Life Lessons Learned

After reading Pam’s guest blog, a lot of emotions got stirred up around trees. My life is going through a series of rapid changes, and as I cope and adjust as best I can, I visualize myself as a tree firmly grounded yet bending with the wind and change of seasons. So, I’d like to open up more about why trees appear so often in my work and provide a wider context to my work. My intuition is pushing me to include this information as part of my evolution as an artist.

Journey of the Fall © 2012 NATE METZ
Journey of the Fall © 2012 NATE METZ
Trees are very important to me because of the found memories of climbing trees when I was younger (okay, even just last year!). Whenever I picture my happy place it is always in a forest surrounded by beautiful trees. In recovery, my earliest interpretation of a higher power was The Tree of Life. My spiritual journey has taught me the interconnectedness of our lives and symbolically the tree connects the below, the here, and the above … the past, the present, the future. The symbol of the tree goes much deeper, repeating the connecting branching patterns in many areas of nature and appears in most every religious faith. Trees also continue to grow through their entire lifetime, adding a new growth ring each year, always growing.

So what lessons have I learned from trees about my artwork?

I wrapped up my class: Cultivating Collectors with the Art Biz Coach one week ago. I’ve spent the last week reflecting on what I learned in the class (a lot!) and how it dovetails with many other life lessons I’ve experienced in recovery. I honestly believe that what I learn in recovery is much bigger than just sobriety and what I learn in art is much bigger than the work. These lessons are the trunk if you will, rooted in a history and collective wisdom, and then branch out into other areas of life.


  1. I can’t do it all. I can’t do it all alone. I can’t do it all right now. But, start somewhere. Start now.
  2. Practice gratitude daily.
  3. Make a plan. Set goals. Write action steps. Reach for my dreams.
  4. Connect to other people. Find the common ground between us.
  5. Recognize my accomplishments. Honor and reward myself.
  6. Ask for help when I need it.
  7. Enjoy the process. Enjoy the journey.

Thank you for sharing in my journey. I’ll have the next set of my translucence work up soon!

Damn Good Advice – SEVEN

It seems to be the achilles heel: all the talent in the world, but no work ethic to go anywhere with it. It has been stressed to me time and time again by peers, mentors, and my own experience that being an artist takes a lot of work. But, it is the most rewarding to share yourself with the world in this way, enriching the lives of many. I digress though, George Lois, on working yourself to a burnout day in and day out. In my spiral journey I have to keep my drive in balance with the rest of my being. Certainly there are days that I invest more, but to repeat draining activities day after day negatively impacts my art. I need more than a nights sleep to fully recharge: reading, a salt bath, taking my dog on a hike, flying a kite, chilling with friends, or many other options. I’ve learned that devoting my everything to any one thing is not healthy for my quest to be a whole person. So, yes to a work ethic, no to running myself into the ground.

Damn Good Advice – SIX

I am guilty of the infrequent excuses as to why I am not making more art, selling more art, better at my craft. One of my popular day dream remedies is in fact the notion that having better/newer/different tools would allow me to reach my goals. Fact remains it is simple not true. I make great art because of my great ideas, not because of the tech specs listed on the box. I think it is a myth that we are only as good as our resources and means. In reviewing photographs for my book, I was amazed at how good my eye was 10 years ago and that I was still capturing great light, color, textures, and patterns with a much simpler camera than my dSLR and no photo editing software. To that end, much of my photographic journal here on this blog is from my iPhone that has minimal control. With limited controls (read variables), I am able to focus on my idea and not all the other small details. It can be very liberating sometimes. Sometimes. Another great example is this image:

image source

Damn Good Advice – FIVE

Oh yes, here we are again: the rebel. I remember having to take a stand with my work on a few occasions during my school years. I didn’t take art classes in high school and only a couple of electives in college. My primary foundation in creativity were my college fashion design courses. During my study abroad I visited Barcelona and caught inspiration off of Gaudi and the tile mosaics. After 9 months in the incubator upstairs I entered my senior year and began my senior collection. Of the 12-15 looks designed we were to construct 3 for the runway. My masterpiece design was a pair of pants with 2 optional panels (embroidered or chiffon) that converted to capris and again into bermudas, and with one final conversion it became a pencil skirt. Out of 1 pattern I got 5 looks! Here is were I took the stand. My professor only wanted to count this feat of engineering towards one of my final three, but I stood my ground: the pant/short combo for one and the skirt for another. [images below]

And again, I will reiterate: I think it is just dumb to rebel, take a stand, or be outside of the box for sake of being different. Outrageous ideas should still be grounded with a purpose or an intelligent point of view, elsewise the effects of pushing those boundaries will be lost. A wonderful contemporary example is Lady Gaga. I implore you to watch one of her hour-long interviews, listen to the ballad versions and see what an amazingly beautiful, articulate, educated, and talents woman she is. I guess my mentor would say it’s about “having the goods to back it all up!”

