Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about how my personal artistic media choices can be interpreted as a self portrait in and of themselves. These tools, techniques and materials anchor me firmly in my own past as well. It’s interesting how they all are shaped into the artwork that I create.
Overthink something? Me?
Initially, the metaphor came to me while I was waiting for the bus sometime last week. The metaphor being, that I am much like the artwork that I create.
I’m a bunch of (seemingly) haphazardly selected bits of cardboard. That are cut and glued together in <almost> a symmetrical manner. Then covered with loads of old, torn newspapers and glue. Then slathered in layer after layer after layer of gesso, paint and sealant. And finally decorated in a way that would make an ancient Roman think, “Hmmm…perhaps a little less would be better?”
Please allow me pick-apart and explain my own clumsy metaphor.
Used for the substructure. Never, ever meant by me to be seen, much less understood completely. Seen by most people as trash. Or perhaps something that needs to be put out and recycled into something better.
Even when I’m making a concerted effort to be symmetrical in the creation of my artwork, it is almost never quite correct. It’s never completely even. Exact symmetry makes me uneasy in that lizard-like part of my brain.
Again, something that most people see as trash or recycling or both. However, a newspaper has an original purpose. It delivers the news and information that a community needs to know. From the weather report, to cultural events, to major decisions made in all levels of government, all the way back to movie times and advertisements for local businesses. Newspapers are meant to teach and inform.
Layer after layer after layer:
Even to me, this seems a rather good stand-in for the physical human form. Tendons, muscles, veins, fat, skin, bone, teeth, etc.
Yes. I do seem to fear an undecorated square centimeter in my finished artwork. To me, decoration is like Jell-o, ‘there’s always room for more‘ as I see things. It keeps the viewers eyes moving from here to there. If their eyes stop, they might see a flaw.
This is very much a fear-generated coping mechanism of my own psyche. Rooted in the intense and sometimes debilitating fear that I am completely unworthy of any kind of friendship, love or admiration in any way, shape or form by those around me.
So what does this mean?
In a nutshell, it means that my choice of artistic media and accompanying techniques are right for me. Mediums like clay and wood are ones that I find very attractive. They each have their own unique ways in which an artist can express themselves. However much I love working in them, they don’t fit me like the paper mâché work I have been creating fits me.
I derive a similar level of personal creative satisfaction from paper mâché as I do from sewing and doing needle work by hand. My aforementioned clumsy metaphor regarding my utilization of a paper mâché technique gives me something to anchor that sense of creative satisfaction to.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again on Friday.
The last week hasn’t been the best emotionally speaking. Everything I’m doing regarding my business seems to be wrong. And if not exactly wrong, sideways at least.
The reasons for my current emotionally low state is that I’ve been watching my views on Instagram drop, and then drop again (katie_kinsman_in_finland and go_marielle_go). This is also true for my website and shop traffic as well. If you have a website that you post on regularly, and see that not a single person has been to your site in over a week…well, then you know what I’m talking about.
To be very blunt, it all makes me just feel like crap.
“Every artist is in the same boat!” No. Nope. NOPE. We’re not going to talk about that right here and right now. That’s another post for another day.
Setting up the mental equation
I don’t like my current state of mind. Petulant and childish is how I categorize it. I call it my ‘kindergarten self’. A large part of me wants to stamp her feet, gather up all of her artwork and yell, “FINE! I’ll just take all my things and leave!” For a person my age, it’s not a pretty picture.
When I’m feeling like this, there is a part of me that seriously wants to pile all my work up down on the beach and light it on fire. The petulant emotions rationalize this by saying, “If the work isn’t ever going to sell. Then get rid of it permanently.” Thoughts like this don’t sound rooted in reality, do they?
My weird logic
I’m not saying that any of the above makes sense. But there is some logic to it, at least when I examine my emotions. In past blog posts, I’ve talked at length about how the creation of artwork for me is therapy. A great deal of therapeutic good is gained by me in the creating of my artwork. Making art and taking my medication keeps me functional. Instead of curled up into a ball and crying all day.
The artwork itself almost becomes a byproduct of my never-ending, vigilant defense of my sustained good mental health. Selling the artwork would seem like a good idea then. To be blunt, it’s the artwork serving double-duty for me. I’ve already gained personal mental health benefits. The monies gained by the selling of the artwork then gives me means by which to contribute to my other physical needs, like food, clothing and shelter.
When the artwork doesn’t sell. And doesn’t sell. And it still doesn’t sell. Well, then the positive mental health benefits of creating the artwork begin to fade away. The artwork begins to mock me. It becomes a physical reminder or my personal failure.
Dark sticky thoughts begin to creep into my mind, like “If your art was any good, it would sell.” and “You’re not an artist. You’re a hack.” These thoughts leave their mucky little foot prints everywhere inside my mind. Making me feel more petulant and more childish.
It should be stated, I’m in no danger of losing my grip on reality. Remember, I take my medication every day. And am constantly monitoring my mental and emotional states. What I’m experiencing right now is just the frustrations of an entrepreneur who lacks customers for her product.
As always, I’m not that special.
There is nothing special in my circumstances at present. I know that I’m simply weathering something that every small business owner has weathered before me. Some manner of action is required to alter the direction of my sales and website traffic toward something more positive.
Fortune has granted me a husband with a degree in business and marketing. Any questions that I have, we discuss at length. He knows me, my artwork, and where I hope to take my business in the future. The advice he offers is priceless to me. I cannot imagine trying to start a small business without having someone on whom I can rely for good business and marketing advice.
My husband and I have discussed several different avenues of action over the past few days. I’ve chosen one to begin working on this week.
Yup. I’m going to be creating a Patreon account. I’ve been working out how I want to construct a Patreon account for a few months now. There are things that I want to do that I think may be successful on the Patreon platform that I’ve outlined.
Starting a Patreon account is going to require me to shift some things around. But I hope to fold-in some of the other big projects on my desk into a Patreon account. In this way, I won’t be doubling or tripling my work load. It’s my hope to have the Patreon account up and running by the middle of next week.
