Essay: Understanding

Art Journal, Artistic Growth, Self Reflection, Thoughts

If you have followed along this far I’m sure it is clear I struggle with my identity as an artist. I’m using both my time traveling across country since October 30th and the 100 Day Project to focus on developing my artistic voice and understanding my motivations. And along the way completely muddling up my website. Your welcome reader.

Today I had a breakthrough. It started two days ago really. I posted a piece of bird wing on Instagram. At first I was going to stop myself out of fear of losing my audience. Instead I went ahead. I decided I need to be authentically me and that includes sharing my inner world. I added a caption about how I saw beauty in life cycles.

That started it, but I didn’t know it.

I’ve been reading books about artists, following art blogs, going to galleries, museums and listening to art related podcasts. You know, immersing myself. Out of this came the idea that there is a thread in my life, specific to my experiences that can inform my work. Other artists could point to childhood memories that easily intertwined with their adult artworks.

I just could not see it.

I always felt like I had to make a choice. And each choice would be leaving behind an aspect of creating that I enjoyed. If I chose painting, I’d have to let go of blockprinting. If I chose drawing I’d never paint. If I did trees, I couldn’t do animals. If I tried a new medium it wouldn’t fit with the rest of my work.

I was missing what my work has been about entirely.

Entirely.

From dead trees, ravens, crows, up-cycling, cats, decaying buildings, dying saguaros, desert vistas, water, spiral symbols, animal bones, skulls, gardening, seasons, the mysteries of world religions, even attention to textures and certain aspects of Japanese culture it’s been about life cycles. And importantly life out of death.

But why?

Perhaps because the day I was born, October 30 (the same day we departed) was the one year anniversary of my Grandmother’s murder. I grew up with that as the dinner conversation for years. My father never got over it. My aunt wrote a fictionalized book inspired by it (absolutely worth reading: available here!). I’d say it was the single most defining event of my childhood.

Then during my twenties, when I most needed to lean on my father for support to go back to school, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He made poor life decisions, leaned on me, and I spent five years watching him die slowly before the real end when I watched him suffer for weeks and eternal days. He didn’t know where he was, let alone who I was. I had a complicated relationship with my Father. It took time to understand his imperfect humanity. When the time comes to say your final goodbyes to a parent or someone with a terminal illness, you too will find complex feelings hidden away to deal with.

After that I chose to work in home health for two years and a nursing home for over four years. (After college I felt no inspiration to do art, until the ink doodles started compulsively taking over and I couldn’t ignore my creative needs anymore). I wanted to give to others the peace I had from knowing my father was cared for. Being close to death was somehow being close to my father. Giving comfort and kindness to the sick and dying was giving it to him, in a way.

For a long time, unconsciously, my art work has been about life after death. Life from death. Beauty in death. I just didn’t know it. I don’t need to change what I’m doing. I just needed to understand it. I can accept and embrace the materials, media and subjects that speak to me. And know I’m giving something to the world uniquely mine that I can be proud of.

Essay: Letting Go

Art Journal, Self Reflection, Thoughts

I’m in the middle of re-learning a life lesson about letting people go right out of my life who, when it comes down to it, are not adding value and quality to my existence. Invest in those who want to invest in you, right? Today a memory has come crawling out of the cobwebbed corner of my brain to resurface. It is time to share this tale and how it’s lessons relate to my art life. Gather round…

I have a sister. A partial sister. An older sister, eight years older. We share the same father. And for a short time she lived with us when I was a child of four or five. I’ll not name her and she doesn’t share my last name. She. She never could be nice to me for more than a few hours it seems. Her visits were few and far between. And I was always so excited to see her, this exotic woman from the west coast with colored hair and a musical voice. Yes she went to school on her voice and sometimes when she visited she’d sing, but not if I asked. How I just wanted a sisterly bond with her. Tragically I will seek that missing bond in all my female friendships (hint: I won’t find it, it is never there).

Years go on and I live my life in Michigan and She lives hers on the West Coast. I’ll try to reach out to her and it’ll fail. When our father becomes ill She comes to visit. Each visit is more contentious than the last. Once we had to be in a car for nine hours together to see our father who was flown to another hospital. I am surprised we made it. When I told her about going to college for fine art her retort was “what are you trying to prove.” I’ve been criticized for being too negative. Told even if I was the taller, my hips were wider. I had a crisis on my first trip by myself when I had everything stolen, She happened to live somewhat near, I asked advice and got “what do you want from me.” Well, we didn’t talk much. Years at a time go by so…

Imagine a beautiful perfect summer morning. I’m on my deck drinking coffee. I have finally adopted a group of artist friends. I have finally started making art again (about ten years out from art school). I am selling work. I am curating shows and doing social media promotions for this artist collective and for myself. This is huge for me. And my sister sends me a message after a year of no contact telling me I’m appropriating her Mother and Step-Father’s Art.

I didn’t mention they are all artists? Established artists, I had to look them up after the confrontation. Two very talented artists with rocking careers that have nothing to worry about from me.

