As a business owner, I have perused and taken advantage of a lot of business courses, workshops and information. Most of it is helpful, some of it not so much, but there is one thing that is consistent: the idea that your business needs to be rooted in your "why," or your story.
One thing we learned in creative writing is that often, whatever is in your head that seems boring or obvious to you may actually be interesting to people who haven't had your experience or your perspective. But, because it is so... baseline for you, it is hard to notice. The same thing happens with your "why," or at least it can. My "why" has been hard to pin down all these years. "Why do you paint wildlife?" I always thought the answer was, "because I think they're important, I think I can speak about human experiences through painting them, I don't know... they're cool... ... ..." Too many words, and thoughts that felt a little too abstract.
And then, "Why do you paint pet portraits? Is it because people will pay for them?" Well, I do believe in artists getting paid, but I also really love pet portraits. Is it because I love animals? I mean of course... but what else?
In mid 2020 through spring of 2021, I had a chance to really step back from K Potter Fine Art. Sometimes distance provides clarity- and I woke up with kind of an "aha" in the spring of 2021. I realized I like Art in the name of service. Serving people through art, by teaching it and by painting commissions, by serving people outside of just myself through art. With that realization, I simplified my offerings and my plans and started diving into adding Live Wedding Painting to my services.
But, would you believe it, the idea of "service" started to... again, not feel quite right. It was the closest I'd found, that is for sure, but still, the word didn't quite fit right.
This last weekend, I attended the Montana Intimate Wedding Expo in Billings, and I brought my easel, paints, and examples of wedding paintings. Between speaking with brides, I worked on painting what I saw in front of me: the venue and mainly a wedding dress booth. Like all live paintings, the beginning was a little rough, but as I got to the end of the expo, the dresses from the booth started to fill in and take life. The other vendors were coming by to see what I was painting, and then something happened: they all started to talk about the dress vendor, and how much they loved her, and how she is a really special lady. When I told them I was going to give it to her, they cooed and said, "Oh, she will really love that."
And then! When I posted the image and a brief story on social media... a bunch of other people (mainly women) cooed and loved it and felt something strong. It was like a shared experience of something so special, something words couldn't really define.
So I watched this one painting I made go from an experimentation in my head to an actualization on canvas to a shared community experience of appreciation and love. Not only was I giving this painting to this woman, but a whole bunch of people were giving it to her. We were all involved by the end, because we all felt connected to her. Even without necessarily knowing her.
And after that experience, that word kept bouncing around in my head. I added it to a tagline somewhere in my documents and felt *so right* about it. And after talking to a bride today, that word kept coming up again and again.
And it just makes so much sense. As a painfully shy kid (who once went an entire semester in sophomore year of high school without speaking in my English lit class), art was a way for me to communicate. As a kid who had way too much hard stuff going on at home, art was my escape and my reprieve, as well as a way to understand what was happening around me (both by making and consuming art). As a kid who had undiagnosed adhd, I survived school because of art, and especially art teachers. All in all, art was my way to connect to the world around me despite a lot of challenges.
All of my other projects come into perspective too: I paint wildlife because I feel a connection to them, and I want others to feel that connection too. That explains why I have always made sure the eyes on the animals were alive and filled with spirit. The internal world of the animals matter to me.
I paint pets because it celebrates the oft underrated connection between them and their humans, one that I myself feel with Huckleberry. I teach plein air painting because it connects me and my clients to the landscape around us. I teach sip and paints because of the community connection that happens organically.
And I paint weddings because it is a connection between the couple getting married, and being a diehard romantic I'm all about that, but also it connects the guests to the experience, so that, like the dress painting, by the end of the day- it is not just me giving the couple a painting, but it is everyone there.
Basically, I get to paint the moments and the creatures that fill our hearts with love, that connect us to each other and to what is good in this life. And damn if that doesn't make me the happiest artist alive!