I'm Going to Make
This text is hanging above my computer in my studio, just above eye level where I can see it every time I sit down to check email, manage an Etsy situation, or contemplate a blog post. It's a reminder of my responsibility, not just as an artist, but as a human being. I'm going to suggest it's your responsibility, too, regardless of your vocation. Let me break this down a bit.
Elsie de Wolfe was a well-known interior designer during the early half of the twentieth century, and it will not be a surprise to know it was uncommon for women to hold that role. But Elsie took it on and made a success of it.
She called herself "a rebel in an ugly world," and who among us does not have the power to make that claim as well? Especially these days when so much is ugly. In the South, where I currently live, to be ugly is not to be physically unattractive as much as it is to behave poorly in front of other people. A child might misbehave, and a parent may respond, "Don't be ugly," meaning, "don't misbehave." In that sense of the word, the world certainly is ugly, and we should all make an effort to be rebels.
In the more aesthetic sense, the world sure can be ugly, too, and making it beautiful is a challenge.
It's a daunting task to assign yourself, suggesting what you make must be beautiful however you might define that subjective term, but I am reminded of a helpful tip I heard recently from an artist whose work I admire, Lewis Noble. Noble suggests artists not focus too much on one piece of work at a time so that it becomes precious, or so it doesn't have to carry the weight of being perfect. It won't be your last painting, its purpose is not to be the gold standard of beauty, and honestly, don't take yourself so seriously with every single painting you put your hands on.
The point is to make—make beauty, sure, but make in general. Just walking into my studio and seeing this text, I say to myself, "Today, I'm going to make," and that can be enough. I mean, don't make ugly, don't BE ugly, and please don't follow ugly on Twitter. Just make, and that can be your life.