• Shawn Dell Joyce artist

Believing Mirror-why we artists need each other

"Success happens in clusters..." Julia Cameron The Artist's Way


I asked my friend A. (for anonymous) how her painting was going in a class recently. She tearfully expressed how difficult it was for her to find time to paint without any support at home. This is universal, but hits women particularly hard.


latest painting "Gulf Waves" Pastel on Ampersand Pastelbord

Many women are very creative (although that it often not reflected in the halls of culture) and have been for centuries. In the past-before t.v. and internet, people didn't sit idly in armchairs at the end of the day. They sat in the parlor, library, drawing room, conservatory, or by the fire, and they did something creative. Many times it was needlepoint, darning, knitting, but often sketching and painting as it was a skill that most people valued as much as reading and writing.


Today, drawing and painting are no longer past times, they are things you have to make time for, and may feel selfish or decadent for doing so. Women in our culture are raised to be self-abnegating. We are seeing some of the new generations throwing off that expectation and being as self serving as thier brothers.


For us in the "old school" it can be hard to let go of the idea that we are supposed to take care of other's needs before our own, or that self-care is equally important to paychecks and children, and getting dinner on the table. For me, as a professional who works at home, I have to constantly asset boundaries with friends and family, that yes I am working even if it looks like I may be having fun!


As a matter of fact, I'm doing it right now. I'm ignoring texts from a friend that I just told I was busy blogging and they are choosing to bother me anyway!


We need to be ruthless with our boundaries, and realize that if we (women and men) don't make the time to fulfill our destinies as artists, then we will be lying in that deathbed someday regretting it, and not being grateful for all the housework we did instead!


To this end, we need at least one ally in our evil scheme. It doesn't have to be anyone in your home (and probably won't be!) but it does have to be another artist. Doesn't matter what kind or who, just someone you respect who loves your work and encourages you.


MY BFF Terry and I seeing eye-to-eye with Michael Angelo

This is your "believing mirror" and is the person you show your latest painting to. Don't show your work to people who don't understand or appreciate what you are trying to do. This means spouses, as well as parents, children, etc. Let them be as encouraging as they can, which will vary greatly by how much we encourage and support them as well! Have one person who is unerringly on your side, that you can turn to help triage a broken heart when you didn't get into that show, and celebrate with you when you do eventually.


Mine is Terry who is a clay artist in St. Pete, and has been my BFF for over 20 years. We read the book The Artist's Way together and worked through the program in it, way back in 2000, and became each other's believing mirrors. She gets me. She knows my heart, and

Terry and Shawn painting a mural together in Terry's backyard

what my "true North" is in my work. She also knows when I'm bs'ing myself, short changing myself, and not living up to my full artistic potential.


I also get her. I love her work and have several beautiful pieces of her slab-built earthy sculptures in my home. I see them everyday and I pray for her success and happiness. When she calls or texts, I will drop everything and respond. I am always on the side of her creative genius, even if it means I fight with her to take time from her demanding job to create.


Terry getting a painting of Terry on her birthday.

I don't expect my life partner to be my cheerleader. In many ways he is, and I love him for it, but he's not an artist and really doesn't get it. We are allies and have our own life together that's separate from my work. We cannot put all our eggs in one basket, and expect any one person to fulfill all our needs anyway, so I surround myself with people that I turn to for different things.


When something wonderful happens artistically to me, I immediately call Terry who will always pick up the phone and share my joy with me, even when she is at work or doing other things. I do the same for her, and we encourage each other, we believe in each other, and support each other's work. My Terry is taken, but you probably have your own Terry right under your nose.


Some childhood friends (I'm the one on right)

Find someone who shares the same interest (doesn't have to be the same media, and you don't have to be at the same level). The only way to do this is to take classes, attend lectures, visit art galleries and museums, and bump into someone doing what you love to do. If that fails, post on social media that you are looking for someone to do The Artist's Way with you and read through the book together.


In the process, you discover your own "true North" and they learn your heart, and how to support you along the way. By doing a project like this together, you becomes friends, and you start to carve out time for self-care that becomes a practice.




Before you know it, you are doing weekly "artist dates" that are self-care and self-discovery (which I still do to this day) and journaling, as well as making time to create your art. If you are baffled about HOW to start your art practice, this is a good beginning.


I think of it as clearing out the creative cobwebs. Once you tap into that well of creativity, it will flow freely, and all you really need to do is keep channeling it in the general direction of your true North. The universe moves to support you when you support yourself and others.


Don't skip this vital step in setting up an art practice. If you recently took a class with me, you have a classroom of potential believing mirrors. During out Plein Air Adventure class which happens from Nov. 4 through May 31, people have six months to become friends, and soon start make painting dates outside of class. I love it when this happens because there is a cluster bound for success!


I'm going to make it a point on that on the last class, people reach out to each other and connect as friends. That way, you leave the class with one potential believing mirror. We need each other to succeed.


I would have quit from frustration years ago if it weren't for Terry. Sometimes I am the only creative person she speaks to in a whole week, so I know it's true for her as well. Find an ally on this road and share the journey with her/him. Now I have to go answer that phone!



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