Monday, July 6, 2015

Back to Basic

For any blogger or writer, especially those of us who aren't exactly professionals, finding your voice is tough. As I'm sure most of you have noticed I did not make one post on the blog in nearly a year.  I have been blogging on The Wastepapers since 2009 (6 years!), and have nearly lost my urge to do it anymore. Since, blogging has become a growing way for Millennials to make a profitable living so many people have thrown themselves into building businesses and using blogs as their own means professional self-publication, I feel like the creative spirit of blogging that drew so many artists and writers to the medium is dying. That isn't a criticism of those who do make their living off blogging. There is nothing wrong with making money off your blog, there is nothing wrong with using it to promote your brand; in fact, it is phenomenal if you actually can make a living that way. 

Deep in my gut, I feel that I do have that entrepreneurial spirit when it comes to branding and making art. Hell, I have to eat and my skills as an artist have helped me pay my rent. However, I'm done using my blog to do it. As an avid journaller and someone who wants to eventually publish my own books someday, writing is a form of self-expression and way for me to put my life back together. I don't talk about my personal life too much on my blog, but the last three years have been hard. I've changed careers, at times I've been broke to the point where I couldn't afford to run my air conditioner in the middle of July, and in this one year alone I have been in three separate graduate school programs, in three separate departments. Writing and a great therapist have helped me push through it all.

To me for so long art has been business, but writing is mine. In a few weeks I am finally moving away from Mississippi and going back to Athens, Georgia, to get my second masters degree in social work. As I make these changes and embark on yet another adventure, writing will continue to be my pocket therapist to help me adjust and make sense of it all. I want to use my blog to share what I learn a long the way. Maybe my own screw ups and "Ah-ha!" moments will help other creative minds who, also haven't gotten it all figured out yet either know that's its fine that they don't.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


The Little Room Detail, Walter Anderson
"It's been my experience that people who have no experience or training are sometimes the best artists."- James Meade

Those are the words of my college painting and drawing instructor. He makes a valid point. School is about learning the formal aspects of art. Learn the formal aspects as well as you can so you don't even think about the formalities and just paint. Or as Meade put it, "transcribing the human soul".
I don't know as much about the formalities as I should or would like. Letting me speak through visual is difficult. I am fascinated by other people's journals and sketchbooks. They all have inherent qualities of the artist. For some reason, I've never felt like my sketches, paintings and drawings are a true representation of my soul. When I look back at my school sketchbooks, I notice a stiff, brittle drawings. The line quality is devoid of any real feeling.

Before college I painted and drew a lot. I have taken classes since I was 10 years old. I was very rigid in trying to make my drawings as realistic as possible. Almost all of my art projects were copied from photographs and magazines. Even though I tried to capture extreme realism. I hated copying from other sources. I wanted to make it up out of my head. My teachers had other ideas.

This all changed when I met Meade in figure drawing class. His philosophy was, if you are trying to copy something line by line take a picture of it and save your energy. I was thrilled. I could finally stop torturing myself, or so I thought. In class I tried so hard to make good art. I did well in my classes, but I did not realize how expressive my art could be until I worked in an art form I knew nothing about.

Until about four years about I had never worked in clay. As part of being an art education major I had to take two of all the major studio disciplines- two drawing, two painting, two sculpture, and two ceramics. My first year in school I took a ceramics class. I wasn't exactly happy about it. I firmly believed that I was a 2D artist. I was a painter and draftsperson, not a sculptor.
After about a week of classes this attitude changed. I was in love with clay. There were expressive qualities at my disposal I never had in the 2D world of drawing and painting. The push-pull, tactile quality of clay was unique because I could hold my creations in my hands. Nothing separated my touch from the work. I could literally control every part of it.

What was different between clay and my self-declared media is that I was new to it. I was free to experiment and had too because I had no idea what worked. By my second ceramics class that summer I had no fear. I tried every technique I could think of and I didn't care if something didn't work. Some pieces I made were very successful and others that crumbled in the kiln. For the first time I could show myself in what I made. I could finally tell stories and not be literal about it.

That is what I want from my paintings and drawings. I want to unlearn the need to be perfect. I want to make the messes and get ugly this summer. If something doesn't work out, who cares? I can always cut it up and make something that does. Meade told me one time that if I set my heart on every line I make I'll never make it. Now, I'm set to put my heart in the lines. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

August Break

With school and my new job starting soon I'm going to be taking a bit of a painting hiatus to play around with a new medium: photography. August Break is the brain child of one one my favorite blogger/authors, Susannah Conway. The idea is to respond to daily photo prompts over the course of the month of August. 

I am really excited for this chance to play around with a camera. Most of my photos will be shot via Iphone and shared on Instagram. It is amazing how the Iphone can be used a handheld creative medium. Two of my favorite photo apps on the Iphone are A Beautiful Mess and Afterlight. I look forward to seeing what these babies can really do ;) 

Let's see how this goes!  

Friday, July 25, 2014

My Art Journaling Hang Up

Being an artist who has spent years making artwork to be critiqued at school or, more recently, by clients, the concept of just playing around and making art with no purpose but feeling can be intimidating. As an avid journal keeper and artist, I thought that keeping an art journal would be a great way for me to record my experiences. I've only finished a few page spreads, because I initially found art journaling frustrating. The dreaded internal critic in my brain set in and I set it aside for a long time.

