Posted on 4 Comments

Frustration

Depression adjacent frustration:

During the past two weeks, I’ve been wrestling with an ever-deepening sense of personal and professional frustration. This frustration is laying on a great number of the same emotional buttons that can spin me off into a major bout of depression. In my previous Tuesday blog, I wrote about knowing where the traps are, so that they can be avoided. It took me a few days to figure out what was going on, but I got there eventually.

Honestly, I think it was my husbands own anxiety that helped me figure out what was going on. He was showing me something that he had done to alleviate some of his pent up emotions so that he could leave some of the anxiety behind, and move forward. I could tell as he explained what he had done, that he knew it wasn’t exactly normal. What he did made perfect sense to me. That’s when the light went off inside my own head.

Clinical depression:

I’m open about the fact that I have clinical depression. It began when I was in my teens. Then morphed into something that I thought was almost a bi-polar disorder in my early twenties. By the time I was in my late 20’s, my depression was completely unmanageable on my own. I began therapy. And then began taking antidepressant medication. While at first I was reluctant to try medication, after every other avenue was explored, they proved a life-saver for me.

When I was a young, I always knew that the depression was waiting for me at the end of any period of happiness or relative stability. It’s presence was always felt. Right beneath my feet. Waiting to grab hold of me and yank me straight down into the cold, empty, blackness. It sucked.

Side effects:

My current medication is one that I like a great deal. Some of the side effects are not the greatest. The most annoying being weight gain. My husband is the chief meal planner and cook. And we’ve been leaning heavily on a more plant-based diet with chicken and fish as out main sources of protein. I’ve also reduced my intake of all the delightful sugary foods that I adore. I’ve not eliminated them.

This has helped with some of the weight gain. But it’s still there. We walk and take the bus everywhere we need to go. This also helps a lot with my depression.Especially when I think I don’t need it, a walk to the store will do wonders in making me feel better. That’s not to say I would ever stop taking my meds and go on walks in nature to “cure” my clinical depression. But I will use lovely walks in the sunshine in conjunction with my meds to manage my clinical depression.

Present day:

My depression adjacent frustrations have arisen regarding the lack of traffic on my website, including my online shop. The lack of traffic and declining sales have just begun to frustrate the crud out of me. Realistically, I know what a teenie-tiny fish I am in the great ocean of internet art sellers. I have no illusions of grandeur. My frustrations are rooted in not knowing exactly why my website and online shop receives so very little traffic.

My previous Tuesday blog post talked about how I was trying to figure out the art of marketing. All the while knowing exactly how bad I am at it. Add to this the fact that everything that I have built here is the product of me trying to find the best options I can afford, everything I learned from the staff at Työbileet, and the mind of my ever-patient husband. In fact, if you click on the Työbileet link, you will find a short video of me. (Yikes.)

Love and…meh:

The frustrations I’m experiencing regarding the lack of website and shop traffic has required me to sit down and re-evaluate the methods and modes of marketing that I’m currently using. While I love Instagram, it’s not the right place for me to truly market my artwork. I love that I’ve met fantastically cool, creative artists who I can talk with about making art. It’s been a positive experience for me.

That all being said, it hasn’t driven a lot of traffic to my website. Nor has it lead to a sizable increase in sales for me. Part of this has to do with exactly what Instagram is. It’s a corporation. Corporations exist to make money for their stockholders. If I’m not paying a fee for being able to post on Instagram, then more than likely, I’m being used for other purposes. Oh. Yeah. I’m making money for their stockholders.

All hail the algorithm:

I know when Instagram’s algorithm has changed. Once every sixty to ninety days, the traffic to my posts gets a hard throttle by the algorithm. Along with that hard throttle, I begin receiving more “incentives” to purchase some manner of a business account. More and more posts pop-up in my feed that are artists or artisans with six posts and two hundred followers who have paid to advertise their accounts on Instagram.

Then Instagram starts asking me about advertising and upgrading my account. It’s not that I don’t understand how advertising works. I just don’t think that my advertising euro is best spent on Instagram. For me, it breaks down to what I’m using the platform for.

Useful to a point:

Like I said previously, I’ve met some incredibly cool and talented artists on Instagram. I view it as a place where I can see other artists and their artwork and talk with them. It’s not a mutual admiration society, but it’s akin to that kind of concept. And that is not a bad thing! Especially during the pandemic, it’s been beneficial for me to be able to talk to other artists and share our ups and downs. And yes, there are a lot of sincere compliments that are exchanged as well.

Investment:

Well, I think of it more along the lines of ‘Where do I want to invest my euro?‘ I’ve talked in the past about wanting to start a Patreon. And even flirting with Etsy. What I realized was that not only does the price-point for the marketing need to be right. That it also has to feel right to me, personally and professionally.

Seriously? They have to feel right? Well, yes. They do. This is partially due to a major identity trait of mine. No one can force me to do anything I do not want to do. It can seem like a total no-brainer to do a certain thing. But if I don’t want to do it. There is nothing that will make me do it. Nope. Never going to happen, Ever.

Decisions to be made:

I love the idea of having a Patreon. But I have to be honest with myself. I simply do not have the time, space and money to start a Patreon right now. Nor do I feel as though I have nearly enough people interested in my artwork, or my techniques to the point in which they would give me money every month. Even if it were only a euro or two. There is also an element of creative control that I feel as though I would be giving up as well. And right now, this just feels wrong to me.

Etsy has been the nine-million pound gorilla sitting in my studio space staring at me. I’ve made an attempt at selling on Etsy about ten years or so ago. It wasn’t a fabulous experience. This being said, I do know more now. And have a great deal more online experience, including my own website and shop. Along with that ever-patient husband.

For me, what it all boiled down to was: what did I want to get out of having a presence on Etsy?

Key questions:

What am I going to use Etsy for?

What is my end-goal?

The answer to both of those questions were similar. To get more eyes on my artwork. And a potential at getting more traffic on my own website and my own online shop. Any sales that might be made on the Etsy platform are gravy for me.