Again, I am under no illusion regarding the ability of Patreon to make me tons of money. As with many entrepreneurial ventures, it’s more or less a crap-shoot. It may work. And it may not work. I could make no money at all, and have to close the account entirely.
The world, such as it is right now (gestures broadly at everything) means that a lot of artistic and creative people are opening Patreon accounts to see if they can at least make a small amount of money to contribute to their living expenses.
I keep referring to Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena“. I know I’m not attempting some deed of daring do. But the fact of the matter is, I need to do something. If Patreon doesn’t work. I’ll have to “make-up something quick”
There are other things that I will be working on along with a Patreon launch. All of them in hopes that something sticks. That something actually works.
Thank you for reading, and if you’re still reading at this point, I will offer the first person who contacts me (via email: email@example.com) a 30% discount on anything they wish to purchase from my shop. The offer is valid for 24 hours only and ends at 12:15 EET, 20 October 2020. (THIS OFFER HAS NOW EXPIRED.)
If you read my post from on 21 September, you know that the idea of where and how I can best spend my time as an entrepreneur. Social media platforms that are taking up too much of my finite time and creative energies are going to be dropped. Those social media platforms that I feel are worth the time and effort I expend to maintain will continue to be used. With the hopes that my small business will continue to grow.
That all being said, there are adjoining concepts regarding time, energies, costs and value that are never far from the forefront of my mind. Some of these concepts and ideas bleed off into other sociocultural areas that I feel ill-prepared to navigate. In many cases, my personal beliefs are at odds with the current zeitgeist.
There have been many times in the past in which I’ve stated that being raised in the US has impressed upon me certain beliefs regarding how I personally interpret buying, selling, marketing, consuming products, etc. “Eat quickly, drive faster, and make more money now!” (1) is a lyric that comes to mind when I ponder how being a US citizen consumer has shaped my personal and professional perceptions.
To that end, it’s been imprinted upon me that a thing is valued if it’s popular. If everyone has one, and you’re the only one without it, that’s bad. You need to fall in line and buy those things that will make you part of the larger group. Being a teenager during the 1980’s really hammered some of this home to me.
There’s an initial psychological buy-in that happens. Mostly without a person being completely aware of it. You see a an object (clothing, car, house, toy, food, etc.) everywhere. Advertising via print media, through the radio, internet, television. Even the movies, television and music deliver advertising. Soon, buying these things seem like your idea. And not something that has been put into your mind.
What is the Value of an Object?
The value of an object is determined by a lot of different factors. In fact, it seems like something that is ever-changing, especially when it’s related to the products of visual and performing artists. Trends can make something popular one minute, and out of style the next. Fashion is a good example of that.
The availability of an object also determines its value. This can easily be seen at an auction of fine art at an auction house like Sotherby’s. Vincent van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet was sold for $82.5 at Sotherby’s in 1990. Society has decided that van Gogh’s work is extremely valuable. Van Gogh is dead so there are a finite amount of pieces of his work. Scarcity can make for high prices.
What does this mean for me as an artist?
First of all, I’m no freakin’ Vincent van Gogh. I’m not even within the same art-making universe as him. What it does bring to mind is that I’m constantly creating artwork. Constantly. Regardless of whether it sells or not. Does this mean I’ve flooded the market? Too many original Katie Kinsman artistic creations out there in the world perhaps?
No. I don’t think that’s it. I do sometimes wonder if there are people who want to purchase my work, but are just waiting for me to have a big honkin’ sale. Or, my work may be selling because people just don’t like it. There are also (gestures with hands at relatively everything going on in the world right now) economic reasons why people are not buying things like artwork right now. Many other things are taking precedence over purchasing artwork. Food, clothing and shelter come immediately to mind.
The cost gets me coming and going as an artist. There is the up-front costs that I pay to create the artwork that I do. I don’t mean just the cost of the supplies. My time is a large hunk of that up-front cost, as well as my creative energies.
Material and supply costs are easy to figure. It’s all numbers. I keep track of what I spend on my materials and supplies, as well as shipping and handling for any pieces I do sell. Time is another that’s easier to calculate. But as I’ve written about previously, trying to make sure that I get even a US minimum wage from the time I put into my artwork isn’t possible. No for a non-entity like me on the art stage.
When it comes to creative energies, which I will agree is also related a to the expenditure of my time, that’s something that less quantifiable in strict numbers-sense. It’s where the ideas come from, intertwined with my knowledge and experience. Those creative energies are very much part of who I am as an individual. It’s difficult to attach a number to that.
Yeah, but what do I get out of it?
But the important thing is, I will continue to to create artwork even if I never show it on social media platforms. Or if I never sell another piece of artwork. I make the artwork that I do because the value to me, in the form of therapy, keeps me mentally and emotionally spackled-together. THAT is the value of my artwork to ME.
If there are other people who like my artwork and wish to give me money for it. Terrific! If not. Then. Okay. Go on then and do you then. Just not in relation to my artwork.
Then gate keepers determine value:
Gate keepers (2) are everywhere. In every type of work. They make sure that there are qualifications and credentials for professionals that must be attained before being a teacher, nurse, lawyer, architects, accountants, engineers, bankers, etc. In the art world, the gate keepers are gallery owners, shop owners, and museum curators to name a few (I’m leaving out the performing arts for now.). If an artists work doesn’t get past these people, then the art work will not be shown or promoted to the art viewing/ purchasing public.
The internet and the boom of social media platforms that have resulted have given artists a larger platform in general to share and promote their artwork. My artwork has been seen by more people in the past five years on Instagram than in the my previous thirty years of creating my art.
What I’ve come to realize in the past few months is that Instagram is just as much of a gate keeper as any art gallery owner. They just exert their gate keeping through algorithms instead of declining to show my artwork in their gallery. Instagram will show my artwork, but just enough. Then they would like me to pay to get greater exposure.
They want me to pay to advertise.
Back to costs and value:
Okay. I’ll admit it. From the beginning, I was näive as all get-out regarding Facebook and Instagram. As an creative art entrepreneur, I took full advantage of the free-ness of each of these platforms. Over the past three weeks, Instagram has become rather aggressive in it’s attempts to get me to buy ads on the platform. So far, I’ve resisted.
