Manette Fairmont (Part 2)
National Award Winning Artist
Categories: Arts, Proverbs
Manette Fairmont is a national award-winning artist whose main medium is watercolor. Last month, Manette shared her ideas on the nature of art and the artist as well as insights about overcoming limitations to become an artist. This month, she explains how confidence and courage helped her find her own artistic voice. She also destroys stereotypes and gives very clear tips on what it means to be an individual and artist.
In Part 1 we discussed the fact that many people believe that in order to be successful and truly artistic, artists need to separate themselves -- be different, deviate from the norm, do drugs, become involved in the sensual experience. And yet, you explained that deviance is actually self-destructive. Van Gogh comes to mind. While he's a brilliant artist, he's portrayed as the suffering artist. He cut off his ear and had lots of struggles. How does Van Gogh fit your understanding of true artists?
Actually Van Gogh was a very unselfish artist. He was attuned to the right idea, but didn't have confidence in it. He tried to emulate other people, but he didn't like doing that. He was uncomfortable going against the divine grain. He couldn't paint any other way. But when Van Gogh put his art out there, he was criticized. Gauguin, a friend and mentor with whom Van Gogh painted for a while, realized that Van Gogh was talented. Gauguin's jealousy and criticism were abusive. Gauguin told Van Gough that he had no talent. He told him that his yellow chair that's so famous now was trite and trivial. This pained Van Gogh, and he got so depressed that he cut off his ear. Van Gogh listened to Gauguin rather than listening to the beauty which inspired him.
You seem to have endured a little bit of this same critical treatment when you were young, but you have come out on top. What made the difference, do you think?
I had a choice (so did Van Gogh) of whether or not to accept what someone else said about who I was or what I could do. Unlike Van Gogh, I chose to see myself as God saw me. I learned I wasn't limited to the opinions of other people. Van Gogh didn't trust his vision. Yes, just because someone expresses God's art does not mean that he or she will become an instantaneous success. Sometimes it's a struggle, and you need to have the faith and commitment to be true to the goodness within you. That's what Jesus was teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said, "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted" (Matt. 5:4). Van Gogh must have forgotten that. He was a good Catholic, and he was "poor in spirit" (Matt. 5:3). The Beatitudes protect your thought from the abuse of human opinion.
Not everyone has loved my work; I have been criticized a lot. But my work has had broad access to the world. To be creative means to push the paradigm. Creative people move beyond the senses of the moment. They're pioneers. There's a certain amount of courage that goes along with paradigm breaking -- the courage to do things right even though it doesn't appear to meet with everyone's expectations, the courage to follow God's path.
Can you share how courage has helped you in your path?
Sure. In college, I made a choice to change from a business major, which was safe ground, to an art major, which appeared to be very foolish. This required a great deal of courage since the prevalent opinion is that it's hard to make a living as an artist. But having the courage to follow God's path yields huge blessings, even though at times that path may seem unsuccessful. If you break through the "illusion" of what other people think of you -- all their opinions which really don't say any truth about you -- you find all kinds of amazing jobs, resources, income, supplies. You find a more satisfying sense of yourself and life. This feeling of satisfaction multiplies and magnifies, and you're put in a position to bless others.
Are there any particular incidents that stand out as significant?
Yes, I've had so many. In my senior year of college, I ended up getting the Studio Art award for my graduating class. I was so surprised, as there were so many talented and accomplished artists in my classes. I had not pursued the award. I didn't paint to get the award. The award was given to the person who had also made the most progress. I had worked hard, coming from zero because I hadn't touched art since I gave it up as a freshman in high school. And for the first year or two in college, my artwork was pretty pathetic in the scale of the world. But in the last two years, creativity and art were just pouring out of me -- I couldn't help but express myself through my art. The award was evidence that I had broken through limitations and could be creative. Just last year, I won third place in the nation for watercolor. There were 20,000 entries. 80 made it into the show.
And you got third place?!