That’s because I’ve never met them and it is so far outside of my reality that I needed that part of the story to kick you in the head the way that day kicked me in the head.

It was a long day. At the end of it I said my piece and severed all ties with my Sister. I have tended in my life to allow people to wipe their feet on me. I have allowed myself to be in borderline abusive relationships. I knowingly allowed myself to be used and conned.

However, attacking my art practice hit a nerve that I didn’t know I had. See, art is my god, worship and meditation. It has saved me from myself over and over. I’m afraid of where I’d be in life without creativity.

I have not missed my sister. She was never there.

It would be a long long long time later that I would realize with dismay the what ifs. What if my sister liked me? She may have had it in her power to introduce me to established artists, galleries and other art world gatekeepers. It never occurred to me all the people they could be connected to. It does now, perversely.

Oh well.

I’d rather have my small art practice and healthy boundaries. And remember to let people go that don’t want to be here and that are not enriching my journey.

New Years Intentions (Resolutions) For the Artist:

Art Journal, Artistic Growth, process, Self Reflection

Organize

One of the best things I did was organize for living on the road. I was sort of organized in my studio… sort of. But now everything is in repurposed tackle boxes and tool boxes and everything. goes. back. where. I. found. it. It has absolutely has to, and I hope these habits continue. I lie, I’m sprawling a little bit into one drawer in the main part of the trailer, but still organized!

Purge

We artists are always collecting materials. Now is a good time to let go of the supplies we know we are not going to use. Some communities have art swaps. Help an artist out?

Plan a body of work

Why not sit down and plan it out. A new body of work. Or try something like the 100 Day Project to get you started.

Write

Reflecting on your thoughts and working through them intentionally will help any artist to really articulate all the thought going into their work. Journal when you’re working and then use that to help with your artist statement.

Read

As artists, we need to know about business, trends, art and find inspiration. I say make it a point to read across the spectrum. Read something to develop you professionally then read something just because it is interesting. I am also on GoodReads. I like keeping track of all the books in my head.

Find Galleries/Venues for potential shows

If you are like me there is this wall here. Let’s make this the year we put together a new thoughtful body of work and while we are doing that let’s look for those venues our work will fit. It is easy with Instagram and LinkedIn to find galleries and get a feel for what they are about.

Above and beyond venues I dare you to dream? I challenge you to look into fueling your creative soul. Are there residencies out there for you? Further education? Destinations with workshops. Are there new skills you want to learn?

Attend Art Events

Just do it you social butterfly you. Opportunities come to those who are present.

Social Media

Figure out how social media can benefit you. Choose your platform, or whittle down platforms and focus on putting quality content out there. It’s free advertising that can bring people back to your website or even generate sales.

Website

It isn’t as bad as you think it is. They make it easy now with tools like WordPress. It’ll be a learning curve, but I promise it’ll be fine. If you have a website this is your reminder to update it.

Get it Together Checklist

  • Bio
  • CV
  • Artist Statement
  • Business Cards
  • Website
  • Social Media
  • Current Body of Work: Documented for Web & Portfolio Use

Do you have any intentions set for yourself as an artist for the coming year or decade? Is there something you think I can add?

Identity Crisis

Art Journal, Thoughts

Today I question who I am as an artist vs. who I want to be. My head is cleaved with ideas I want to pursue and my shoulders weighed down in reality. There are a few things that I know to be true:

  • I get inspiration from literally everywhere. I want to capture the world with my eyes and hands.
  • I cannot create everything.
  • Yet I keep harvesting new inspirations from artists, my environment, online
  • In the future I will have limited space for creating works and storing them.
  • I get bored working in the same medium, I like to explore. I am compelled to.
  • I forget myself and try to make work that will please the world. When I do this I usually fail.
  • I am not a photographer, but I like to take digital photos.
  • I pay attention to textures.
  • I’m drawn to expressive works, but my work is highly controlled and representational.
  • Today I focus on wildlife in my work, but in the past I created emotional biographical works.

Media I have worked in:

Corvid Study no. 1
  • Photoshop
  • Digital photography
  • Acrylic Painting
  • Oil painting
  • Pencil
  • Ink
  • Alcohol ink
  • Up-cycled wood boxes
  • Found beach objects: flotsam mobile type works
  • Acrylic and alcohol ink on up-cycled windows/ canvas/ mixed-media
  • Block printing
  • Clay

Themes that interest me

  • Water
  • Places people leave behind
  • Death and our relationship to it
  • Archetypes
  • Symbolism
  • Patterns in nature
  • Birds
  • Cats
  • Up-cycling
  • Trees
  • Textures
  • Wabi Sabi

What I want:

  • Harvest new experiences and work them into a new body of work
  • Document the metamorphosis
  • Use media creatively, wisely and expressively
  • Narrow down my media choices
  • Find myself as an artist
  • Create fine art, but still have it accessible to a wide range of people.

I am overwhelmed by all the possible ways I could make art. My brain is drowning in ideas and I am paralyzed by choices. The more cerebral I get about the task at hand the more paralyzed and indecisive I am.

Who am I? And what is my art about?