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This is the image on my business cards. It’s also the background on my blog, and it’s here and there on my website. If you’ve been the recipient of any of my ceramics, my artist’s signature has a stylized dragonfly with it and I have a stamp of one that I hide on the underside of the handles of mugs.

So you well might ask, “Hey, LJ, what’s with all the dragonflies?”

Some folks might look at the repeated motif and shrug, thinking it’s simply an aesthetic thing. It’s pretty typical for girls to like butterflies and dragonflies and sure, they are beautiful, but that’s not why I have adopted the dragonfly as a personal symbol.

This little fellow came by to see what I was writing.

This little fellow came by to see what I was writing.

Dragonflies are not simply elegant winged creatures. They are predators. They own the skies when it comes to other flying insects, and are brutally efficient, capturing 95% of the prey they go after, according to this NYT article. They are also ridiculously maneuverable, thanks to 4 wings that can each be moved independently, and have some of the best vision and an ability to track moving objects of anything that flies.

So they are an interesting contradiction:  ethereal and deadly.

* * *

The life of an artist (and here I mean artist broadly: painter, musician, writer, etc) is not generally kind. Those of us driven to create are not always easy to live with. We pursue our vision with a single minded intensity that can (at best) bemuse and (at worst) infuriate those around us. We spend days/week/months/years struggling to bring to concrete life something we have only glimpsed in our imaginations and then we set it out for the world to pass judgement upon. And that’s not even taking money into consideration. Because an artist needs to eat. Therefore, they must sell their work.

Most of us have to have another source of income and stability, both because art is not typically something one can create on an assembly line to purchaser demand and because artistic work is terribly undervalued in a consumerist society.

So we have a perfect storm: challenging work, unpredictable production, and minimal remuneration. Any artist who plans to succeed needs to find the inner resources to not only withstand that storm, but to embrace its challenge.

* * *

Is it any wonder that my personal symbol of survival as an artist is a dragonfly?

* * *

It always amuses me when someone compliments the design of my writing business cards. “Oh, how beautiful,” they say. And I smile, because they only see what’s on the surface—the characteristic swept-back wings, the jewel colors, the delicacy of what appears to be a dainty insect. But I know better.

Yes, I embrace beauty. Yes, I appreciate the aesthetic. Yes, there is all that, but so much more, both to me and to the dragonfly.

In my life and in my art, I choose to follow its wisdom: Be relentless. Be fierce. Be lovely.

 

 

 

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