I’ve resisted because I have no money to spend on advertising. Zero. Zilch. Nada. None.(3) Not 20¢. Not 2€. Instagram has been putting a lot, and I mean A LOT of Finnish artists into my Instagram feed that are buying ads. I’ve noticed it. I know what they’re doing. And it’s gonna take a lot more to convince me to purchase ads on the platform.
Do I value the ads? I suppose so. I know that they are worth something. That something being, “more eyes on my artwork”. But more eyes on my artwork can easily translate into more likes of my artwork. The thing is though, likin’ ain’t buyin’. If I cannot be guaranteed a boost in my sales figures, then I’m not biting.
I will admit. I still have a lot of research to do on the subject of purchasing Instagram ads. I will rule nothing out at this juncture.
So now what?
This has been a long and rambling post. Value and cost, related to my artwork and the sale of it, are at times monolithic concepts that tread on an unsound mental and emotional path for me. Separating my personal value as a human being from the value of the artwork I create gets extremely complicated for me.
When a person tries to get me to come down in price on my artwork, it’s as though they are making me as a human being feel as if I’m of less value. In the past, I’v heard a potential customer say, “I could buy four dolls at Walmart for what you’re asking for one doll!” They value quantity over quality I suppose. But yeah, you go be you. Walmart’s waiting.
And on that less than upbeat note, thanks for reading. I’ll see you again next Monday.
(2) This is really a not great webpage to read, but it gives a pretty good idea of what an art gate keeper does and how they might be thinking. Mihaly Csiikszenmihaly is a good read if you’re interested in creativity.
(3) “Zero. Zilch. Nada. None.” is a line from a drag queen called Jiggly Calliente song called ‘I Don’t Give a Fnck‘. It is NSFW. NOT. SAFE. FOR. WORK. Or children, small animals or little granny ladies.
LA Money Train, Rollins Band, Get Some Go Again (2000) This song is a cutting review of American culture. Henry does not mince words in this song. I love Rollins. He’s an American treasure.
Over the past few months, I’ve devoted a sizable amount of time to exploring various directions in which I could take my artwork and my online presence. Changes have been made to how I’m posting online. These have changes have made me so much more content mentally and emotionally. But, being the type of creative person that I am, I have a rather compulsive need to explore new ways in which to make art. New sets of skills, materials and techniques are always something that I’m interested in!
New Direction Inspiration:
While I was brainstorming, I realized that one aspect of sharing my artwork that I enjoyed a great deal was storytelling. When I was creating my online shop, I spent a great deal of time creating unique stories for each of the dolls that I’ve created. Some of the stories came about while I was in the act of creating the doll itself. Others came about after I had some time to sit with the doll and let my imagination take over.
I could clearly see these little dolls moving about on their own. Doing all kinds of things. Having friends and playmates. Going places. Being independent little creations going out into the world with complete personalities, ready to explore! This may sound strange to those who are not creators. It may sound childish or juvenile to some. But it’s the way my brain works. I tend to lean into it.
If you’ve been following me here or my Instagram for any length of time, you know that I’ve been working on a series of small dolls since the early part of this year. The current size of dolls I’m creating are 12 cm tall. They are the perfect size for 1:12 scale dollhouse furniture. Perhaps this is what pushed me across that invisible line. And made me connect some dots.
Once I had decided that I wanted to tell stories with my dolls, then I had to figure out how to do it. Honestly, it sounds like a pretty simple thing, doesn’t it?
Create a doll. Write a story for the doll. Make the doll act out the story you wrote.
Easy-peasy, right?! The more that I thought about it, the more complicated the whole idea became. There were so many small moving parts to my idea. Each of them generated questions that needed to be answered. This was a little overwhelming at first. There were just so many things that I felt could go really wrong.
There were small nit-picky questions like: Was I going to construct the sets myself? How would I do that? What materials would I use? Where would I store them? Could I reuse them in the storytelling? Would that limit the kinds of stories that I wanted to tell? What about the photos? Do I have the right camera for this? How am I going to process the photos?
Bigger, weightier questions: was I going to be able to create the artwork on a reliable schedule? Was the artwork that I was creating going to be good enough to share? Would the work make me look like a talentless fool? How could I utilize my limitations to my advantage creatively?!
There are times in which the fear can take over, and make you backdown. Fortunately, my internal need to create art over-road any and all of my fears.
I decided to take the leap with the little doll Marielle.
There are times that I fall completely in love with a doll from the very start. Marielle is one of those dolls. She is just the sweetest little doll! Hence, she was the natural choice to be the face of Go Marielle! Her name is pronounced MAH-ree-ehl-leh, because she’s a little Finnish girl. She’s a little girl who likes going to new places and having adventures! Go Marielle! translates to Mene Marielle! in Finnish, which I like a lot.
Currently, my plan is that I will be posting Go Marielle! stories in parts every Friday to my Instagram to start. Again, I have ideas of where I want to go and what I want to do with this idea. And things may change. It’s important for me to have an outline, but not one that is so restrictive that it’s hard to manage. Or, an outline that becomes stifling to my creativity. That is never good.
Hopefully, those who read Go Marielle! will enjoy the pictures and the stories!
Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Friday,
Understanding the harmful and the happiest parts of my life:
There is always meaning behind the work that I create. There are times in which I’m not immediately aware of the meaning behind the images, forms and styles that I’m employing. It’s there though. It’s working away quietly behind the scenes. It’s through the discovery of the meaning behind the work that I’m able to learn more about who I am and why I think and feel the ways that I do. It allows me not to lurch from ‘knee-jerk reaction’ to ‘knee-jerk reaction’ through life. I need to know why I am the way I am. It’s the only way I can see to find a way in the world.
There are things that I have learned about myself through the creation of Shirley that shines a light on some of the more unfortunate bits of my past. The maladjusted portions of my child and young adulthood that have gotten wedged inside of my mind. Those bits that won’t budge. In this piece, Shirley, I find myself questioning the incongruity of how the best and most precious parts of my childhood can be so inexplicably entangled within some of the earliest, most damaging emotionally warping experiences of my life. Each of these things have shaped me as a person. How can these things be both shitty and happy at the same time?
