I’m really honored that the beautiful expression of a Capricorn that is Beth Pickens has answered these questions in this space. All of her advice is the most grounded, realest magic. She tells anyone who needs to be an artist to keep being an artist, no matter what! And then because she is such a Capricorn she outlines very concrete steps for how to do this. She is an antidote to despair. Follow her on instagram and sign up for her newsletter and buy her book because there is no one who doesn’t need her advice! And enjoy the beauty below.
Beth Pickens is a Los Angeles-based consultant for artists and arts organizations. She is the author of Your Art Will Save Your Life (Feminist Press, 2018). Her pamphlets—Making Art During Fascism and On Artists and Hopelessness—were designed and distributed by The Women’s Center for Creative Work in Los Angeles.
Pickens earned her Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from the University of Missouri. Since 2010, she’s provided career consultation, grant writing, fundraising, and financial, project, and strategic planning services for artists and arts organizations throughout the U.S. She team-teaches an entrepreneurship course at the California Institute of the Arts School of Theater and teaches workshops at universities, companies, and art spaces throughout the U.S.
Before relocating to Los Angeles in 2014, she was based in San Francisco where she served as Senior Program Manager at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and Managing Director of two queer, multidisciplinary arts non-profit organizations. She specializes in supporting queer and trans artists, women, and artists of color. She lives with her wife in LA.
1. What brings you the most joy?
The moments when I have serenity because I'm using my many spiritual tools and practices, these moments are what bring me the most joy. I understand more as I grow older than joy is linked to serenity and surrender; I feel more joyful when I'm working for those. I can be doing the "most fun thing" with "my favorite people" in the an "idyllic environment" and not feel any joy if I'm not spiritually in tune. That's just how my brain is wired (maybe how all our brains are wired?) and it's up to me to do the work so that my interior is capable of feeling the joy of the conditions around me. The more I'm in serenity and connected with a power bigger than myself, the more I find joy in anything and everything and everybody. But, WHOA, when I'm not in that connected space there is really nothing that brings me joy! And this capacity to experience joy changes one day to the next; luckily I understand most of it is up to me.
Actually, I just remembered that gratitude is my pipeline to feeling joy. When I do the work it takes to be grateful (it's a practice, a muscle, a skill) then I have greater capacity for joy.
2. Do you relate to Capricorn characteristics? Which ones?
I really relate to everything Capricorn! Aside from being in the micro-generation Generation Catalano, being Capricorn is one of the group markers I most identify with. Even more these days than being queer, a feminist, Jewish, a Californian! What I relate to most in the Capricornian sphere: I am planted firmly on the earth; I have a lot discipline; I am concerned with financial well being for me, my loved ones, my communities, and my larger world; I have many goals and a plan to reach them; I am very reliable; I am probably a little boring; I understand and can build systems. I often say that where my heart would've been, the zodiac instead placed a very powerful data processing unit. (But I have a Leo moon so I was granted a lot of heart, too!)
3. I see your work as profoundly healing for the artist community, I know it has been for myself and many who I've shared your work with. Where and how do you find healing?
I am so fortunate to have spent most of my life gravitating more and more toward what and who can heal me. For some reason, I was born with an intrinsic desire to have a better life than what was modeled for me in my family of origin and a willingness to do just about anything to get to it. Since I was a teenager, I've understood the transformative power of chosen/logical family. (Nod to Armistead Maupin.) My years of accumulating and learning from/with my chosen family has been a central source of healing. Additional sources: lots of therapy, anxiety meds, 12-step programs, converting to Judaism, feminism, being in community with many lesbians and other queers, meditation, swimming/hiking/yoga, and a deep commitment to being death positive. (Nod to Caitlin Doughty.)
4. What are some things you learn from your clients?
My clients teach me how to be human, how hard it is to be human, and how profoundly human we humans are! I learn constantly that most people are having very similar experiences and kinds of suffering, which I find comforting because it means there is a path out of those suffering woods. They teach me what it is to be an artist, how hard but crucial it is for their lives and the world. I feel profoundly honored to have a job that is centered in supporting artists and building resources for their work.
5. How would you define your own creativity?
At my core, I do not feel like a creative person. Honestly. I never have. An outsider might meet me and hear about my experiences and interests and call me an artist or a creative person but truly I have never identified as an artist and don't find myself to be particularly creative. As a Cap, I'm good at most things I try so, in the end, I can effectively do things that seem creative/artistic on the outside: drawing, writing, creating radio shows, leading food clubs, teaching workshops, making clothes, playing instruments. But really I just like mastering things and reaching goals. Hopelessly Capricornian.
But here's what I am that drives me in a way creativity drives others: curious. (Gemini rising?) I am endlessly curious about the world and everybody in it - past, present, and future. I want to know everything! One of my biggest anxieties about mortality is that I can't read every book I want to read before I die. There's just not enough time. I love learning and want more and more information constantly. This is one reason I love art so much; I get so much information and insight in so many different forms.