Today I want to talk to you all about motivation.
I've always struggled as an artist to trudge my way through the murky, existential darkness that surrounds my heart and soul, or whatever dramatic nonsense you want to believe about me. I've always had something inside of me say, "No, you can't do this." It didn't matter what I was doing... painting, drawing, theatre, living life. Every day I fight a war with myself over whether or not I am worthy to do anything - which has always left me in a strange dichotomy of desperately wanting to prove myself and also fighting hard to hide. Why would I do that? I don't know, my work is dope af, but fighting in a battle with your own brain is the toughest one to win, and I still have to force myself to work on it every day.
And then I met an artist at the 33November gallery hosted by MySLART last year. A large Friedrich Nietzsche portrait hung next to my drawing of Hamlet's Ophelia, as though they sat back-to-back in grumpy camaraderie. I chatted with the artist for a minute, and another minute again today, and I am excited to share with you his story. His name is Matthew Miller. Matthew is a St. Louis native who recently relocated to Denver, CO. He works as a group fitness coach at Orangetheory Fitness, but is primarily defining himself as an artist. Would you believe he has only been at this for a few short months? His paintings are vibrant and playful and sometimes, a little heartbreaking. Check it out:
Being one dissertation away from a PhD of Philosophy, this man has spent a lot of time dwelling on the meaning of life - he often reminds his insta-followers, #youaregoingtodie. And so, he says, you have to live.
Okay, Alice, are you ready to go down the rabbit hole?
"At age 31 I think I'm finally starting to figure a few things out. The most important piece of wisdom I have to offer is this: the trick to life is to figure out which activities put you into flow states, make you come alive, and transform you into the best version of yourself; and then build a life that enables you to enjoy those activities on a regular basis."
Sounds easy enough. In fact, that's exactly what the Free Art Campaign is all about: using the power you have within to create your own reality.
"We live in a society that encourages stress, distraction, and cheap pleasures. Many of us are walking around with gaping holes in our souls that could be filled with creative activities (or whatever does it for you)... I wonder: What would the mental health and addiction situation be in America if we had a culture/society/school system that truly encouraged and enabled creativity?"
If you have read the Axis (The Free Art Philosophy), you know this is the biggest question I have been asking myself the last few years, and why the Campaign came to be: Wouldn't the world be so beautiful if we could all share in each other's creativity? If we relied on each other's humanity daily, and the arts were driven by accessibility, not money? You know, I think we're on to something, here, guys. Art can truly heal.
But does Matt consider himself a political activist? No. "It would be nice if political institutions and school systems would take this stuff to heart... [but] I think it starts with the individual taking control of his or her life, and working to positively influence those who are near and dear... Think about how much time and energy you spend watching the news and reading the paper to become "informed"... Now, what if all that time and energy was devoted to drawing a picture, getting your own life together, strengthening personal relationships, and encouraging friends and family to do the same? Here we have the real potential to change lives."
"I've done a lot of work on myself, and I can't imagine enjoying any sort of fulfilling success without having put in this work," Matt says, and I find this inspiring: starting with our own inner peace, we can spread that peace out into the world and truly become agents of change.
So, how is Matt working as an agent of change? By showing people the process and being open about mistakes. Live painting does attract a lot of attention, and it takes a lot of courage to get up there and share that intimacy with strangers. It is one thing to show them the final product - when you as an artist have reached the point of, yes, this is it. But showing them every little brushtroke that happens is something different. Allowing the audience to get to know him by sharing his attitude and philosophy behind his work really resonates with people. "My real hope is that people will see how much fun I'm having and that it inspires them to do something creative, too."
And now you may be wondering, as am I, "How do I, as an average joe, create this for myself?"
Matthew has some excellent suggestions to get you started:
"1. Write a list of peak experiences. List all of your favorite memories, rewarding achievements, activities that make you come alive, the people who bring out the best in you, what you enjoyed as a kid, etc. You can learn a lot from such a list. Do you notice any trends or themes? How long has it been since you've done some of this stuff?
"2. Write out a detailed description of your 'perfect average day.' Review it daily. Having a specific vision is crucial to keep going when things get tough... The only thing I have to say is that it takes a lot of time, thought, and effort. But it works.
"3. Expose yourself to positive people and messages. I am constantly listening to motivational material; they have become breakfast, lunch, and dinner for my mind. Making it work as an artist is hard. You need all the support and motivation you can get. If you're going looking for a good place to start, I dare you to watch this video without feeling a solid kick in the ass."
And now, Free Art-ers, you have heard his philosophy and seen his work. Now it's time to go follow up for some constant motivation. Matt is mostly an instagrammer, and you can find him here: @matt.moves
If you're on facebook, check out his page! That's where you can buy his work, too: here
Otherwise, if you want to read more inspiring messages straight from the horse's mouth, check out www.matthewmillerart.com
Are you ready to get moving?
Pass it on. Pay it forward.