The five words become five phrases:
From a very early age, I can remember feeling like I wasn’t what I was expected to be. The older I became, the more I heard the same five words used to describe me: loud, obnoxious, selfish, fat and ugly. I can hear people say, “But come on! Kids can be mean. You got bullied, BIG DEAL! Get over it! Everybody gets bullied for something when they’re a kid!”
Okay. I’ll address that. The first three (loud, obnoxious, selfish) were said to me by my mother. Repeatedly. The fourth was addressed by my mother via the never-ending series of diets I was placed on as a child and teenager. The fifth was used as “You’d be so pretty if you lost weight.” and “You have such a pretty face!” I inferred that I would not be ugly if I was not fat. If I stayed fat, then I was, by default, ugly.
Believe me, middle and high school boys let me know what a fat, ugly, dog I was. And yes. That still stings like all holy hell, even today. Because my mother had let me know what parts of me she personally found so wrong, so lacking, that somehow, the negative reaction of the boys I had crushes on in school were somehow justified. They were just seeing what my own mother saw in me, mentally and physically.
Because of this, these five phases took root within my psyche:
I am loud.
I am obnoxious.
I am selfish.
I am fat.
I am ugly.
How they affect my existence:
These five phrases are deeply fixed within my identity. The roots are have wrapped themselves in, around and through every single, solitary experience of my entire life. I am never, ever without them at the forefront of my thoughts. I cringe inwardly when asked to introduce myself, or tell someone a bit about myself. The five phrases flash across my brain. I have to consciously tell myself not to say them out loud to people. Often, I fall short of describing myself in anything that could be remotely construed as positive terms. More often than not, I blurt out something self deprecating and incredibly off-putting. Part of me feels like not saying the five phrases out loud is a victory.
I was taught from an extremely early age, that what people think of me is incredibly important. The five phrases, while they were my truth, needed to be disguised, or somehow made more palatable. A semblance of normality needed to be presented to those around me. This was done in the hopes that: 1.) people would take pity ugly, fat girl, and let me be their friend and 2.) to make myself an indispensable workhorse type of person that made my presence less disgusting because I could do x, y, or z well. It didn’t matter what I felt inside. It didn’t matter how my negative self-image damaged me internally. As long as I could fake-it until I made it, all was good.
Then I met, fell in love with and married a man who loves completely unconditionally for who and what I am. This was and is to a great extent, still extremely weird to me. My husband understands me. Well, as much as any one person can understand another. His presence coupled with time and distance from the people and conditions that formed the five phrases within me, has been beneficial to my mental health. This started the inevitable destruction of my extensive mental work-arounds and fronts. It’s only natural that the artwork that I create began reflecting these changes.
Finland Changed Many Things:
With Shirley, I decided to bring the phrases out into the light and place them right along side some of those happy memories of childhood. The five phases were turned into questions. A choice was made to ask them in Finnish. Why? Because living in Finland has changed me. It has changed my artwork. It has fundamentally changed my point of view on many things.
Oletko äänekäs? (Am I loud?)
Olenko vastenmielinen? (Am I obnoxious?)
Olenko itsekäs? (Am I selfish?)
Olenko lihava? (Am I fat?)
Olenko minä ruma? (Am I ugly?)
To be totally honest, I’m not sure how to answer these questions. It is interesting to filter these thoughts through a different language and a culture that is at times similar to, yet very different from my own though. The sting is removed from the words. The words become easily teased apart into free-floating letters. When I picture the time in which the five phrases were planted within me, they are not with these words or pronunciations. I can more easily dissect these words. There is an emotional distance that isn’t provided in my mother tongue.
Yeah. I know. The English words of the five phrases are big and in yellow. The Finnish is smaller, in blue and is kind of just floating around the bigger words. Rome wasn’t built in a day. And over forty years of internalized pain are not extinguished with the completion of one piece of artwork. The completion of Shirley is the first volley of fire in a long battle.
Reactions to Shirley so far:
It’s interesting that there have been almost no comments made regarding the five words or phrases. In fact, there has been exactly one. A friend expressed said that she had similar types of thoughts running through her head. She said that she doesn’t see me that way. This made me wonder if I’ve made people uncomfortable with these five phrases. My admissions to dark, depressing and malformed ways of thinking about myself. Perhaps they think I think that way about them? No. I reserve all my poison for myself.
Is it that people don’t know how to respond to them? Should they agree with me? Would that be insulting to me? Are they put-off by the way in which I think about myself? Does that mean there are people out there that don’t think of themselves in the most negative terms?! How is that even possible?! Do they think it’s some kind of trap? Like, I’m luring them out so that they will admit they think this way about me? Or maybe they just think one or two of these things about me?
Yeah. I’ll own-up to fat.
Are people embarrassed that they maaaaybe think these things about me?
There’s a quote by Regina Brett, that has been expanded upon by RuPaul Charles “What other people think of me is not my business. What I do is what I do. How people see me doesn’t change what I decide to do.”
I don’t think I’m anywhere near living up to that quote. Someday, I might get there. Anything’s possible.
Thank you for reading, and I will see you again soon,
My time away from social media is quickly coming to an end. The break has been of great benefit to me in a variety of ways. I feel as though I have a better idea of how I want to use social media in the future so that I don’t find myself painted into yet another painful mental or emotional corner. It’s also allowed me to create art without feeling as though I have to publish every single part of my personal artistic processes.
While I’ve been taking a break, I’ve also been working on where I want to take my website in the future. I’m adding a storefront (via WooCommerce) to my site, that I hope will make it easier for customers to locate and purchase my artwork. The storefront will allow customers to simply point and click to purchase artwork, instead of contacting me personally to discuss the availability, cost and shipping of specific pieces of artwork.
I have to admit, website construction is not something that I find myself enjoying a lot. I’ve spent the greater part of the past three days crawling around in the bowels of my site, archiving blog posts and images, rearranging a lot of information, working with backups, and double-checking everything…really, quadruple-checking everything to make sure that I’ve not lost information. Images in particular are things that I don’t want to lose. I suppose that’s part and parcel of being a visual artist.