Part of the research that I did was looking at artists who sell their work on Etsy, while at the same time maintaining their own website and online shop. I wanted to see what artists that I admire are doing. Many of whom have much better sales and web traffic than I do. There was also a significant amount of article reading as well. Then a huge brain-dump lunch with my ever-patient husband.

So…now what?

I’m going to open up at Etsy shop. It’s will have specific pieces of artwork that are not offered in my online shop. I’ve gone through my inventory and made decisions about items I will pull from my own shop as well. This will take some time for me to get up and running. Remember, I’m still got all kinds of other irons in the fire that require regular tending!

I have no delusions. Etsy will not be a magical fix. I’ve done my research. As well as making sure that the decisions I make are ones that not only ‘feel right‘ but are also things that I can accomplish. Mentally and emotionally I am in agreement. My frustrations have been quieted, and my clinical depression managed.

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Friday.

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Marketing is Hard

Marketing is…:

Marketing my artwork has never been a strength of mine. I think that there are two reasons for that. The first among them being, in order to market my artwork, I need to call attention to myself. This would mean that people would actually look at me. Putting myself in this sort of position goes against the grain mentally and emotionally speaking. Secondly, asking for attention from people then means that I would have to talk about my artwork to people that I don’t know.

Both of the aforementioned reasons make marketing my artwork difficult for me. I’m either painfully slow at it, or I just don’t do it out of insane amounts of personal (and professional) fear. For my business to become more successful, I need to figure this out. I’m not as bad as I once was, but I’m not where I want or need to be at all.

Head scratching:

Knowing where the trap is — that’s the first step in evading it.” Thanks Duke Leto Atreides. That’s really great advice. And quite handy to keep in mind. However, it’s a lot easier said than actually done. Especially when it comes to mental or emotional traps.

That being said, I know the roots of my personal and professional feelings of inadequacy. I’m the poster child for imposter syndrome. Part of the reason that I know where all those mental traps are is precisely because I do spend so much time examining them, through creating my artwork. So I know who I am. I know my traps (or buttons, if you like). And the very artwork that I want to market is the product of this hard-won knowledge.

All of this makes me sound like an absolute mess, doesn’t it?! Actually, it’s not as bad as one might think. Knowing myself does have a mitigating effect on my fears regarding the marketing of my artwork.

Exhibiting my artwork:

I have been so fortunate in having two venues offer me the opportunity to exhibit my artwork during the past year. I’ve been looking online for additional places in which I might be able to exhibit my work. Exhibits are a good marketing tool for me. It allows me to show my artwork to a greater number of people who may not already be aware of me or my artwork.

Yesterday evening, I sat down to look online for exhibit opportunities. The pandemic has put a bit of a damper on art shows and fairs. I did find a few that seemed interesting. But I was disappointed to discover that many that I was interested in, or felt that my artwork would be a good fit, had restrictions on materials. Paper mâché and plaster works were not accepted. Crud. I did manage to find two that my artwork is still eligible for.

Cost of exhibiting:

Those who are not full or part time practicing artists, artisans or crafts people, might not know that entering artwork into juried art shows can be an expensive proposition. One of the art show applications I downloaded has a very reasonable 20€ application fee. I can afford that. One of the other shows that I had to rule out, had a 250€ application fee. These fees are just to get your artwork looked at, to see if it MIGHT be in the show.

If you’re work is selected, then you have to get the artwork to the venue. This can also be incredibly costly, especially for three-dimensional artwork like mine. One of the art shows that I had to rule out mandated a specific type of parcel shipment, with return shipping already paid for. They also wanted a certain amount of insurance added to the parcel shipment. And charged a fee for pedestal rental and set-up and take-down fees. For me to apply for entry, ship (to and from), rent a pedestal, pay for the set-up and take-down fee would have cost me around 2000€.

And there was no guarantee that the artwork would itself sell. Or that merely exhibiting my artwork at this venue would result in sales of my other pieces of art.

And then…depression set in:

I’m not an idiot. I know that art shows charge money for exhibiting specific art shows, or works by a specific artist. The venue has to be able to make some money too. After all, there is no guarantee that the artwork being shown will actually sell enough so that the venue will get a sizable enough cut to may the rent on the space, or keep the lights on, or heck, even pay their staff!

It’s just a depressing fact. I can’t change how exhibiting art works. All that this means is that at the present, I cannot go about showing my artwork and marketing myself and work in an already well established manner. This doesn’t mean that I won’t still be trying to avoid my own mental and emotional traps either.

It’s a trap:

My husband and I were talking about creating our own means of employment a few days ago. Neither one of us wants to return to working for someone else. We’ve both grown accustomed to having creative autonomy over our means earning monetary compensation. This kind of autonomy is equal parts fantastic and terrifying at the same time for me.

What struck me about the conversation I was having with my husband was that there are people who would prefer to be employed by something or someone other than themselves. I totally and completely understand that. Knowing that you have a place to be, a job to perform, and a guaranteed paycheck is a great comfort. Your basic needs are covered. There is comfort in that. A lot of comfort.

But…there is also the problems that arise when the pay isn’t enough to cover those basic needs. And then there are people who you know aren’t as smart as they think they are trying to tell you how to do your job. When they have never performed your specific job. Ever. There is the monotony of doing the same thing over and over again. Day in and day out. The trade off is that you have a place to be, a thing to do, and a steady paycheck. After a while, at least for me, the trade-offs are not enough.

Machete:

I know what I’m about, son.” Well said, Ron. Knowing who I am is a step in the right direction regarding my future marketing adventures. For now, there are well-worn paths like the expensive juried art shows, that are simply not an option for me. I need more affordable options. Free would be a good price to start. This means that I have to cut my own pathways. Hence the title of this section.

