Do You Have A Model of Success?

Find success to model. I found those words scribbled on a scrap of paper in a stack of files. No doubt I wrote them in haste while listening to hours of self-improvement audio or scratched it out between multi-tasking chores. It’s a curious note to myself, with no attribution, no indication of date or what informational product I was consuming. I can find no reference to it in my note-taking files. No explanation for this profound bit of wit or wisdom.

Coming upon this little treasure tag, pondering its meaning, I realized why I needed a push on that point: I don’t have a habit of envy. No one with whom I want to trade places. There is no one I seek to emulate. Nope. Not until I saw Shea Hembrey.


Creatively Hembrey is a rock star. I knew nothing about him, had read no articles, no critiques of his artworks. I was just blown away by the idea of his ideas. I was speechless and transformed. And that is what art is about. You are one person at a moment in time, and after exposure to a creative catalyst, you are someone else.

Hembrey’s playful embrace of the world is worth emulating. Anyone who has approached a blank page or an empty canvas knows it sometimes feels serious, even solemn. But Hembrey goes big, adds a bit of humor, and gets people to join in his adventure. His work is performance art, theater, illusion, intrigue. It’s interesting.

In his TED presentation he explains his Meemaw test, a self-imposed standard of clarity for works in his imaginary Seek Biennial. He judges whether he could explain a submitted work to his grandmother in 5 minutes. If not, he deemed it too hard to understand, too-far removed from his goal of accessibility.

Another goal for which Hembrey strives is for his work to pass the head, heart and hands test. A work must have intellectual value for the head, passion for the heart and be well crafted by the hands.

Can your work pass the head, heart and hands test? Are you stuck in a rut artistically? Have your characters or creations become ho hum? Try these exercises:

  1. Is there a wacky sculptor lurking in your soul? Visualize her tattooed hands working along the stone. Is she whistling? Is she singing? Describe her tools.
  2. How about the oddball whittler who might be sitting on your imaginary porch, with chewing tobacco and spittoon, ready for storytelling in the theater of your mind? Can you hear his voice? Is there an accent? Can you time travel with him to his homeland, to re-create a childhood of long ago?
  3. While sitting quietly, close your eyes and recall a blanket or a fabric from your bedroom as a child. Can you describe the texture, the color, the smell? What does it evoke?

Hembrey came up with 100 personalities to express artistically. In a two-year time span he produced hundreds of pieces of art. Talent like that is worth, if not envy, at least wonder for having created such a body of work.

Do you remember when a particular work of art especially touched you?

Is there an artist or writer who has opened a new way of thinking for you?

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