To mitigate all of the computer time, I’ve also done a thorough cleaning of ‘The Midden’. Over the past two months, the Midden had turned a corner and become ‘The Crap-Slide’. I can deal with working in a midden, but a crap-slide is a completely different animal. In a midden, I know where things are. In a crap-slide there is no organization. Piles slide into piles and get all mixed up and I can’t find anything, which results in a great deal of cursing, usually beginning with “Son-ova-a” accompanied with varying levels of crashing or banging.
I’ve organized and photographed the artwork that I will offer for sale in the new storefront. It’s all sitting patiently in boxes in the living room, because there’s not other place for it to go in the apartment. I still need to go through a great deal of the artwork I will not be offering for sale, box it up, and put it into our storage unit in the basement. I also need to make sure that all the boxes are marked correctly so I know what work is in what box in the storage unit. Hopefully this won’t take too long. Fingers crossed.
Part of me doesn’t like putting my artwork into storage. It’s not that the storage unit is damp or gross or anything like that. It’s quite dry and safe. I don’t fear anyone attempting to break into the storage unit, to either destroy or steal anything. I guess I just don’t like the idea of my work being all alone so far away from me. I don’t feel this way when my artwork sells, because I know it’s going to a place where it will be taken care of. Packed in boxes and put into storage…that just seems lonely. Yeah. I know this is weird, but it’s how I feel.
BUT….before I can do any of that, I need to go through alllllll of the work that I do wish to offer for sale and organize it into a database for “businessing the business”. This task will be slightly less boring, as I will get to interact with my artwork a little bit. AND, I get to make spread sheets. I do enjoy making a spread sheet. Really. It’s weird. I find the same kind of satisfaction in filing too. There. Now you’ve learned something new and totally useless about me.
Okay, off to categorize, organize and database.
Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Monday.
I have to say, Hunky Dory is without a doubt, one of the most perfect albums ever recorded. There’s not a skip-able song on the entire album. It’s sheer, unadulterated, total and complete perfection in audio form.
Over the past day or so, my husband has had to listen to me muttering curses under my breath while working on “Shirley”. To be more specific, the actual doll I’m calling Shirley has given me little to no problems. Or perhaps I would say, Shirley has given me no problems that I have not been able to handle. The thing upon which she sits, the little dollhouse, just started giving me fits last night while I worked on it. My husband started calling me Yosemite Samantha because of all the frustrating muttering and cursing.
The most oft repeated curses involved the following phrases:
“Why won’t you just go into the hole?!?!”
“The HOLE is where you LIVE! GO THERE!”
“The hole is your HOME! GO. TO. YOUR. HOME.”
“How in the am I supposed to get a hole in THAT corner?!?!?”
“I HAVE MADE YOU A LOVELY HOLE. JUST. GO. IN. THE. HOLE.”
Believe it or not, all that I was attempting to do in the interior of the dollhouse seat was to install tiny curtain rods and tiny curtains. The curtain rods are around 4 cm in length. All the tiny curtains and rods have been finally installed within the house. I may be adding some rolling window shades to one room, but there will be far less cursing around the concept of holes as a result.
I could argue that my problems with the rods and curtains were a result of my own poor planning for this little dollhouse. I don’t think that’s far off the mark, but I’m increasingly, for lack of a better term, winging-it as I work on this particular piece. In reality, winging-it is nothing more than relying on my own efficacy. All of the cursing and frustration are just the points at which my efficacy either comes to an abrupt stop or becomes a little squishy and ill-formed. I could have chosen to just throw everything down and declare my entire idea of using paperclips (unbent and stripped of the plastic outer covering, then clipped to size and bent to fit into specific holes made around the window frames) and pieces of handkerchiefs (thank you Dubravka!) and old pillowslips that I used white glue to create seams instead of sewing them (because my #12 needle is too big, even with a single strand of thread, to sew the seams and have them look good) a bad idea and simply started over with something better. But I didn’t.
That place where my efficacy ‘abruptly ends’ and ‘throw everything down and declare my entire idea to be bad’ is the place in which some of the most important learning for me is done. It’s the forge for my own artistic efficacy. I kept moving forward. Even when I cut the wires too short and had to start from scratch again. When I had to go back again and again and widen holes and make new ones. When I had to widen the holes as I was poking the wire through them. When I realized that I couldn’t make the bends before putting the curtains onto the wire. It would have been so easy to just toss it all in the trash and try another idea.
The frustration as I worked (that spilled out into so much cursing) was actually quite (Lev) Vyvotsky-esque. The cursing was just my inner speech spilling over the sides. That area where my personal artistic efficacy was being built is pretty much textbook Zone of Proximal Development. The curtains don’t look exactly how I had imagined them. I’m already making adjustments for imagined future pieces. The result that I achieved isn’t bad enough that I would toss them out, but isn’t good enough to make me think that I cannot do better in a future attempt.
Part of me feels as though I should be creating more sketches of my ideas and thoughts. If not for me, then for some far-off imagined posterity in which artistic fame will be granted to me, and my artwork accepted by the masses. This all done while my body decomposes deep in some Nordic forest (I wish to be wrapped-up into a nice burlap bundle and buried under tall trees where my body will biodegrade and return to the earth. My personal version of returning to ‘the force’ if you will), a curious few will wonder “How/Why did she do that?“. If I’ve written it all down, then they will know!
Or…I could just be realistic and decide that it’s not that important in the grand scheme of things. Who really gives a rats pink whoo-ha about how I created tiny curtains for a tiny dollhouse? It’s not like I’m curing cancer or ending climate change or anything. I’m just making art, and by doing so, figuring out how I work and where I fit, or even if I fit. Or perhaps, should I even want to fit? Hmmm…perhaps I have more in common with tiny curtains and curtain rods than I thought?
“Why won’t you just go where I want you to go?!”
“THIS is where you LIVE! Stay HERE!”
“This is your HOME. STAY. IN. YOUR. HOME.”
“How am I supposed to explain this to people?!”
“I made you! Just do as I say!”
