Building an artist’s life: Jolie Guillebeau at TEDxConcordiaUPortland

Building an artist’s life: Jolie Guillebeau at TEDxConcordiaUPortland


Wow, you guys are amazing out there! I am so thrilled to be here with you and to be able to share my work with you today. And now that I’m on stage, I thought we might re-arrange things a bit. I’m going to tell you the story of all
1000 plexiglass squares, one by one. It really shouldn’t take us more than four or five hours. Now, really, I do want to tell you the story of these plexiglass squares, plus another one thousand paintings that I’ve created. But I have a feeling that you may appreciate it if I talked about them as a whole, rather than piece by piece. And that is exactly the point. In 2009, I had a terrible year. I had been a high-school teacher for ten years, and I came to my senses and I went back to… I went back to school to fulfill my life goal
of being an artist. And I was an amazing art student. But, once I finished the program, I promptly fell apart. See, I had wanted to be an artist
since I was 7 years old. And I was so close! But I didn’t know what to do next. So… I did nothing! Seriously, I did nothing. I didn’t complete a painting the entire year. I was depressed and miserable, and I didn’t understand why, because I’d finally gotten the qualifications to call myself an artist. Except not really, because artists make art. That’s the very definition of the word. It’s a feel that it’s defined by our actions, not by your qualifications. And I wasn’t making anything,
so that degree was useless. I was too hung up on the idea that, as an artist with a capital A, everything I made needed to be big and grandiose, and glorious. And since I only thought of simple ideas, I ignored them all. But in early 2010, I got fed up. and I determined that I would make something, anything, no matter how small, every single day. And I committed to this publicly. On January 15th, I sent an email
to all my friends and relatives describing my plans to paint 100
paintings in 100 days. Basically, I’d paint a small painting and tell the story about it and then send it out as an email newsletter to at list that grew eventually
to be a few hundred people. It was little like a daily postcard. And out of those first 100 paintings, 87 sold. So… now I was making things, and I was selling them. But I still didn’t feel like an artist. Because there was this voice of judgement and perfection in my head that said: “Real artists paint outdoors, in all sorts of weather.” “Real art requires sacrifice.” And I was only painting things that were fun or easy in my studio. So, I committed to another 100 paintings: Landscapes… outside. During the wettest summer on record. But I still didn’t feel like an artist. Because that voice said: “Real artists paint portraits!” So, I committed to another 100 paintings… Portraits. Basically, every time that voice of judgement popped up I chased it instead of running from it, determined to prove it wrong. So I just kept painting. And this January, four years later, I completed my 1000th daily painting. (Applause) Thank you! I’ve learned a few things along the way, one, small things repeated over time built into something bigger. I’m never going to be the kind of artist that wraps the Empire State Building
in purples around it. I’m the kind of artist that paints dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands
of tiny paintings. I’m happiest when I’m painting
small paintings of things that make me happy. And just the way that many many heartbeats build into a life, hundreds of small paintings
can become something big, and grandiose, and glorious. I am a lifelong bookworm, and when I’m not a bookworm,
I’m a klutz… But two years ago, I started taekwondo. The first step when beginning taekwondo… googling the phone number to the taekwondo studio… (Laughter) The next step: working up the courage
to call and make an appointment to visit. Ten steps after that I tried on the uniform for the first time. Dozens of classes and hundreds of kicks after that, I earned my first promotion to yellow belt. Yes, I repeated these beginner kicks and forms hundreds, maybe thousands of times since then. But every time they built into something bigger. They’ve become the first board break or new color belt. Next Saturday, at about this time, I’ll begin testing for my purple belt. And I have to tell you that I am
more nervous about that than I was about standing on this stage. But I just have to trust that everything I’ve already learned,
all those tiny steps, will build into exactly what I know
I need to do. The next thing I learned… Making lots of things makes it
very clear what matters. I use plexiglass when I teach because it clarifies values as beginners
are learning to draw. The clear plastic, the color plastic, eliminates the distracting details, so that you can see what really matters.
It’s a visual filter. And in the same way, making a thousand paintings, a painting
of thousand plexiglass squares, really clarifies what matters. And for me, what mattered
was being an artist. Sometimes those paintings, those daily paintings, that email was sent out at midnight, because… my day job and other things interfered. But… if I had to choose between a goodnight sleep
and being an artist, I always chose art. The other thing I learned is that it’s not my job to judge the work. It’s only my job to make the work. When you’re painting a thousand paintings, you can’t be too critical because… if the paint drips in a funny way
you have to just go with it. There’re thousands to complete and
you can’t get picky about just one. There’s an arc to the process. Of these 1000 paintings, most are in
the center of the curve. They are pretty good. Some, maybe they’re better than others, but, overall, they are pretty good. There’re a few, at the very top of that curve. and those are the ones where
everything came together beautifully. The paint didn’t drip in a funny way, the plexiglass didn’t chip or crack… The artist wasn’t terribly tired,
or hungry, or grumpy, so she was able to convey exactly
what she wanted to convey. Those are the ones that show
my very best work. They, when I notice them here, I get a little thrilled, looking at them. Of course, if there’s a top to the curve, then there must be a bottom. And yes, some of the paintings,
a few of these paintings… are crap. (Laughter) But here is the thing… I sincerely doubt that you and I would
agree on which one those are. Even last week, as we were
assembling the strands, a few people commented about which
square was their favorite, and I was stunned. But I kept my mouth shut, because
I didn’t want my opinion to interfere with the way they viewed the work. I learned a long time ago that the paintings that I least expected to sell sold out quickly, and some of the paintings that
I’m still most proud of are stacked in my studio right now. My opinion matters very little
once the work is complete. We let that judgement get in the way of the work that we are meant
to do in the world. Even last week… I put up this talk, because I was convinced that you would all
be bored by what I had to say. I spent a whole year of my life
letting that perfectionist rule. And I don’t want that to happen to you. On their own… all of these works are crap. In taekwondo, what matters is not the
one perfectly executed kick, a board break… it’s the way that they are all built
into something big. The daily paintings turned me into an artist. Together, these squares became something big, and grandiose, and glorious. The power isn’t allowing that to happen. If I let judgement or perfectionism
get in the way, if I judge the work too harshly, I’d never be here. Don’t be afraid of making something bad. Be afraid of making nothing at all. (Applause)