Since last night, I’ve been turning over some ideas in my mind as to how I find potential free to low-cost venues to exhibit my artwork. One of them is incredibly easy. Ask people. Yeah. I know. This seems like a total no-brainer, doesn’t it?! But remember, I have a network traps that I have to get around before I can arrive at a potential solution to some of my marketing woes. Asking people doesn’t mean I’m going to get any kind of useful information either.*

So, now what:

Well, I have some emails to write. There is not guarantee that any of my inquires will result in any kind of low to no-cost exhibit or gallery spaces being located. Asking for help is sometimes a difficult thing for me to do. I  don’t want to appear to be desperate. Because we all know, that is not a good look on anyone! There’s also a part of me thinks that at my age, I should already have all of this stuff figured out. I should know what I’m doing…more than half of the time.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

*This clip is from the movie Gone with the Wind. The movie is paints an incredibly favourable view of the enslavement of black people within the US before and after the United States Civil War 1861-1865. I assure you, it was an abhorrent, despicable institution that remains a deep scar in the American consciousness. The movie was made in the late 1930’s and one several Academy Awards. Most notably Hattie McDaniel one a best supporting actress award for the role of Mammy. The role of Pork was played by Oscar Polk, whose acting career was cut much too short in 1949. It’s Oscar Polk that is shown in the ‘Askin’ ain’t gettin'” gif.

 

Posted on Leave a comment

One of Four

Uncovering meaning:

Long-time readers of my blog know that the meanings of my artwork evolve during the time in which I’m actively creating it. I may have an idea of where a piece might be going, but try hard not to become too attached to a specific theme or direction. The four box dolls that I’ve been working on started out as one thing in my mind. Then they decided that they were going to go off in a completely different direction. Not wanting to force myself on them, I let the art direct me creatively.

I generally work in even-numbered groups while creating my art. There isn’t any other reason than, it feels right to me. A group of four dolls, that will be contained in frames/boxes with hang tabs-like looking elements, is what I call a set. All four items belong to the singular artistic expression. They belong together.

My initial idea was to have the dolls contained within the frames/boxes (box frames?) each represent a type of doll that I would have wanted to purchase when I was a child. The types of dolls that were sold like this when I was a child didn’t appeal to me. Barbie dolls didn’t fit into how I played with or created by own dolls. Nowadays, I see so many different types of small dolls in stores that I would have saved my money to purchase. As a creative maker, it seemed obvious to fuse what I wanted and didn’t have, with what I could create myself now.

Where we parted ways:

In retrospect, I suppose it was silly of me to attempt this. Evidently, my subconscious thought the same thing. As I continued to work on the four box dolls, none of the ideas I came up with seemed correct. “Oh! I’ll make this one a scientist!” Why?! I never wanted to be a scientist. Or, “I could make this one an astronaut!” Again. I never, ever, ever, ever wanted to be an astronaut. Did I want to fly the Millennium Falcon? Damn skippy I did!

Then I thought about perhaps using the dolls to show different stages. You know? Like maiden, matron and crone? Something akin to that. But that didn’t fit, or feel right either. The four dolls kept staring at me and trying to tell me what they wanted to be, but I wasn’t listening. I liked the idea of showing different stages, or pages…perhaps chapters of myself. But I just wasn’t sure how to do that. Or even why I would want to do that.

Then I figured it out.

What I was trying to say:

We never remain completely the same over the entirety of our lives. Individuals are continually learning, growing and changing. There are times and places within out lives where we were really “into” something. We go overboard reading a specific author, or listening to a musician. Perhaps we cannot get enough of learning about a time in history, or a type of research in science, or going to the theatre. Most of the time, these hobbies and interests peak and fade. Sometimes we just lose interest. Perhaps a new interest has been sparked for us somewhere else.

There are times in which our interests can be folded into our individual life goals. A hobby can become a career. Or a passion about a subject can drive a person to choose a major for study at university that will aid them in future employment.

When the interests that I had as a much younger person met the real world, changes to how I pursued each of them changed. The interests and aptitudes evolved to fit my own talents and abilities, as well as what I was willing to do to attain them. My mathematics were never going to be good enough for me to be a veterinarian. It was a bad fit. Animals are a great love of mine, but being a vet wasn’t ever going to be a good fit for me as a career. For one, I can’t deal with the incredible sadness that comes with the death of an animal.

What the four box dolls could be changed as I thought about who I was in my early life. How I chose to pursue my passions and further my knowledge. Each of these dolls represents a distinct part of me, in that, they are tiny snapshots of who I was when I was five, or ten, or fifteen, and 20-ish. The passions, interests, hopes, dreams, and goals that I had when I was so much younger haven’t left me. They have merely been folded into my personal identity. They are who I have become.

One of four:

There is one of the group of four box dolls that has had staying power for me. It’s become a cornerstone of my personal and professional identity. Through every imagined future career or profession, art was always there. Being an artist is something that has never, ever left me. It’s my personal boon and bane. The life preserver that sometimes confuses the holy hell out of me. Even when my professional art career isn’t going as well as I had hoped, my passion for it has never dimmed.

However, there has been a change in how I see myself as an artist, and how I ‘thought’ being an artist would be in real life. Part of that has to do mainly with the fact that I’ve not yet fully discovered the place in which I and my artwork fit within the larger world conversation of art. Artist? Crafter? Artisan? (As I typed that, I actually rolled my eyes.) I feel as though I will always struggle with this question. It’s just nagging imposter syndrome. And it’s terrifically annoying.

Long story longer:

Each of the four dolls in this set will represent different aspects of who I was when I was a certain age. I have chosen the descriptor of ‘aspect’ as it relates better to the overall concept of personal identity that seems to permeate every piece of artwork that I create. The interests and aspirations of these former me’s are still very much alive within me. Each adding their own acquired knowledge and expertise to my work as an artist.

Names are hard:

I struggle at times to give titles to my artwork. The dolls seem to be easy to name by comparison. As of right now, I’ve been calling this set “The Four Box Dolls” which sounds rather lame if you ask me. Perhaps a better and more apt name will come to me after the entire piece is finished.

So, now what?