Wow. That got a little psychological there for a minute now, didn’t it?
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again next Monday.
Tiny Rods and Tiny Curtains:
The tiny dollhouse is still under construction. The second level and roof are not permanently attached to the rest of the house shell. This is why it looks as though there are weird gaps between the walls.
The days have been slipping by since my last post. I continue working on my own art as the world continues to kind of go off sideways in some corners. The weather here in Finland has been for the most part, simply lovely. There have been some beastly hot days recently (31°C / 87°F) with high humidity. It’s still not nearly as bad to New Mexico heat during the summer! Yuuuuuck!
My work progresses. I’m pleased with the progress. I’m not rushing anything, and continue to try and stay within the moment creatively. It’s interesting to not be taking so many pictures, because I’m making tons and tons of mistakes. All kinds of things are happening in my work that is just not good. It sounds weird, but I’m kind of liking that. With no fear of having to document the process with pictures and post them, I can just royally screw-up all over the place. No one ever has to know either. Well, that’s not totally true, the end product may just be a total disaster held together with baling wire and chewing gum!
Not taking pictures somehow is adding to the creative freedom I found originally through my original Creative Experiment. I called the Creative Experiment to an end in November 2019. The experiment had served its purpose and I needed to move on. I have found bits and pieces of the Creative Experiment surfacing in my current creative processes. I didn’t think this added creative freedom would be a side effect to taking a break from social media, but here we are.
The increased feeling of creative freedom — essentially, just the freedom to create my artwork without self broadcasting the actual work-in-process in real time — has made me realize how exhausting it was to continually document my processes in real time. This doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy sharing my processes and my artwork with people. I think I just need to create a framework for sharing and posting that is not as painful for me. I use ‘painful’ because yeah, it was getting painful. While I’m typing this, I have a low-level panic attack going on. I’ve not felt like this since last Monday when I posted.
So I need to figure out how to have an online presence without it causing me all manner of anxiety and panic. I’m confident that I will get there. As always, I just need to make sure that what I’m doing is the best for me in the long run.
This brings me to another one of those things I’ve read or have had said to me that makes me go:
I had touched on this in a previous post. It has to do with the following Sarah Andersen cartoon:
The societal myth regarding the sad artist resulting in great artwork. Man. This one ticks me off so much. I’ve done some research into this topic, being that I’ve got mental health issues and am an artist. It’s a topic near and dear to my existence. I’m surprised at how early these kinds of stereotypes are taught to children. It never ceased to surprise me when a student in one of my classes would chirp-up with some kind of “artists are all kind of crazy” comment about an artist we were looking at, or the art we were making in class. Again, students would know that some guy who painted flowers cut his ear off and yeah, he was totally coo-coo-nutty-crazy-bananas.
Yes. There are some artists who take their awful experiences and resulting sadness/depression and turn it into artwork (Guernica, The Scream, The Third of May 1808, Woman with Dead Child just to name a few) In the case of van Gogh, some truly great artwork. But that’s just one artist out of millions that have existed since the beginning of human history. And yes, I know that there are others, like the ones I listed above. Sarah is correct with her ‘Truth’ portion of her comic. Content artists are happy and healthy and productive artists. I can speak from personal experience here. Before I got a handle on my depression through lots and lots of therapy and medication, I would go months without creating anything. I just couldn’t see the point of it. My work sucked, and being depressed made it such even more. The little artwork that I created was just so, so, so bad. To be truthful, I destroyed a great deal of it, and what little I have kept, has been stored away and is not meant to be seen by anyone other than me. It’s awful work. It’s disturbing. I makes me cringe. CRINGE. I kept it to remind myself of what happens to my creativity and creative output when I don’t take care of my mental health.
The musical soundtrack to this not-so-fabulous, insanely deep depressive and unmedicated part of my life was Bob Mould’s Black Sheets of Rain. Oh man. I love Mr. Mould something fierce, but after going through therapy, I actually hid this album from myself so I wouldn’t end up in the fetal position on the floor of the bathroom crying into the bathmat while listening to It’s Too Late on repeat.
Once I had gone through a lot of therapy, that made me feel a lot worse before it made me feel better, I started making art again. The artwork was much better. So, so much better. As I started to figure myself out, my work became the means by which I began to paste myself back together again. For me, being contented and healthy, means that I am actively creating artwork that is fairly good (I think…) and I am continually productive as an artist.
The one part of Sarah’s comic that I differ from is the use of one word, ‘happy’. I prefer to use the word content instead. I liked The Oatmeal’s cartoon in which he talks about happy and unhappy being at the opposite ends of a continuum. “I want to be busy and beautiful and brimming with ten-thousand moving parts” is something to aspire to being.
There is research shows that there are some higher rates of mood disorders (depression for one) among artists. For me, it’s a chicken and the egg kind of thing. Am I depressive because I’m an artist, or am I an artist because I’m a depressive? Or…is it both? A little nature and a little nurture? I tend to believe the latter for myself, however, every artist who has a mood disorder will have their own unique circumstances of both nature and nurture that shapes them as people and as artists. To simply think that ‘all artists are nuts‘ is just a blanket over-simplification of a topic that is far, far, far more complicated than most people are comfortable talking about. I don’t know many people who want to talk about visual art and mental illness in separate conversations, much less together in the same conversation.
I feel as though I’m having what I call a ‘Charlie Watts Moment’. Allow me to explain. In the Rolling Stones documentary 25×5:The Continuing Adventures of the Rolling Stones (1990), there’s an interview of the band in which they are all asked about touring. Charlie, being quintessentially Charlie, states that he dislikes touring a great deal, but he loves playing drums with the rest of the lads. As the interviewer goes on to question Mick and Keith and Ronnie, Charlie is still mentally chewing on the conundrum of loving to play music with his bandmates, but not liking that he has to tour to do it. He mutters something along the lines of “It’s just a vicious cycle…goin’ ’round and ’round…”
I love making art and showing it and my processes, but the act of sharing it makes me not happy. It’s just a vicious cycle going ’round and ’round in my mind right now and I need to make sure that whatever solution I come up with keeps me mentally healthy and content so I can continue making art that I want to create.