Yes, and I've won 20 national awards. I'm just thrilled to be in the game. I've also done interviews for magazines. I've accomplished more of my dreams than I ever thought I could. I'm doing all this while I'm running my gallery. I find that it doesn't take me that long to come out with paintings that win awards. I've learned that time has little to do with creativity and expression. When you're divinely inspired, you leap over limitations. It's good to keep working, of course, and I'm doing artwork all the time.
You have certainly "leapt over limitations."
I learned how to. The woman who told me originally years ago that I wasn't very good in art told me she could not believe how successful I was. Her children told me that she was rather embarrassed that she had told me that I didn't have any talent.
Sometimes where God places us isn't where other people place us. We each have our own individual path. We need all different types of artists. What you do doesn't determine who you are. The world needs Broadway producers, school teachers, plaque painters, and watercolorists. God places you where you need to be to bless the most people.
The woman apologized for putting a limitation on me. But I didn't let her reject me. When you don't allow someone to have control over your destiny, your path in life, you have eliminated rejection. Rejection becomes non-existent.
What do you mean, "rejection becomes non-existent"?
WE do the accepting or rejecting. WE put limits on OURSELVES by accepting the lies that others say about us. These lies about our abilities come in many guises, too, to snag us. I was told I'd never win a national award and I'd never run a gallery. I was told that I'd fail if I changed my style because it was too risky. Half-way through my career, I changed from painting landscapes and florals to painting more abstract, conceptual landscapes. My work now is all about design -- a quilt pattern pieced together to create a landscape image that's fun, happy, interesting, and colorful. It's a form of abstraction that I found I loved doing the most, as it was the most creative for me. This "risky" conceptual landscape art is why I received the 3rd place.
There comes a time when you have to find your own voice and be a unique artist in the world. You're looking to be your own individual self.
Now, how does finding your own voice relate to individuality and deviation?
To be an individual is to be a reflection of God, to be part of the light ray. A ray of sunlight has all these colors, and these colors have unique properties. All the light combined -- all the hues of color -- make white light, and that's the oneness of which I spoke. When you see light go through a prism, you see the individual colors. But the colors don't pull apart from each other. They are not separate from light. They are held by the energy of love, which holds all those hues together. Think of a leaf for a moment. Each leaf on a tree has its own unique composition. The leaf is a whole leaf, in and of itself, but it's also part of a whole. Everyone has his or her own unique properties and composition. Now let's come back to light. Everyone is a complete hue. But if you try to deviate from the oneness of light, from the oneness of God, your reflection becomes muted. You don't have the clarity necessary to make light. People often talk about artists going through a drought or being burnt out. I've never experienced that. I've never not had an idea. I think if you accept human limitation, you've dimmed your individuality. Sometimes my best inspirations come in the last hour.
Is there anything you'd like to tell young adults about art or life?
- It's not about how you dress, how many tattoos you have, how many earrings you have. It's not about "image." None of that has anything to do with you being an artist.
- Being artistic doesn't mean being rebellious. If you talk differently or dress differently, you're actually being more like most other people.
- To truly be an artist means to find your true spiritual self, because that is the prism through which your talent and vision for art shines.
- True artistry is not external. It's having the self-worth to realize that it's okay to understand that there is a God.
- Without God, it's much more difficult to create and to be truly artistic on a deep level.
- Don't look to other people and their opinions to define you. Human opinions and peer pressure do not define you. That's the herding mentality.
- To try to be included in a group because you want acceptance from a group does not mean you're an individual.
- People say you have to be talented to be an artist. That's not necessarily true. Talent only means you get it quicker.
- You have to be willing to work at what you love. That's what determines your future success -- to stay with it and not give up.
- You're not limited because of parentage or family dynamics. They have nothing to do with your future at being creative, artistic, and successful.
- If it's in your heart, do it! Follow your heart as long as it blesses everyone involved and it's not just selfish.
- It has to bless you, too.