As always, I need to get back to work. I have three different pieces of artwork in process. This is way too many if you ask me. I feel stretched thin mentally speaking. There are other pieces that I want to start work on, but will hold off on that until I have the three pieces directly in front of me finished. If there were only more hours in a day. (Sigh.)

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

Posted on Leave a comment

Workspace Cleaning

With the arrival of spring in Finland, comes the ever-increasing amount of daylight every day. From the end of November through to the end of February, the amount of sunlight we get isn’t great by any stretch of the imagination. Consequently, accumulated dust isn’t necessarily visible, or perhaps better said, not bothersome, during the long, dark days of winter. The arrival of spring changes all of that. Now we I can see the dust-bunnies the size of some of the hares out in the fields!

Winter creative nesting:

I spent a lot of last autumn and winter creating artwork that would be in a public exhibition space. Once the artwork was taken down, most of it returned to our small apartment. Everything felt a bit more crowded after this. The creative mess accumulated during the creation of the artwork was now living side by side with the finished artwork.

My creating continued, even though my work space was becoming increasingly difficult to work in. At one point, I honestly felt like I was just tossing recyclables onto an ever-growing pile that had taken over a corner of my workspace. There was no way that this could go on much longer.

Small creative workspace:

It’s been mentioned here quite a few times, that the space in which I’m creating my artwork is not big. It’s more of less one third of our living room. My husband works in the kitchen, with his own desk and shelves. As a writer, he doesn’t require the amount of space for tools, materials and supplies that I do.

I try very hard to keep all of my creative workspace as neat and orderly as possible. My husband’s a very understanding man though. He knows that my work requires more space. When the majority of those materials are recyclables, storage can become a bit midden-like.

Cardboard and carton board:

I use a lot of recycled materials that I’ve scavenged from communal recycling bins, or our own recycling. Knowing that a certain percentage of my artwork was once something that was tossed out as trash or recycling is something that I absolutely love. Not only does it help cut the cost of materials for me, it also lends meaning to my work, by way of metaphor.

These materials take up a lot of space and can quickly get out of hand if you’re not keeping on top of them. The vast majority of the recycled materials that I had to clean up was my cardboard and carton board. Most of what I had on hand consisted of  cardboards in the form of small, oddly shaped pieces of that were not usable for my larger work.

The better part of a day was taken sorting through the mountain of cardboard and carton board that I had on hand. An entire large, Ikea bag was needed for the cardboard and carton board scraps that went into the recycling bins.

Plastics:

Our apartment complex now has plastics recycling. I felt a little better the fact that plastics that I had been keeping for my artwork could be recycled if I decided that I didn’t want or need them. Over the past year, I have been pointedly trying to not purchase items with too much plastic packaging, while at the same time trying to use more recyclable plastics in my artwork.

Some plastics have gone into recycling during the cleaning and organizing. While others have gone into an “I’m not sure” bag. This bag will need to be gone through once more, so that I can make final decisions about specific pieces of plastic.

There’s a large part of me that is still very much an art teacher. I was always on the look-out for plastic tubs with lids that I could put art supplies in, or mix paints in. For me as an art teacher, those are gold! That being said, I will still go through the “I’m not sure” bag and recycle what I cannot immediately use.

Sewing materials:

My sewing materials, especially my threads had gotten scarily out of control over the past few months. I went through everything. All of my threads were consolidated. Making sure that I had them all stored in the same place. Getting rid of useless scraps that I would never be able to use. Happily discovering another spool of white thread too!

A lot of my sewing materials, notions, buttons, etc., have now been organized neatly and stored in those lovely (and free!) clear, plastic, bulk candy tubs from the grocery store. Each of the plastic tubs in see through, and labeled on the side and the top. This is so that I’m able to quickly identify by sight what’s in each individual storage tub.

Lots of odds and ends:

In addition to all the cardboards and sewing materials, I needed to sort through all of my odd bits of materials too. Some of my materials, like wooden components, were stored in three different places on my desk and in un-labeled boxes. Yuck! I now have a single box for my wooden components. My glitter, wiggly eyes and sequins are all in a separate box. Pom-pom makers are in a box next to my small store-bought acrylic and wool pom-poms.

Each of the labeled boxes is within a step or two of my desk, and is clearly labeled. My sewing storage is on one shelf. I put my painting supplies on another. All of my glues now in two places (down from four!). Big bottles in a tray I can pull off the shelf, and my tiny bottles of Loc Tite type glues, glue sticks and rarely used glue gun are in a drawer at my desk.

Lost and found:

During my cleaning, I found dolls that I had completed, but for some reason hadn’t put in my shop. Quite a few of them need only a few small things completed to be finished too. I think that the reason that I (more or less) forgot about these dolls is because I was trying out some new clothing patterns on them. Most of the time, these sorts of dolls are not usually offered for sale. These dolls don’t have any glaring flaws, so I can see them going into the shop.

More things to make into art:

There were other items that I discovered during my cleaning that I’d like to find a way to use or finish-up. Sometimes I make multiple components, like buttons, beads or drawer pulls, out of air dry clay or paper mâché. I do this just in case something breaks or warps weirdly to the point that I cannot use it. When this doesn’t occur, I’m left with little extra bits from finished pieces.

I found some air dry doll blanks that I experimented with, but for some reason, never finished. There’s also a spare set of doll arms and legs that look a lot like the dolls Turk Tank, Piiing Tree, and Purple Fork. I’m looking forward to what I can do with these, and all the other small pieces and components that I found.

So, what now?

Well, back to work for me. Now that I have enough space to work in, and the ability to find everything that I need to work, I can’t wait!

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

Posted on

The Art of Failure

No one enjoys failure. Frankly, it sucks. A lot. It’s something that everyone avoids as much as humanly possible.Living a life free of failure isn’t at all possible. As much as failure sucks, it can be an extremely good teacher. Even if the lessons are hard to completely understand.