Thank you for reading, and I will talk to you again next Monday.
This is the first post of any kind I have made since deciding to take a break from posting almost daily on social media. It’s been enjoying myself quite a bit. Remember, I am still working on my artwork; I’m just not posting pictures of progress and process. There is something about having that time with my work, as I’m creating it — having it back, just for me and me alone that has been particularly restful for me mentally and emotionally.
I have been thinking about a lot of different things while I work. I tease apart my own thoughts, trying to discover their various origins and how they influence how I interact not only with myself, but the people and greater world around me. I sometimes find myself mentally gnawing on specific things that have been said to me regarding my artwork, or being an artist by different people at different times over the course of my life. Some of the things I have heard just get stuck to me. Velcro’d down tight to my mind, almost immoveable, while others are more like stepping in gum on a hot summer day, messy, annoying and hard to control.
I’ve had one of those ‘stepping in gum’ things banging around in my head for the better part of a month now. The core message of the phrase remains the same, while the delivery is somewhat plastic. What it usually boils down to is something along of the lines of “…someday, when your work is in a museum…” The aforementioned phrase usually has something about my talent in it, or the degree of fame or influence my artwork will have on future artists, etc. I have increasingly found myself having a reaction not unlike the picture below:
The meme posted pretty much fits with how I inwardly process this kind of comment. I know that whomever is telling me that my work will be in a museum someday means it as a compliment, I don’t think they really understand that what they are really saying to an artist is…problematic.
Let’s take a look at the implications made in a statement like, “Oh! Don’t worry! Someday, when you’re art is in a museum, everyone will see how talented you were and be inspired by it!”
Sometimes, the “Oh! Don’t worry!” portion of this statement seems directed at an artists desire to sell more of their work, or be able to gain more clients, have a greater amount of performances, or to be able to display their work in some way, shape or form that will gain them exposure to people, persons, or organizations that would be willing to purchase their art. To be quite frank, artists, both performing and visual are constantly worrying about these things. An artist with no place to show their work or perform is still an artist, but one with very limited means of procuring money, which is exchanged for goods and services, like food, clothing, rent among other things. We worry because we know our ‘talent’ won’t get us a seat on the bus, because the busses take money, not interpretive dance or drawings as bus fare.
On to the next word the phrase, “…someday…” Someday. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not three weeks from next Tuesday. Someday. Someday. An imaginary date in an unknown, distant future. The artist may still be alive or maybe is dead. The artist may be long dead. Or perhaps the artist is just really, really, really old. That’s when the artists’ artwork will be recognized as worthy enough to be placed in socioculturally-ordained building where important, expensive or rare things from around the world and different times in human history are placed behind glass and velvet ropes and curtains, so that people can come and look at them after they have paid a fee to enter.
In the simplest of terms, the use of ‘someday’ could be interpreted as a polite substitution for the phrase, “after you’re dead” or “when you’re close to dead”. (Please refer to the above Nick Young meme) Pull at those threads a little more, and it makes an artist feel as though the only time in which their art will make any money is when there is no chance of any more of their art being made. Dead artists don’t make art. This makes the supply of their art finite. An artist can get knotted-up thinking about these kinds of things. Is my work really good now, or will it only be ruled good after I die? Or is it after I’m dead and a museum decides that it’s good — or at least rare — artwork?
Yeah. I know. It seems as though I’m getting a little…dramatic. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been accused of being so. I should simply take the compliment, smile and move on. Believe me, I do. However…the way in which I interpret this phrase has changed between the first time and the most recent time that I have heard it. I know that I must sound childish. That there are artists out there that would love it if people would tell them that they think their artwork is good enough to be in a museum. Compliments are nice, but assuring me that I will have some degree of fame when closer to death, or already pushing up the daisies, well…that doesn’t help me get across town because the bus is €3 each way.
This brings up another interesting part of this phrase; fame. One assumes that if an artist has their work in a museum that they must be famous, right? What artist doesn’t want to have a degree of fame?
When I think about artistic fame after death, I think of van Gogh. I’ve been to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. It’s a stones throw from the Rijksmuseum where several works from Rembrandt van Rijn are, including ‘The Night Watch’. Much of van Gogh’s life is at least partially known about by most people. “He’s the crazy painter who cut off his ear!” and that he painted sunflowers is what most people glean from his life at a minimum. Rembrandt is known of, but I don’t believe most people on the street (outside of the Netherlands) would know what his work looks like, or anything about his life. (I personally like that the bubble water I buy at Lidl is called Saskia, his wife’s name.)
Each of these artists had their own trials and tribulations, to put it very, very mildly. Van Gogh shot himself with a pistol and died a day or so later, feeling like a failure. Rembrandt died penniless and wad buried in an unmarked grave. Rembrandt was considered a master in his own lifetime. He knew he was brilliantly talented and so did everyone who saw and purchased his work. Van Gogh struggled his entire life. His last nine years alive saw him create a truly amazing amount of drawings and paintings. He sold two paintings when alive. It was after he was dead that artists and admirers began showing his artwork to a public.
Why the rise in fame after his death, and not before it? I’ve always thought that it was two part. First, there will be no more new paintings or drawings by van Gogh, and second, the story. The majority Vincent van Gogh’s life suuuuucked. He had problems. A lot of problems. He struggled with everything. With love, with religion, with his family, with the world, with his own mind. Then there’s Theo, the brother who never stopped supporting him. Never turned his back on him, even when Vincent was…really going through the unbearably bad stretches in his life. Theo’s widow compiled the letters the two wrote and published them. Vincent’s work was saved by her efforts.
Oh. And, van Gogh sold one painting during his life time. It was less than a year before he took his own life. He sold The Red Vineyard for 400 francs (around $2,000 USD).
The letters of Vincent and Theo were published. A museum was eventually built and houses an impressive collection of van Gogh’s work. It’s €19 ($21.30 USD) for an adult ticket to get into the museum. Free for those under 18. You pay more if there is a special exhibit. In 2015, the Van Gogh Museum took in €27.3 million ($30.2 million USD). The museum is very nice, but I don’t know that I’ll ever go back. The galleries were packed with people who wanted to see the ‘famous’ paintings. There were people packed in tight taking selfies in front of van Gogh’s work. They really didn’t seem interested in the work per se. They seemed there more for the selfies than anything else.