As for the excitement of an idea, let me say that upon inspiration and brainstorming new work I operate so well (organized, punctual, error free), adrenaline is coursing through my body (often denying me sleep), and when I have the goods to back it all up I find other people are excited about my work!

Damn Good Advice – FOUR

I can still remember the phone number of the house I lived in when I was a young child. We moved when I was 6 years old, yet that number is imprinted on my memory. Why do I tell you this random factoid? Because my mother wanted us to be careful, and should we ever get lost or kidnapped we would know how to contact her and let her know. I’d say my teenage years had a moderate amount of rebelling against her careful, worried ways.

As for my art, I want to continue to push boundaries and explore ideas that are not readily assessed by our dominant culture. I think that the best art is outside of the box, exactly as Lois describes. But, I disagree in being reckless. It may work for some people and there is nothing wrong with it per se; it is your life, your art. My attitudes have matured in such a way that I can tug at the strings of society without total anarchy. I don’t find it to be necessary to be out of control or ridiculous/flamboyant/crazy for its own sake. I can communicate my message better using wit and sarcasm. And, if at all possible, I much prefer to let my work show you what it has to say without the distractions of my antics or tomfoolery. The agenda is art.

Damn Good Advice – ONE

I’m “Very bright, Industrious” although most of my history has been under type two, which is a damn shame! Seriously though, since taking the Art Biz Liftoff workshop at the end of April, I have been able to maintain my productivity levels for a sustained period that is new to my artwork. I have always had great spurts of productivity and massive amounts of inspiration. At some point, a point that I revisited quite frequently, I would become overwhelmed by the amount of work involved to follow through on art projects and often confusion about how to market my art (anything business related) sapped all gumption from my able-bodied hands and brain. Coupling this cycle with a very strong downturn in my personal life between ’07 and ’10 left my being as an artist for dead. One of the many wonders of talent though is that it cannot be so easily rid of. Slowly and surely I have emerged from the dark aged cocoon into a bright, Y E L L O W, world. This self-identification of being bright and industrious indicates I shall receive great benefit from continuing to listen to the advice of this book. I’m certainly looking forward to some insight that can strengthen my artistic path.

Damn Good Advice – Intro

I received a care package from my bestest friend, who also happens to be an amazing mentor to me and my art, for my birthday this week. Among other things, she sent a book: “Damn Good Advice” by George Lois. I know nothing about this author, but it is filled with examples of great advertising and artistic feats and the lessons we can learn from them. You can read more detail on Phaidon’s website here.

So, why am I telling you all this? I am going to start a new series of posts on my reflections on Lois’ advice. If I have experienced the lesson I want to share what it was like and if I plan to enact a lesson or carry it out then I will tell the whole story. My intuition is that if I write about my experience with tapping into my creative flow and reflect on its impact I will better understand my art. As you know, I have recently re-embraced my work. It feels all together foreign and familiar, so I am taking steps to banish the fears around getting out of my comfort zone.

Today, let’s start with the intro. I certainly identify with being a young, outspoken punk ass kid. My temper can still flash, but the awareness and serenity I’ve gained through spiritual work as certainly tamed that beast. Certainly being a passionate, outspoken person lends itself well to creating impactful art. And, I agree that a dedicated life of art will meet confrontation. I believe any perceived set-back or fight though can be won through the art itself. I like the self-title of cultural provocateur. Recently Alyson Stanfield blogged about what we artists call ourselves. Until the end of April, I stilled identified with my day job and college major: fashion. When I started to refer to myself as an artist and printed business cards that reflected this title, my soul answered and my entire being shifted. I might still try on the title though of cultural provocateur: edgy, a bit dangerous, controversial, radical point-of-view, deep meaning, in-touch with reality. Admittedly, much of the provocation of my work today would be the philosophical and spiritual underpinnings that clash so strongly with the Western culture in which I live. Here’s to making great art that people talk about!

image from