Advice to my 22 year-old self: Samantha Lissette
What I’ve come to know thus far is that the key to a great life is freedom of the mind and joy within the heart. That’s basically it – with both these things present the rest will fill in.
At 22 I was like most people – looking for meaning and self expression. I had no idea how to step out of the accepted parameters of society and give myself permission to be an artist. So, if I was on an express train to maturity, here is what I’d already have known at 22.
1. An artist is a conduit for emotion
Our purpose is to communicate feelings, in one form or another to people. In order for that to be possible you must be open to feeling. In order to feel things you must have experiences, sometimes intense ones, not to illicit drama into your life but to transmute those experiences with clarity to others. It’s the clarifying experience that creates the happy outcome, so don’t be afraid of them.
As an artist, there is no off switch. I don't ever clock in, or out, of the job. I have learned to honour and embrace all aspects of my life, not just the professional ones. They all feed my work in some way. Around the corner you may find the ingredients for the next incarnation of your art. Anecdotal experiences, trivial episodes, heavy situations, anything and everything offers up a thread for the particular quilt you are weaving, and will show up in the quality of your artwork. Sometimes it’s the dull thread which unconsciously acts as the foil for the shiny thread woven next to it. Nothing felt is left uncounted. That means all your artistic choices are the right choices, because they inform all of your next choices. No regrets!
2. Honour your way
As the Shakespeare quote goes, “All the world’s a stage…and one man in his time plays many parts.”
You are going to signify many different things to many people –- none of them will be accurate. Leave them to their imaginations, ’cos you ain’t got no control over their script. Honour your ways, don’t waste your life trying to fit in, trying to be cool. That kills creativity, because it is its fundamental opposite, and it cuts originality off at the knees.
3. Let people in
Be open to appreciation, not separation, and let people in. Let people like what you do! Valuing yourself means everybody wins. Insecurity is the single most popular self-indulgence. It doesn’t serve anyone, even if you mistake it for humility or selflessness. Your art, and opportunities for your art, will flourish the more confidence you foster.
4. Value other peoples art
That is their business. It doesn’t affect yours. Allow others their expression. Comparison and criticism does more damage to us than it does to those we judge. Ultimately its not helpful creatively or personally. The freedom of being able to appraise something, while retaining integrity, is a far greater joy! Looking for the good in things changes the way we interact with the world.
5. Space and alone time are everything
Allow down time. Non-productive time. This should not be confused with a lack of work ethic. Like breathing, you must take in before you can give out. S P A C E is our ally. Calm is to action as study is to an exam.
Alone time is everything. It connects you to the creative energy that drives all things. It’s where you find your voice, your authentic, original, deeply satisfying voice. Silence, meditation, nature, music, ... you choose your medicine. It makes all things better, clearer, deeper, more intense, more attractive. Don’t be afraid of it, and above all, don’t feel guilty about it!
6. Life’s like a good read, with many chapters
Relax! Change is inevitable.
You are never as stuck as you think you are.
One of the most powerful things I have discovered about life is that it comes in chapters. You know all the things you want to accomplish? Well, in time, life will set up opportunities for all of those things to come to fruition. So be patient, let all your ducks line up.
By all means plan, set goals, and intellectualise your process. But the truth is we have little idea who we are, or who we are evolving into. Let go of control and allow life to unfold in an inspired way, and let your evolving self renew your priorities.
It’s incredibly useful to know that the ‘selves’ we hold so tightly to, that we protect and defend so avidly, are in fact ever changing. If you were introduced to the person you were ten years ago you probably wouldn’t recognise her. Honour that natural evolution.
7. Have a sense of humour and humility
Humility and a sense of humour are like siblings, more closely linked than you think.
As artists, we put ourselves out into the world, exposing ourselves to many different points of view. Inevitably, we will all fall short in front of some. After the inevitable fall, humour is the friend who picks you up again!
Samantha Lissette is a sculptor working predominantly in bronze. She exhibits regularly throughout NZ and internationally. Her work is represented by NKB Gallery and Miranda Farm Gallery, and held in public and private collections across New Zealand, Australia, England, U.S.A, and China. You can see her pieces in the current exhibition of the NZ Medal Makers Group at Artis Gallery, Auckland, until 14 April.
All sculpture photography by Andre van de Ven. Portrait courtesy of the artist.