Dereck Turner

56 thoughts on “Building an artist’s life: Jolie Guillebeau at TEDxConcordiaUPortland

  1. Xania More says:

    Thanks!  I can relate…

  2. Cindy Fort says:

    Well done, Jolie!  So encouraging to the rest of the artists out here…

  3. Niki Jackson says:

    That was such an inspiring talk, thank you Jolie x

  4. Chandra Achberger says:

    "Many, many heartbeats make a life." Trust yourself.  This is so inspiring @Jolie Guillebeau. Thank You!  

  5. Jane Brajkovich says:

    Love this!!!

  6. Lik Fenix says:

    This talk keeps inspiring me over and over again.

    Today, I remembered Jolie's words about the choice to be an artist over having a good night's sleep 🙂

  7. Cyndi Gonzalez says:

    "We let that judgement get in the way of what we are meant to do in the world." This applies to many aspects of life!

  8. Mama Loves the Beach! says:

    Artist: "A field that's defined by your actions not by your qualifications". I've never been told that anything I make is beautiful so I never saw myself as an "artist". I've always had a camera in my hand but never saw what I made as "art". I stopped waiting for validation and continued to shoot . . . I then slowed down and stopped shooting snapshots and began creating "art". Thank you for speaking to the nagging critical inner voice . . . "Don't be afraid of making something bad, be afraid of making nothing at all . . ."

  9. Shanna S says:

    I bought one of the 100 paintings in 100 days in 2010, and I'm very happy to have played that small part in your success!

  10. Alba Whiteman says:

    well said.

  11. Denise Rouse says:

    love it!

  12. Susan Beekman says:

    So real. How many small steps, small choices, does it take to create an artistic life? Each choice, each risk to create builds something that really matters.

  13. syg B. says:

    Is that chris's wife ?! If so what wonderful couple or should i say the " inspiring couple"

  14. MsCordially says:

    Her glass pieces look nice hanging together, but if each one is one of her 1 paintings a day goal – then i just see little squares with 2 minutes of la la color added to them , not Paintings

  15. Lukas Prochazka says:

    you are still not artist, I call somebody artist because the art he is making is important for his suroundings, society for other people, 5 years old can paint what he likes and makes him happy. Gosh I hate artist like these and she is so big heady about it and egoistic. The one and only thing about art is that it's unique it's original art=artist, you shouldn't find any two artist alike yet she tottaly went by idea of her beeing an artist, she didnt focus at all of her individual traits, point of views, thinking and opinions. And I would better watch one piece of paining that was made at the same time as those 1000 paintings, 1000 paintigs are just booring, too much. Art washes away the dust from everyday life. That's what Piccaso said, and isn't that just opposite way. Everyday I see 1000 cars, 1000 people, 1000 always the samething nothing special but when I see a art that it is not just another piece, it is thought over, that kind of art makes me move, make some real emotional impact on me. Making 1000 paintings was good for you but nor for any audience and art is never for you, it's for others, always. I need to express this because so many people who watched this were influenced and misrepresented what art is. And one last thing that don't mispresent value of art by it's price. If somebody buys your art that means they just like it, it doesnt mean it's valuable, if I would draw naked women all sexist would buy it, yet doesnt mean my drawings are good or valueble.

  16. Keith Meunier says:

    Thank you.

  17. yaughtagirl says:

    awesome talk. so much clarity and unification. I'm looking forward to my own kicks. Thanks Jolie.

  18. Margaret Howard says:

    excellent, be afraid of making nothing at all…

  19. Phoebe says:

    Awesome talk, I wasn't bored at all. 😃

  20. Marlene Lee says:

    I pulled out two quotes from Jolie – "The daily painting turn me into an artist" (11:48) and "Don't be afraid of making something bad; be afraid of making nothing at all" (12:15)

  21. Brad Blackman says:

    I deal with these doubts all the time. It's been X number of days or months since I last painted. It sounds like the trick is to be easy on yourself and not judge yourself too harshly. "Don't be afraid of making something bad; be afraid of making nothing at all."

