Rilke's words, "Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves."
Choosing to love the questions instead of scrambling for answers begins a journey toward real creativity.
And though it's scary as hell to take the road less traveled, it's this journey that will bring you more adventure and more beauty than you ever dared imagine.
Every moment holds the promise of being a defining one.
It's your choice.
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Does your art suck?

Has anyone ever told you that your creative work sucks?
If not, just wait. It'll happen. And when it does, avoid the urge to hide in a hole. Instead, consider it a rite of passage...
I've been told several times over my career that I'm not a good writer. And my photographs have been dismissed as well. Like most artists, I internalized those hurtful comments and even believed them.
But I never let them stop me.
Well, for awhile I did give up my dreams and got a "real" job selling other people's art. But I pulled late nights and early mornings to write the scripts, essays, and books that haunted my spirit and demanded to be given voice.
I never stopped writing or taking pictures. I just couldn't. 
It took a long time to realize that "they," my critics, were simply wrong. Everyone brings their own experiences, aesthetics, and stories with them when they look at art. Just because someone doesn't like something, doesn't mean it's "bad."
But more importantly, no one is born a brilliant artist. It takes time and dedication to a consistent practice to get to the good stuff, to develop your craft and find your voice. 
A few years ago I was at a dinner party with the gorgeous artist Kiki Smith. Kiki's had massive success in her career, the kind most of us only dream about. We were talking about our journeys as artists. 
A curator quipped in, "I studied fine art in college, but I realized I wasn't a good enough painter to make it. So I became a curator instead."
Kiki caught him, "No," she said, "that's not why you quit. You quit because you aren't an artist. An artist wouldn't have quit. An artist would keep making art because he couldn't help himself."
It's that simple. It's not about whether you're good or bad, it's not about how much money you can earn. It's about owning who you are, giving voice to your ideas, doing the work, and not letting anyone stand in your way.
The difference between artists who succeed and artists who fail? Purpose and dedication.
Never quit.

"Throughout our lives, we may only meet a few people who touch us on a spiritual level and change our paths. Crista is one of those people." Jane Seaman, Best-Selling Author


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