Sharing my knowledge
All rights reserved Bobbi Baldwin, June 22, 2011
I have recently started to coach other artists - Not just teach them about painting, but coach them in thinking, because just like anything in life, the way we think affects the outcome. This life has given me many gifts, and I guess it’s just time to share it all … even the life lessons. I haven’t just learned to get a likeness and make my portraits look alive … I have an insight to the psyche of people, and their creative minds. I see myself as a scientist, not just a psychology enthusiast or portrait painter. I love studying not just the human form relating to art, but also the person who has the skin. Every person has such incredible history written in their features, stance, image, voice … that it becomes this intriguing game for me to find what makes each person “tick”. I love society, and what each person brings to it with their own originality, from the expressive artistic personalities to the worker ants (as I call less colorful focused people).
People are incredible. And the Artist is even more challenged than most. This is often because of stereotypes that they mentally take on or as others project onto them. But, I rarely find an artist with the traits that the stereotyped character is supposed to have. Instead, I find intelligent thinkers who are strong, sensitive, and quiet geniuses in their own right … just misunderstood and lacking others who speak clearly of the way in which an artist IS normal.
Life hands us lessons daily and most of the best ones are not wrapped up in a pretty bow. Many of my lessons came with emotional hardship. The one thing I am most thankful for is the opportunity to share. In the last three years, I have found my way into a place where I sponsor people, not just artists, but people of the community that learn like me … the hard way. But what is life if not experienced? This has opened the doors for me to speak about the trauma in my life openly. Until now, I have never formally chosen to use my stories to tie in my life’s experiences with art, even though I have been teaching all forms of art for a very long time and may have shared a story or two, here and there. What I have found, though, is that my way of getting through things helps others to understand more about their lives. And this feels right. So, here I will share my philosophies and hope that it may also reach you!
I survived child abuse. It’s just my story. Everyone has a story to tell about their life. I will spare you the details here because it isn’t about what I went through, it is about the human psyche; specifically this artist’s psyche. This tool to understand myself and give back the lessons that I have had to learn to internalize, is the greatest gift I have been given. I work hard on myself to improve not only my skill level but my own mental focus too. I treasure the opportunity to share this with you.
Here are the things I have learned:
I will start with the basics - The sides of the brain and how they function:
I am not a doctor, neurologist, psychologist, or psychiatrist, but I have spent my time reading and listening to those who are, as well as just studying people, and personalities in my life. What I know about how the human brain functions is best described in hemispheres. Although there is controversy over the division down the center of the human brain and how it functions, there is an agreement about hemispheres and what is driven in us by those hemispheres.
The left hemisphere is the side of the brain which reads, writes, verbalizes, rationalizes, organizes, and keeps logic. The right hemisphere is sensory, creative, intuitive, abstract, feeling, emotional, and expressive. EVERYONE needs both sides to operate in everyday life with success.
Artists are sensitive to the world for a good reason, and much more driven by the right side. But that alone doesn’t make us artists. The goal is to learn how to use what we are strongest with to make our life balanced. Often the more creative mental right hemisphere ‘pushups’ we do … the more the intuitive, feeling, visual, emotional side gets engaged and developed. This is why artists, in my opinion, become more intuitive and much more able to use their antennae, so to say, to pick up on what is to be observed by all the senses.
I have often been in conversations with others about how or why we are like this. Were we first born with this right brain developed more than the left or is it circumstances that led us to this strength? I believe it is both or either. What we learn and why we have learned it often go hand in hand. In over 25 years of teaching and 29 years of portrait painting, I have found the more I talk to artists, the more I learn how they have had a similar sensory opening in their minds that keeps them observing the world at a level that most others never get to see. It’s incredible to talk to an artist who really is capable of expressing (with the left hemisphere) what the right has been able to perceive –Or- to visually see a painting that takes your breath away because they have learned to put that hyper sensitivity into a painting.
I became a portrait artist at the age of 24.
Let me next talk about ‘hyper sensitivity’ or in my case ‘hyper vigilance’. I started drawing when I was about 10 years old but the drama in my family was already there at birth. The family thought I was slow. I was not expected to go to college. Although I seemed to quietly get through school with a good GPA, I never studied the way others did. I believed that I was slower than the rest! It wasn’t until I was 45 that I was actually given an IQ test and learned that I have a 144 score. I could go on and on about how frustrating this is to me, to learn at such a late time in my life and think of all the wasted thoughts of inadequacy that came in the years that I didn’t understand. AND … the kids who are like me in school now … I think I will save that for my sister the school teacher! But I digress here. Let me continue…
My knowledge of psychology started with my mom earning her Master’s degree in psychology while I was in high school and then learned early that talking to someone (about my life choices and my personal ‘character building’ experiences) was a necessity in my life.
I needed to know that God, the Higher Power, Buddha, and the Universe … who ever … chose to give me this experience for a reason! I needed to know why at three years of age, my first memory was only one of many that would make anyone uncomfortable to hear.
And now at 52 years of age … my coaching, sponsoring … teaching about the psyche has given me that answer. I am thankful. The answer IS the hyper-vigilance I learned that made me an artist. It was that need to survive in an environment that was so crazy for a little child, in which I had to find a way to control my outcome that I became hyper-sensitive to my visual memory.
A person can become hyper sensitive to their creativity for whatever reason … it is personal. What we do with it … can be an art form.
With that explained … how does this fit into the art world?
• Well, I teach people how to out think their critic, understand how to work with their personality, and get past those things that stop them. For example when showing your portfolio to a client, I would teach you, as an artist, to think of the last compliment you heard someone say about your art work. That is all that you are to say out loud. Because artists are their own worst critics! We use this critical tool to make ourselves better, to raise the bar consistently, therefore to make sure that we continue to be the best that we can be. In other words, we are high achievers. And this is a great skill as long as we don’t use it as a stick to beat ourselves with.
• When I hear artists criticize themselves over how long it takes them to create a painting, I remind them of Leonardo DaVinci who took 7 years to paint the Mona Lisa. Or if they lack the attention span they desire, I remind them that there are painters who paint paintings in two hours, selling their ‘studies’ (en plein air), constantly.
Whatever the personality trait is that you possess, make it your specialty! We are all humans having a human experience and there is no such thing as normal. But, what I do find is that there is a common ground we share -And that is the quality of being scientists, psychologists, empathic, intuitive, and strongly observant. These are qualities that often get mistaken and misunderstood. Embrace them like a carpenter embraces their hammer, a mathematician embraces their calculator, and a doctor embraces their passion. We are wired the same as anyone else, with just a stronger emphasis in different areas.
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