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Riding Lessons for Artists (Horse picture © Judy Wood)
Judy Wood : Riding Lessons for Artists – Part 7: Where am I going?

Riding Lessons for Artists

Part 7: Where am I, and where am I going?

By Judy Wood

At some point, after (or maybe before, if you're not the kind of person who flings into things first then stops to ask questions later, as I tend to be) you have found the direction you want your art/riding to take as regards what sort or style, have found an instructor and/or got some basic training and experience under your belt, you might stop to ponder "why" you are doing this.

The simplest answers to this question — "because I have always wanted to", or "because I feel compelled to" have taken you this far into the process, but eventually there are some other considerations that will have to be addressed.

For some, art/riding are simple recreational pursuits, an accomplishment to work at, and a diversion from everyday life. These are the people I think of as the "lifestyle" artist/riders. They derive satisfaction from treating art/riding as a hobby (a word I have always had an aversion to, but there you have it) in which they can be more or less engrossed, as time and circumstances allow, but it doesn't rule their entire existence. They can pick it up or set it down at will.

At the other end of this spectrum, there are the "lifers", those of us who basically live for our passions, whether art or riding (or, in my case, both) and for whom life without these touchstones is not to be contemplated. We are likely touched with a bit of madness or at least mild obsession in our pursuits, and we build our daily existence around the studio or the stable to the best of our ability. And of course there are all degrees of commitment and involvement between these two ends of the spectrum.

It's up to each aspiring/practising artist or rider to come up with their own best way of incorporating art/riding into their life plan. I don't think any of this is a matter of value judgments, that one end of the spectrum is "better" than another, just that each person will place a different value on their own level of activity and commitment as it figures into their individual circumstances.

However, having seen both extremes in action, I do have some observations that might be helpful to keep in mind. It helps to figure out where you are and where you want to be on the ladder, in either art or equestrian pursuits, so that you can be mindful of what progress you have made, and what your goals are. That way, you can tailor your efforts to achieving these goals. Obviously, if your goal is to get your art accepted into a small local show, your game plan will be different from that of someone who aspires to a one-person show in a major gallery. Again, both are perfectly reasonable aspirations as long as you are the one setting your own agenda and have a reasonable expectation of being able to achieve it. Similarly with riding. One person may be very content to have control over their horse and to be able to ride out safely in a quiet fashion, while another may want the challenge of high-level competition in the discipline of their choosing. Each person has an objective in mind and will work in the manner required to get there.

This having been said, not everyone that has a lofty goal is going to get to it. Talent, training, time available to devote to working at art/riding, financial concerns, location, all are factors that can help or hinder success. Having a dream of high-end "success" can be a motivator, but if it is a totally unrealistic one with little chance of being realized, it can by the same token lead to feelings of frustration, doubt, and questioning one's self-worth. It's certainly worth stopping every now and then for a reality check on where you started, where you are, and where you are heading, and adapting the goal and the game plan to fit in with your personal reality.

As I have to do every now and then in these articles, I must confess to having figured this all out more in theory and by observation and thought , than in practice. In real life, I essentially started with the thought processes stated in the second paragraph, the "always wanted to" and "feel compelled" and just blundered along until I got somewhere — which as it turns out has taken me several decades of following my path.

I also have to confess to having never been a "goals" person, but just because I have managed to find my way without much thought or planning (but with a lot of work, study, dead-ends, and trial and error along the way) doesn't mean that is the best way to set about these things. I often think I have succeeded (by my own definition of that term) in both art and riding despite the way I have gone about it. Since I'm a big believer in sharing knowledge/information or what have you, I offer these comments for the reader to think about and possibly get where they are heading in a more aware and direct way than I have done. Or if, like me, you are more of a "process" person than a "goals" person, you can just muddle along over the years and see what develops. It can be a long and winding road, but one well worth going down. •

Next: Mirror, Mirror »

© 2009 Judy Wood. All rights reserved.

Judy WoodJudy Wood is a Canadian art photographer whose images and writings are shaped by her prairie based lifestyle as an artist, photographer, writer and horse person. More »

7/26/09