Now, I had a lot of different thoughts when I first read this article in People Magazine and then in CNN this morning:
1) How can a presidential artist get away with that?!
2) That is wrong...his client trusted him...
3) What an interesting way to represent real life events and freeze a bit of history...
4) Nelson Shanks has guts!
...How many times since then do you think Mr. Shanks drank wine and laughed hysterically about his secret?!
And as I arrived at the last couple of thoughts, something else struck me. I began thinking about the career of a presidential artist and how boring that must be at times. Making someone stand still in front of stiff decor, painting for hours....? I mean, of course there is passion behind the painting but let's face it: All jobs become mundane regardless of the passion that got you there.
This all led me to one simple conclusion: Nelson Shank's portrait of Clinton should be a metaphor for our lives. Now just follow me here.....
You have a painter, an artist, who has found his niche painting prominent societal figures over and over and over in stuffy rooms while dealing with even stuffier personalities, I'm sure. This artist has a choice: Stay inside the box by conforming to the structure of "presidential painting," follow the path carved by all presidential artists before him, and let the idea of acting like a "proper" professional dictate exactly what he does; OR, let his personality and interests bleed into his work, shape his own path and give himself something meaningful and true to himself by which to feel fulfilled, while also not giving a significant thought about what others may or may not think. This is a delicate balance and something we all have to make decisions about from time to time...How do we even walk that line effectively???
There is a meditation I often do called the "deathbed meditation." This sounds very depressing but it's actually quite uplifting and helps you get in touch with the values that should be dictating your actions here and now. It's a process, but basically you envision yourself at the end of your life, and look back over all your life chapters, seeing everything you did or didn't do, and taking note of things you regret, things you long for, and things you would have handled differently. Do you think Nelson Shanks will be on his deathbed, regretting that he took artistic license/risk to secretly add something controversial but representative of the reality he viewed into his work? This is a quote from Nelson Shanks himself, so I'll let you decide:
The Realistic painting must be nothing less than a meditation on the nature of existence and the individual. It must create likeness with the power to kindle the observer's imagination and awaken memories.... It must encompass all that the Realist painter sees before his eyes and therefore feels in his heart.
Now, I am absolutely NOT condoning the act of hiding things that may hurt other people or generally being sneaky. I highly value and promote transparency in myself and others, especially when working with other people in any capacity. But, there's a stronger message here...a message we can all learn from and apply to every role we fill.
My point in this post is simple: In order to live happy fulfilled lives, we need to make whatever we do in life OUR OWN. Society's structure will constantly funnel us into a mold, and on some level, we must conform to that mold in order to fit in, make a living, and get by. It is easy to lose yourself in this process. We too often settle into the mundane, and accept the unenjoyable, because it's safe and predictable. But, we do have some control over how much of this we sit with and we ARE allowed to break the mold....because when we do break it, the ceiling of possibilities just gets higher and higher. There are risks in breaking the mold, of course, and that is scary, but isn't the biggest risk taken when you don't create and live a life that is true to yourself and your values?
Ivanka Trump is currently leading an initiative focused on cherishing your career without being defined by it. It's about having courage to break the molds of whatever you are doing especially when you don't have a role model that has paved the path for you. It's about finding yourself, staying true to yourself (regardless of the perception of others), and using this vision to forge your own path, exploring possibilities once viewed as impossible and achieving fulfillment with no regrets.
And so, I ask: What risks are you not taking? How is this keeping you from living a fulfilling life? How are you allowing yourself to be pigeon-holed in a stale structure formed by someone else?
The ball is in your court. Catch it, and a challenge yourself to make a riskier next-move. And, feel free to contact me for brainstorming. :)