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.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Self Help Selfie

As a lover of self portrait photography, the phenomenon of the "selfie" is fascinating to me. For anyone who doesn't know what a selfie is, it is a self portrait taken with usually a cellphone which are appearing all over Instagram and Facebook. There is an argument that as a society we are very self focused and promoting yourself on social media in this way is only adding to it. My question is perhaps this self focus can actually be used powerful way.

I've recently been re-reading Susannah Conway's book This I Know and she speaks quite a bit about how experiment self portraiture can be incredibly healing. With all the self portraits you take, she advises, there will be some you will look at and say, "Well, that's not half bad." As a woman, I know how incredibly empowering it can be to look yourself in the mirror and be comfortable with what is staring you back in the face, when society is constantly pointing out what I need to "fix".

Admittedly, there was a long period of my life when I was not at peace with what I saw.  As a teenager and in my early twenties I was extremely self-conscious. I aways looked in the mirror with a list of if onlys. If only my nose wasn't so wide. If only my eyes didn't squint up when I smile. If only my face were more narrow. If only I was thinner. Now that I am much closer to 30 than I am 19 there are times when I wish I could go back and shake that poor little girl to tell her nothing at all was wrong with her.

Two weeks ago I was experimenting with lighting and self portraiture when I took one of those, "Hey, this is pretty good" shots. In this face I don't see flaws; I see a person. The lines at my throat from almost 28 years of bending and a deep parenthesis carved into the corners of my mouth are badges of who I am, not something to be worried about. I'm happy I've gotten the opportunity to age. Not everyone has been given the luxury. I'm curious about the other badges I'll carry in the next 30 years. I can assure you, I will have earned and enjoyed every minute of getting them.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Filling the Well and Letting it Rain

Since my long vacation from blogging it has taken me awhile to get back into the habit. Chuck Close once said, "Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us get up and work." Hard work is 90 percent of being a creative. However, there is such a thing as getting burned out. The most difficult thing about being an art school graduate is getting over the exhaustion that comes from working in a studio to make your dead line and getting every work you created picked over in critique. These are valuable experiences that push us to grow as artists (and as people!), but after five years making things lost the joy it once had.

After graduating I didn't paint for nearly two years. I drew some for my science illustration class in grad school, but other than that: nothing. For the last few months I've been itching to work creatively again. The problem is that, I let my well run dry. When you get out of the mindset of creating and plug yourself into just getting up in the morning to log one more twelve-hour shift, it can, quite honestly, drain the life out of you.

Beat it.

Don't let the bastards pull you down.

Get out there. Do what you love and surround yourself with what you love. The more I gorge myself on reproductions of my favorite paintings, wonderful books, and endless nights laughing it up my band of misfit toy friends, the more I want to create. If you want to your best work to rain out of you, you have to be full of something to begin with. Make sure it's good stuff.    
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