My goal has been to get past this critic because I have witnessed how healing making art for art sake can be. I've had a strong interest in art therapy since I worked at a residential mental health facility as an art teacher. I saw several patients, especially the kids, act calmer and seem more at ease after our art sessions. For some of these individuals it was one of the few times they were able to get off their ward other than meals. Making art became a basic instinct for patients to express what can't be said with words. As I've been dealing with some personal issues lately, I'm finding that written words just aren't cutting it right now.

Over the past few weeks I finally started seriously working in my abandoned art journal. I really love the actual book itself. I got it because the pages are extremely thick, so I can do mixed media work in it. The pages don't have much of a tooth for charcoal or conte. For this problem, I simply gesso or prime the pages to add roughness for the medium to stick to. However, they are perfect for pen and ink.

To make myself loosen up I've been working with cheap, non-precious materials like Crayola markers and colored pencils and old random pencils I found in the bottom of the art drawer. Using materials that I would typically associate with my first art making experiences as a child makes the process not as pressured as it would be working on pieces to make money off of or for a client.

While I've been making art for years, I  am a novice keeping an art journal. The following links are to some amazing bloggers and veteran art journalers. Samie-Kira HardingRoben Marie Smith, and Pam Garrison. If you are interested in starting an art journal yourself, these sites will be a big help. Many of them have some great tutorials for material use and even bookbinding.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Battling the Good Taste Gap

First, a small personal update before I start this post. Yesterday, I found out that I was admitted into the Marriage and Family Therapy program I applied to. I was granted an assistantship, meaning free tuition, and an additional stipend. I am absolutely thrilled beyond words. A long time ago I pursued the idea of being an art therapist or some kind of counseling work, but always found myself in the education field. This has never felt like the right fit for me. Teaching is half crowd control, a quality I do not readily possess.  Working with people one-on-one is my strength. I am so excited to have to another chance to purse what I feel like I was meant to do. I start school in August!!

Now to the real post...

I was going through my inspired board on Pinterest today and I ran across this brilliant video I pinned from Ira Glass talks about the point of an artist's career called 'the taste gap'. This is basically where while you create you have stellar taste; you know what is good. You also notice that the work you are producing...well. It isn't so good or at least it isn't lined up with you level of taste. There is a way to bust through this stage.

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

Work. Work like you have never worked before to get through the taste gap. The quicker you get your real learning work done with the quicker you get to your best. In reality, I know we never stop learning and progressing, but there is a point where you can look at your work and say you are established. I am working so hard to be able to get to this point. It isn't easy with a full-time job and now grad school (!!) to push past this plateau.

I recently started an art journal. I don't consider it a sketchbook, but a journal, because sketchbook brings forth the image in my head of concept work and planning for bigger pieces. A journal is something more personal and less precious. I can basically do anything I want in this thing and that is a very liberating feeling to someone who is so use to every mark they make being subject to grading or criticism. Hopefully this will be in the right direction to let go and move closer to closing the taste gap.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Making Art Out of Necessity

In this economy it pays, literally, to have a marketable skill.  For me art is that skill. As of recent, it has also become a source of income along with my day job. My goal is to rake in an additional five hundred dollars a month to get me caught up with my bills. To my surprise and joy, I have met almost half of my goal in the first month. I've sketched a make shift business plan over to keep my goals in perspective.

Perhaps, the most difficult thing about starting a side business is pushing through the desire to work on your own commissions and art when you come home from a full-time job. Studying for the GRE on top of that also adds an other brick to the load. I'm honestly not complaining; it has been a dream of mine for years to work from home. There is nothing in the world quite like being able to be self sufficient off something your make with your own hands and that other people appreciate your work.

There are a few drawbacks to working from home and being your own boss. For example, no one tells you to stop watching Netflix and do your job.  One of my biggest vices it that I'm a horrible self-starter. This makes me sound lazy, but if I don't have to do something I usually don't do it. When you are making art to pay your bills, there is no such thing as working out of inspiration. To quote Chuck Close, "Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us get up and go to work.... All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself."  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Art of Acceptance

I am the type of person who can get bored or restless very easily. I am always thinking about my next step in life: the next town I will move to, my next job, or my next relationship. As my second year of living in Hattiesburg can be seen over the horizon, I am feeling a very familiar itch. While my first instinct is to push ahead to the future, I know what I need to do is stay connected with the present. Sometimes it is necessary to embrace your circumstances and a stillness. I recently read an article on Tinybuddha where the author talked about a time in her life where she was living in a town she wasn't particularly at home in and working for a job she didn't like. Her initial reaction was resistance. This made her daily life quite challenging; however, once she accepted where she was in her life new opportunities.

Practicing acceptance is difficult, especially when we are facing things we can't change. I believe that everything happens for a reason. When I found myself searching for a job after initially giving up on my teaching career, I was very discouraged that I had made the wrong career path and had no idea where to turn. I never could have imagined that a year later I would be back in a classroom again. Right now I am a pre-school teacher, which is honestly one of the most fulfilling jobs I've ever had. It has prompted two major life decisions for me. The first was to plan to return to school next fall for a second master's degree in marriage and family therapy. And the second is to put my art business into motion.

All of these decisions are in a process stage where I will not see any fruition for probably the next months or even years. While there is the temptation to feel frustrated with all the work and waiting, I've finally learned that I have to trust the process. The earth is moving even we don't feel the ground revolving under our feet. At points in my life where I feel like I'm stuck and time is dragging by, I look out my window and realize it's already summer again. Accepting your circumstances is the first step to changing them. Each day has its new opportunities for your life if you allow them. Making the decision to stifling your react with resistance and embracing new challenges will only speed you further on the path you are suppose to be on.

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