One of the many things that I like about being an artist is that it’s taught me to be okay with failure. I have no problem failing at getting an idea to work. Sometimes, the failure is an incomplete understanding of how the materials will work, or work together. This kind of failure is small. It takes place on my desk. Where no one is watching. So no one ever has to know. My failures can remain just between me and the failure.

Social media:

I create a lot of artwork. My husband describes me as ‘prolific’ when it comes to creating my artwork. During the past three years, social media has become in increasingly important part of the overall creating and marketing of my artwork. I post every day on social media sites like Instagram. And a little less often on sites like Imgur. I have come to rely on social media to advertise when I have new items in my shop, new blog posts to read, as well as when I have a sale.

My main Instagram page is dedicated to showing my art creating processes. Even though I show a great deal of my creative process, I never show everything. These photos are curated to a certain extent. Thought given to exactly which photos I think will show my artwork or artistic process in the best possible light before posting.

I have several different series of pieces going right now. A series of brooches that have tiny dolls in them. Another small series of four 12 cm dolls that will be displayed in small niche-like frames. And a series I’ve simply been calling ‘the bottle dolls’, which are larger, and more complicated paper mâché dolls, with lots of moving parts. Of the three series, I’ve been seeing the brooches as a creative failure.

What initially went wrong:

It’s not that one big element during the creation of the brooches went wrong. Rather, it was a series of smaller failures that, as they began to accumulate, began making me interpret them as a failure. Each of the failures required me to create a solution that would either fix or hid the failure.

Right out of the gate, the first failure was a design flaw. Originally, I wanted to have the lids of the brooches swivel on a wooden peg to open and close. Laminated carton board was what I planned on using for the swiveling lid. The carton board was too thin, even when laminated to five layers thick. It just tore apart when I attempted to put a hole in it for the wooden peg. The key problem was that even when laminated, the carton board wasn’t strong enough at .5 mm width.

I changed the design of the lids to a lid with a lip that would be more secure. It’s second nature to me to leave about .2 mm between moving elements of my paper mâché artwork. So this is what I did for the new lid design for the brooch. But, I had absolutely no intentions of using paper mâché on surfaces of the brooches. I was only going to use gesso. The finished lids were too big. They wouldn’t stay on the brooch base.

Fixing the problems:

Okay. I needed to fix the lids so that they would stay on the brooch. Initially, I didn’t think this was a big problem. My first solution was to simply attach a thin (.2 mm) strip of felt to the inside of the lid. With this added, the lid should have stayed on the brooch.

Well, that didn’t happen. The lids just kept falling off. With no lid, the teeny- tiny dolls inside the brooch just fell out. This problem was insanely frustrating to me. I set aside the brooches for more than a week to think about possible solutions. There was only one option; I had to remove the felt that I had glued inside the lid.

I used new X-acto blades, a pair of tweezers to remove the felt and glue from the inside of the brooch lids. Doing this created another problem. There were bits of felt that I couldn’t get off of the painted surface of the lid, no matter how much I scraped and tweezed. Sanding would have been an option, had the plastic window not already been attached to the inside of the lid.

Quickly multiplying problems:

At this point, the insides of the lids looked like absolute garbage. I was seriously ready to make a tiny bonfire out of the lot of them. Part of me thinks it was sheer stubbornness that kept me from doing exactly that. If I were to give up at this point, I wouldn’t have learned anything from the mistakes. And there was the time and materials wasted. That all just chaps my butt something fierce.

My next solution was to glue in thin strips of paper, where the thin strips of felt had been. The paper and glue would add a little thickness and hopefully the lids would stay on. Nope. Didn’t work. The lids still fell off. And the glued in paper looked so absolutely disgustingly horrible that I thought I might actually cry.

I had mixed a lot of the paint colours for the brooches in air-tight containers. I decided to use the paint to hide the lumpy, horrible looking paper inside the brooch lids. After three coats of paint, they started looking better. I think that each lid needed between four and six coats of paint before I was pleased with the look.

Tiny windows:

Originally, the plastic window of the brooch was designed to be sandwiched between layers of carton board. I put this aside with the swivel lid design. Instead, I had cut the plastic sheeting to size and simply popped it into the underside of the brooch. Part of me thought that perhaps it could be free-floating inside the lid. But I soon saw that I needed to permanently attach them with glue.

I chose Gorilla glue to attach the windows into place. It was so, so, so the wrong choice! As the glue dried, it formed tiny, frothy, orange-tinted bubbles that I could see! It looked disgusting! While using the paint to try and hide how horrible the glue and paint looked, I accidentally smudged some of the paint over the plastic. The horrible glue mess was covered up! It looked pretty okay. So I painted over the plastic to hide the ugly glue on all of the brooch lids.

Problems with plastic:

Again, I feel as though I was going from one problem to another with these brooches. When I cut the plastic for the brooch lids, I made sure that each piece of plastic fit snuggly inside the lid. Once each lid had a piece of plastic, the Gorilla glue was added and the plastic popped-into the lid. It should have been easy.

What I didn’t realize until the Gorilla glue was already set, was that in about four of the brooch lids, the plastic didn’t lay completely flat up against the lid opening. This meant that the lid would sit crooked on the top of the brooch. So now, I had crooked plastic, weird, frothy, orange-tinted glue visible, and the lids would still not stay on the brooches.

What the in the cinnamon-toast-hell do I do now?!

Honestly, I just was so mad at myself. I made so many extremely stupid mistakes with these brooches. There were parts that looked great. The dolls were super-cute. I liked how the inside linings in felt looked. Decorative elements on the surfaces of the brooches I drew in coloured pencil looked exactly how I wanted them to look.

Those stinkin’ brooch lids though! They looked so amateurish to me. Somehow, they didn’t feel up to the caliber of my previous artwork. But as much as the brooch lids were frustrating the hell out of me, I just kept working on them. There had to be a solution to the problems that I had created myself.