  22. Crewchief 227 says:

    I am a degree holding artist as well, and I did kinda the same thing, but it was a promise to paint a minimum of 4 hours a day everyday. 5 years later I have still been going strong and I produce. I absolutely hate when I see an artist with talent go weeks or months without painting cause life got in the way. And yes I have canvas fright sometimes, where I will stare for an hour at a blank canvas completely clueless as to what to paint. At which point sometimes I just start laying color backgrounds and the rest just comes. Get off your ass and do it people, today is here and tomorrow never comes to those standing still.

  23. Doapsique Gaming says:

    I've noticed something lately: that TED talks can really be devided into two simply categories. 1) are the ineffectual blowhards who love to hear themselves talk but aren't any more helpful then hemorrhoids. And these talks fool a lot of people because I read the comments of people defending them, but these same advocates can't name a single substantial piece of info that was spoken. It's as if (much like a suit and tie) the TED stage automatically makes the foolish trusting in what the speaker is saying. 2) Would be the speakers who, if you're paying close enough attention, can change your life forever. This talk would fall in the latter category.

  24. Tim Greig says:

    Great talk. Well done +Jolie Guillebeau. I'm off to order 52 panels for next year… (it's a start!)

  25. Sebastian Featherstone says:

    Great advice. Takeaway: "Don't be afraid of making something bad. Be afraid of making nothing at all." I can totally relate. Thank you.

  26. NIAZ HANNAN says:

    Very inspiring..I got a lesson 🙂

  27. Shanika Wijesinghe says:

    You are very brave.

  28. sayanskywolf13 says:

    i really needed this right now, thank you

  29. Rrdd says:

    i, me, me, i me, me, thank you. (ted talk in a nut shell)

  30. iestyn edwards says:

    So love this…she's brilliant.

  31. Luna Tusuna says:

    This deserves way more likes. I think she covered some of the essential lessons for every artist, young and old.

  32. gloobnord says:

    Another self satisfied terd who believes what people say about her. Her coyness and lecture style is like watching daddy's little girl.

  33. Lis Engel says:

    Many heart beats build into a life – every act you do will define what you become –

  34. Lis Engel says:

    Great talk – and I really agree that you learn a lot by showing your paintings and accept that when finished it get a life of its own –

  35. Gypsy ThaPoetryGod says:

    Love it

  36. Richard Barksdale says:

    You are right I thought this was going to be boring but I watched the whole wonderful program and learned a lot

  37. 4:3 Land says:

    Quality over quantity. My best work would never be something I could complete in a day.

  38. Towela Kams says:

    I can't explain how grateful I am for watching this as a struggling photographic artist. Thank you so much for sharing, Jolie.

  39. S. Gillespie says:

    The emperor wears no clothes!

  40. Joy Drane says:

    I love this. Thank You for sharing , Jolie Guillebeau.

  41. Very Private Gallery says:

    I talked to many artists who have a voice inside of their head: “real artists don’t talk about money!” And it made them extremely hard to work with, and made their financial situations very difficult.

  42. MundoMiyabi en Español says:

    Loved this. Exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you for this. 🙂

  43. Minka Dior says:

    OMG I am so grateful for you having enough courage to give this talk!!!!! Thank You! " be afraid of making nothing at all '

  44. Willi Reisdorf says:

    Thank you!

  45. Danquis Creation says:

    I love this speech. Its so inspiring. The best thing to do is to just keep painting and thats great. You never know which painting is going to advance your career and small victories equals bigger victories. Plus its more cost effective to paint small paintings on tiny objects that are cheap and the paint lasts longer.

  46. Lola Apelt says:

    Very, very encouraging. You never know who needs your art….and I like how it turns out that the art she loved wasn't necessarily what others were drawn to. Just go make the art! 🙂

  47. sgarrisphotos says:

    I completely identify with Jollie. I’m an elementary art teacher and I still find it weird to call myself an artist, but my students often tell me that I’m a famous artist. I always tell them that maybe to them I am, but to the world I’m very far from being a famous artist.

  48. mkorpal1 says:

    Very inspiring

  49. Laurelwood Studio says:

    Love this message – thank you!

  50. 2225ram says:

    This helps me as an artist! Thank you! ❤️

  51. Mahadeb Roy says:

    I want my passion i.e. painting into my profession….i want to go abroad for my paintings…plz bless me

  52. Zilah Kane Art says:

    Thanks for sharing. A drawing a day is something I would like to do

  53. Sharon Bacal says:

    One of the most inspiring art talks on the web. I am so impressed with the journey which led to Jolie becoming an artist and the perspective of judgment, hers and others, after the work is put out into the world. Thank you for this inspiration. I would love to hear more from her.

  54. Bernadette Tibazi says:

    Thank you!! That was wonderful and truly inspiring!

  55. Odue says:

    I don't get why people think that they can only call themselves "artist", if they find an audience for their work.
    Totally lame mindset. Make art for arts sake, not to be an artist.

  56. Greg Hammond says:

    Who isnt an artist?

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