So wait, let’s go back a bit…to €27.3 million?
I stood in a room covered with the work of van Gogh while they snapped selfies in front of his most famous paintings. They paid €19 to do this. I know, some people were there to actually learn something and experience the artwork, but…the whole museum made me want to cry. Van Gogh is famous. His work sells for millions and millions of dollars. His artwork is reproduced on everything front toilet seat covers to fabric to car wraps. Many people make money from the artwork that he created.
He’s famous. He’s dead. He had a life that really suuuuuuucked.
So, when I’m given the compliment that my work will be someday recognized as good, and placed in museums, this is the kind of thing that runs through my head. Everyone BUT me will be able to, in the words of Hank Venture, “Get a slice of that fat money cake.“
I sometimes feel that the implied meaning behind the “someday you’ll be in a museum” compliment is that I desire fame (I don’t) and am willing to live a weird-outsider bourgeois-imagined la bohéme existence complete with some sort of mental illness (I’m on meds for my depression, does that count?) that somehow makes me “extra special” in some sort of pleasantly acceptable sort of way to the vast majority of people who have no personal knowledge of art or art making.
My specialness! My talent! They were simply too far ahead of the curve! This is why I’m not selling my work now! I’m making art for say around the year 2050 or so! It will all sell when I’m dead! I’ll be so famous then! When I’m dead! This changes EVERYTHING! I’m so glad that I can pay my bills with the aforementioned promises of ‘someday I’ll be in a museum’ fame and fortune.
Yeah. I know. The lady doth protest too much. I think just needed to vent a little, I guess. If I didn’t get sarcastic about things like this that begin to chafe me mentally and emotionally, it would start coming out in really inappropriate places and times. I know that no one has money to buy artwork right now. The most that some can do is pay me a compliment, or give me a thumbs-up or a like on a social media platform. I get that. It’s just that sometimes, the compliments begin to remind me of how much I’m failing miserably right now. Because if I were truly talented. If my work were truly good, I would have found a way to make it all work for me by now, and I haven’t. And thinking about people paying €19 to come and take a selfie in front of a piece of artwork that I made while dragging myself, body and soul through a mental minefield of broken glass, while not even looking at the work, or realizing what the work is about…or why I made it…that’s just smashes me.
Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Monday.
Last Thursday, I created a post for my Instagram account. I’ve been wrestling with some challenges* in my creative, artistic and entrepreneurial plans for some time. Some of these challenges I couldn’t predict (pandemics, lock-downs, social distancing, etc.). Some challenges were ones that I thought I would be better at weathering at this point in my life. While I feel as though I’m doing pretty-kind-of okay most of the time, there are other times in which I know I’m most definitely not doing “okay”.
I need to be “okay”.
I think Sarah Anderson described my current situation best her cartoon below:
The pervasive societal myth of the artist as unhappy, depressive who creates art from their own horrible mental and physical existence is a topic for another post. There’s a lot to unpack in regards to that myth that I want to say, as it relates to me personally as an artist. But like I said, it’s another post topic for another time.
Back to the topic at hand…
I am not happy with where my creative endeavors and my entrepreneurial efforts are going. My efforts are not yielding the desired results. Due to a lot of my own personal mental and emotional experiences (read: “baggage”, and again, a post topic for another time) this is causing an inordinate amount of pain for me. Please know, when I say “pain” understand what I mean. My current situation hurts me. I pay attention my mental health. As a person diagnosed with clinical depression, who is medicated, it’s important to know when I’m not feeling right and why. This could mean that I need to have my meds adjusted, or it could mean that I need to alter things within my life to address whatever is making me not “feel right”. Or in this case, I need to address something that is causing me mental, and increasingly physical pain.
What I need to do is remove myself from a situation that is causing me pain. Right now, that means I need to take a step back from posting my art and my artistic processes on social media. I need to take a break for a while so I can figure out the changes that I need to make to my creative artwork and my entrepreneurial plans for the future so that I can be happy and relatively pain-free. I can’t do that when I’m not feeling right. When I’m in pain. When I am unhappy.
I’ve been working on a piece for the past few weeks. It’s a large, papier maché doll that is intended to sit on top of a dollhouse, complete with furniture. I’ve enjoyed working on this piece a great deal. There’s a lot going on within it. Lots of moving parts. Lots of different inspirations. Lots of references from my own life, culture and experiences. I realized several days ago that the compartments on the side of the head were much too small to hold the spooled embroidered felt banner/backdrop I had created. I had two viable options: 1.) make the banner/backdrop smaller somehow so it would fit what was already made, or 2.) take apart the head, make requisite repairs as well as a new set of housings for the banner/backdrop.
As difficult as it was, I chose the second option. I have an intense dislike for destroying anything, especially things that I have made myself. I suppose it’s hard-wired into my identity to create, rather than destroy.
This morning, when I looked at the corrections I had made to my artwork, I was much happier. What had made me so unhappy about the piece had been adjusted. I could see that even through I had to go in a different direction than I was normally comfortable, the end result was my own contentment as an artist.
So…what does this break from social media look like?
I’m going to take a month off from social media. (June 15 to July 15, 2020)
I won’t be posting any pictures of my artwork in process or of my finished artwork.
I will continue to make artwork. I just will not be posting it on social media or anywhere else online.
I will post here on my website once a week on Mondays (June 15, 22, 29 and July 6 and 13)
I am hopeful that this time away from social media will give me some pain-free breathing space to figure out what I want to progress with my entrepreneurial plans going forward.
“*Challenges” — I’m using this turn of phrase as a substitution for other possible words like, difficulties, problems, trouble, issue, worry, mess, obstacle, setback, hitch, stumbling block, quandary, setback, headache, etc.
Sarah Andersen is a phenomenal artist. Go look at her stuff. If you don’t want to buy my work, buy hers.
I’m a visual artist living in central Finland. I create surrealistic dolls utilizing a variety of materials and techniques.