The first stage is acceptance:

I accepted that there was no way to completely solve all of the problems that I saw in the artwork. There are flaws in all of my artwork that only I see. I had to allow myself to finish the ten teeny-tiny doll brooches and then to move on. Otherwise, I was going to trap myself in a negative feedback loop.

Yeah, the lids do not look like I planned them to look. On the positive side of things, the part that I feel doesn’t look great is on the inside of the closed brooch. And after all of the problem solving I went through, all the lids stay on the brooches now. That was the biggest problem I was solving for after all.

Lessons learned:

As I said at the very beginning of this blog post, failure sucks. No one likes failing. Especially when it’s in front of a lot of people. Perhaps on social media? It’s embarrassing. These mistakes made me feel like I knew absolutely nothing about how to create artwork. But, perhaps that’s a good thing. We all need a little dose of humble pie now and again.

Each of the problems, failures, etc., that were made during the creation of the teeny-tiny doll brooches taught me something about my materials and techniques. And also a lot about the questions I need to ask myself while still in the early design phases of any new kind of construction technique.

I also had to try and cut myself some slack regarding some of the specific problems like the plastic.  I haven’t been using plastic for very long in my artwork. There is still more to learn regarding its’ use. In retrospect, I should have used at least one layer of newsprint and glue on the surfaces of the brooch and lid as well. This would have made sanding a must, giving me a smoother surface to work on. Giving myself some slack sounds easy, but it’s harder than it sounds. I’ll get there, eventually.

Shop worthy?

I’m a working artist. My artwork needs to be sold so that I can pay my bills. The time, energy and materials that went into creating the teeny-tiny doll brooches would be wasted (in a monetary sense) if they were not to be put into my shop. Knowing that there was one element (the underside of the lid) that still makes me roll my eyes while sighing heavily meant that I had to come up with a middle-of-the-road solution.

My solution is to reduce the price. You can see each of the brooches in my shop here. They are each one-of-a-kind, tiny pieces of completely imperfect, handmade artwork, based on specific objects, people, history and culture that goes into all of the artwork I create.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

 

Posted on 2 Comments

New Daily Journal

In the first blog post of this series detailing how I organize my time, materials and ideas for art making, I wrote about the daily journal that I maintain. Having my daily journal keeps me mentally focused and moving in one direction. At a glance, I can easily see what I’ve gotten done, and where I need to apply more of my time and energies.

My daily journal is last thing that I touch on my desk at night, and the first thing I touch in the morning. It’s important that it be at my right hand when I sit down to work in the morning. This morning, I finally had to come to terms with the fact that my current daily journal will ‘run out’ as of the 31st of March. My new daily journal would have to be put together. The sooner the better!

New daily journal:

A few weeks ago, I picked up a new blank journal at Suomalainen Kirjakauppa. It’s a little different from my current daily journal. The book itself is a little larger. The paper is thicker, nicer paper too. There’s also a dot graph, instead of a grid on the pages.

The covers are hard book board, with a large wire spiral as a binding. The spiral is large enough for a pen to fit into, which I like. There are red roses illustrated in red ink on the covers, which I’m not fond of. But, it’s not a big deal, because I can just cover it with something I like better.

Large wire spiral bindings aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. My husband detests all spiral bindings. He’s left-handed, so they can be terrifically frustrating for him to write in. I like how the spiral binding allows the book to lay completely flat. I just can’t seem to trust the bullet journals bindings. There’s a part of me that feels as though it’s going to snap shut while I’m writing in it.

Additional parts:

This particular blank journal holds only four months of the year. Believe it or not, this was a point in the books favour. I knew that I would be adding a few new features within my daily journal. These four months give me some time to see if I like the new categories and slightly altered layouts without committing to an entire year.

I’ve added a page at the beginning of each month that is simply a list of the days of the month. There’s also a sticker with the month for 2021 for reference as well. One of the things that I wanted to become better at was long-term planning for the different projects that I work on. This page will let me know (again, at a glance) when I need to post the twice weekly blogs, Go Marielle, a new monthly newsletter as well as other yet to be revealed projects.

The layout for each individual day has also been altered. I’ve added new, separate sections for Go Marielle and the monthly newsletter. And I’ve changed around some headings for each of the different sections so that they better reflect what they actually are about. “Computer Work” was too broad a term. It’s now “Social Media and Marketing”. This just makes more sense.

Colour coding:

Colour coding has always been something that I delight in creating. My favourite element of art is colour. I know when I see green in my daily journal, it has to do with art production. I’ve made yellow the colour for the blog entry category. There are a few new colours have been added for the new categories too.

When putting together my new daily journal, one thing that I wanted to make neater was the colour coding for my categories. My previous daily journal was a little scribbly and less precise than I wanted it to be. I use Stabilo highlighters to colour code my daily journal. Sometimes the highlighters smear the ink if I write first, then highlight.

The solution was to create a template that I would use to add the coloured highlights to each individual page first. Creating the template wasn’t difficult. A page from the back of the new journal was removed. The grid on the page allowed me to easily see where I wanted to create the rectangular holes in the template. The paper template was transferred to a heavier piece of paper and was ready to use.

Blue, green, purple, pink, yellow, yellow, repeat:

The template came together quickly. It took much longer to add each colour to four months of pages. The template was cut so that I just had to align the bottom edge and the first vertical row of dots. Then I added the highlighter colours. While the colours are applied in a much neater manner than my current daily journal, it doesn’t bother me that they aren’t perfect.

The paper is thicker in this new daily journal, so the highlighter doesn’t show through. This made me happier than I thought it would. I use the bright shades of Stabilo highlighters. Sometimes the ink can pop-through the paper a little, especially when you go over something twice or more.

Writing in everything:

By the time I had finished using the template to add in my colours for different sections, they were dry enough to write on. Here again, I decided to make some changes. Stabilo Point 88 Fine Line pens in colour are being used to write over top of the highlighter in each section.

I’ve written each individual day of the month at the top of each page in black permanent fine line pen. I’m also using this same pen to write the list of days as well. I need to add the numbers of the week on the individual pages. As of the time that I’m writing this blog post, I have a lot to write into my new daily journal still!

So, now what?

Well, I need to finish all of the writing for starters! There are also some additional design elements that I want to add, like divider lines between different categories for one. I’m confident that I’ll be ready to use my new daily journal on 1 April 2021!

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Tuesday!

Posted on

Time and Meaning

There never seems to be enough time to get the amount of work completed that I want. Even when working every day of the week, there is always something that isn’t as far along as I would like. Or feels stuck in one specific stage of creation. Having more ideas than time in which to create them is better than having all the time in the world and no ideas at all.

Four bottle dolls:

These four dolls epitomize my feelings of being stuck in one specific stage of creation. Application of the sealant to all of the paper mâché surfaces takes such a long time to complete. Just last night I finished the arms and legs. Once they were completed, I decided that the bottle-shaped torsos required additional coats of sealant to better match the surfaces of the arms, legs and heads.

I use a mixture of water and Eri-Keeper glue as a sealant for my paper mâché pieces. It protects the painted surfaces extremely well. The difficult part of using this mixture is that it takes multiple layers to achieve the surface look that I’m after artistically. Eri-Keeper isn’t as shiny as acrylic semi-gloss or gloss that I’ve used in the past.

When multiple layers of the Eri-Keeper sealant are dry, they take on a sheen like an M&M candy. Incidentally, it’s when I want to actually take a bite out of my artwork that I know I have enough layers of sealant applied. For some pieces, especially small pieces, anywhere between six and eight coats is sometimes enough to achieve this effect. I’ve applied about two dozen coats to all of the pieces of the bottle dolls.

Button components:

The button components were made earlier in the week. Making them didn’t take very long. I think I completed them in around four hours. The most difficult part was creating shapes for the button components, then bending and shaping them over and around the different forms. Then they were left to dry over night. After drying thoroughly, they needed sanding, painting and sealant.

I’m still using the air dry clay from Flying Tiger. It’s the best air dry clay I’ve ever worked with. Many air dry clays I tried to use with students in my art classroom have been total rubbish. They crumbled, dried out and seemed to break with the least amount of handling.

By contrast, the Flying Tiger air dry clay stands-up to some rough handling. Including a tremendous amount of shaping, via sanding. Strange as it may seem, it actually took several hours longer to sand and shape the button components than to actually make them!

Doll stands:

The idea finally came together for the doll stands a few nights ago. Once I started cutting patterns and working with the cardboard, all four came together incredibly quickly. These stands will not be covered with paper mâché. Fabric will be used to cover the surfaces of the stands.

I learned a lot about using fabric as a covering for some of the pieces that I showed at Matara earlier in the year. Hopefully, those lessons will serve me well when I begin the fabric work on the stands.

New meanings:

Part of the learning for me as an artist is in how the artwork begins to become its own ‘thing’ as it’s created. This applies to how the physical artwork is created, as well as the thoughts, meditations and ideas that come about as a result of the act of creation. It sounds strange, but that’s how a large part of my personal creative process works more often than not.

I saw the influence of kachina in the ways I had formed the heads, arms and legs of these four dolls. I say ‘influence’ in the design of some of the parts of the dolls. The meaning behind the kachina that the indigenous people of the southwestern United States create is NOT something that I would ever attempt to copy or emulate. I would never use a culture and a history that is not mine as a stylistic choice.

What I did begin to think about was how I as the artist imbue my artistic creations with an element of my own identity. That part of my identity that I do feel is connected to the divine. These four dolls are specific to me. They’re like my own personal guardians. This got me thinking…

Lares:

I remembered reading about how the Romans had a classification (?) of guardian deities or spirits that were called Lares. These lares didn’t have specific names, but they were associated with ancestor worship, hero worship and protection. You can read more about them here.

The concept of the lares gives me latitude to decide what exactly I would like my four bottle dolls to be. If these four are to be akin to lares, then what or whom will they protect? And how can I show that in the artistic representation? There are so many possibilities swirling around in my mind. I’m sure that the four bottle dolls will help me along.

Well, crud:

Today I learned that an art workshop that I was to teach this upcoming Tuesday has had to be cancelled due to COVID restrictions. I cannot say that I’m not disappointed. Teaching art is my second favourite thing to do besides creating art! The person who contracted me to teach a Worry Doll Workshop has rescheduled the workshop for early May. So, I’ll still get to teach! And it’ll be so much easier to wheel my suitcase full of supplies to the venue! Right now everything is sloppy-squishy-slush!

Now what?

Well, for one thing. I’m going to add the last half dozen coats of sealant to the torsos of the four bottle dolls. Then I’m going to start planning the colours for the insides of the torsos. Oh! And I need to make a pattern for the clear plastic windows too! Well, you all know what happens after, ‘now what?’ I get back to making art!

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday!

Posted on

Wanted: Art Criticism

Last night, my husband and I were talking about artistic criticism. Specifically, the types of criticisms that come from outside the sphere of creative peers. During my time as a graphic design student, I learned how to critique my classmates work, and in turn how to receive artistic criticisms myself. Even when feelings were bruised, I knew that the critiques were coming from an informed, experienced argument of a peer.

In time, my graphic design work became a means to an end. A designed grocery ad meant that I would get paid. The design work that I was creating wasn’t meant for any greater purpose than conveying pertinent information as to what items were on sale at a specific place and time. After that, it was chucked into the recycling bin, or used to line a bird cage. I exchanged a service for monetary gain.

Simple truth:

There is some great graphic design work done by some fabulous graphic artists out there. But mine was not, and would never be that. Time and experience taught me that. Over the last twenty years, whatever graphic design or illustration work that I created was simply an exchange of goods and services for me. While I might derive a degree of enjoyment in the creation of the occasional graphic design freelance work. It’s not my only creative art outlet.

My creative ego is now not dependent upon it being a spectacular success as a graphic designer. Having it bring me loads of money or heaps of praise for my unique and innovative work. No. I’m no Neville Brody. And that’s a good thing. Because we already have one of those, and he’s pretty good at Neville-Brody-ing.

The struggle is real:

The difference between my graphic design work and my personal artwork, is that I’m extremely emotionally invested in my personal artwork. My personal artwork is part of my identity. Receiving positive feedback regarding my personal artwork is great, but doesn’t always translate directly into increased sales. I wrote about this almost a year ago in this post.

Personally, I felt as though I was just being a big, fat, whiny baby because the thumbs up, or hearts or nice words were not being reflected in the sales of my artwork. This is something that I am in some way, shape or form always struggling with right beneath the surface.

Sometimes, I think that if I were an artist fifty or seventy years ago, when there was no computers, internet or social media like we have today. I would have been one of those women labeled a spinster. Who worked some day job, and made a lot of personal artwork in her off hours. Only to have a horder-like apartment full of my artwork discovered by my nieces after I keeled over and my cats ate my face.

What?!

There is a point to all of the above backstory. Recently, I decided to step outside of my (somewhat) predictable positive artistic criticism chamber to post my artwork in a completely different environment. I wanted to see what people who don’t know me, or perhaps who are not creators would say about my artwork.

Let’s say, I don’t think I’ve handled it well. I don’t think I approached the posts and my comments correctly at all. In the echo-chamber of positivity mentioned above I think the only weird critique I’ve ever received was that some high school kid thought that the arms and legs I made for some dolls looked like cat poops.

Over the past few months, I’d begun posting more of my artwork on a platform. There wasn’t a lot of feedback being generated. Sometimes I would get some nice bits of feedback. But nothing specific. Then today, I just totally stuck my whole foot squarely in my mouth.

Digging for a compliment much?!

For whatever insecure reason I attached some rather sad-sack paragraph of whiny-ass-ness to a set of pictures I posted. And someone, quite rightly, jerked a knot in my tail about it. Suggesting that I was just digging for a compliment. I had mentioned that some of my previous posts had been down voted. Apparently, my posts were not as down voted as I had thought. Or, they had been up voted since the last time I looked.

Regardless, I feel like a colossal boob for the post and my poor-pitiful-me up-vote-grubbing ramblings. I’ve resolved to edit the post. And make clear what I’m really looking for: critiques of my artwork from people outside my peers and affiliated groups.

My husband isn’t quite sure why this matters to me. There’s some logic to his argument. Someone who is not an artist, or even interested in art probably isn’t going to give me any kind of critical feedback that I would necessarily take to heart. However,  it might possibly help me in discussing (explaining?) my artwork to all kinds of different people.

Now what?

Well, I’m going to do some more thinking about what I will post next. It needs to be clear and to the point. No Uriah-Heep hand-wringing and aw-shucks-ing about it.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

Posted on

Arena Work

It’s strange how time can be flying by at an alarming rate, while at the same time, standing stock still. For me, a large part of this seems to come from the fact that here in Central Finland, we still have tonnes of snow on the ground. Along with temperatures in the high negatives. It’s the same weather we’ve had for months. At the same time the last two months have just sliced through the first part of the year with amazing speed and accuracy.

My daily journal keeps me on track and moving forward. Even though the snow just will not going away anytime soon, I’m still at my work table creating every, single day.

Painting:

The gesso was completed on the bottle dolls. And the painting begun. Like most of my artwork, I approached the painting of the base coats with an “I know” frame of mine. Once the base coats were dry, the plan was to add some more decorative paint elements. I’ve done a lot of this in the past. Especially with my larger, paper mâché pieces.

The base coats of paint are never just two or three coats. These bottle dolls took around six (and some spot painting)  final coats of paint for the base coat. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with my changing of my gesso recipe or not. Time and further work with this gesso recipe will tell.

There is always a point in the first two or three coats of the base paint that I inwardly cringe and say, “Oh crap. I’ve made a horrible mistake.” This was the case with these four dolls as well. Man! They looked extremely rough during the first few coats of paint. I mean, garbage-like rough. It was around paint coat number four that I finally began to unclench and decide the pieces looked okay.

Colour choices:

There was not a whole lot of thinking about the colours I chose to mix for these four bottle dolls. In my head I do remember thinking, “I need two warm and two cool colours.” But not much beyond that. Nor did I make any spectacularly in-depth thinking about which doll would get what paint. That being said, I did discover that I had made some of the colour choices in a subconscious manner.

Realizing the aforementioned didn’t happen until I had completed the decorative painting over top of the base coats of paint. Each of the dolls had additional paint applied with different textures. The yellow doll has its additional paint colours applied with sponge. The purple doll with bubble wrap. The green doll with cling film and the orange doll with my own hand.

Subliminal:

The yellow doll ended-up reminding me so much of butter. Even her head. It’s a butter cube. The purple doll ended up recalling a storybook I had as a child, Put me in the Zoo. The green doll is a watermelon. And the final red-orange doll reminds me of a kachina.

Somewhere in all that in-between space, parts of my lived experience got stuck to the artwork without my even being aware of it. This can be simultaneously cool and really unnerving at the same time. Why did my brain pick these things to place into the artwork I’m creating right now? Butter. Really?

Next steps:

The four bottle dolls will have some additional elements drawn onto their surfaces. I have to wait until the pieces are as dry as humanly possible. Otherwise, the drawing tools will make indentations in the painted surfaces of the doll. The surfaces can even be punctured if I’m not careful.

I have an idea of where I want to go with the drawings on the surface of these four dolls. I’m going to play around with the same concepts on the four rectangular boxes I made prior to the four bottle dolls. The four boxes are bone dry. They also have the advantage of being relatively flat surfaces. Making them so much easier to draw on.

Brooches:

The teeny doll brooches are also bone dry. They too can have the surfaces finished with either more paint or drawing. They are so terribly small. I don’t want to over-do it on the decoration of the surfaces. That would just make them too busy I think. I found some pin backs for the brooches last week. So I’m in a good position to finish them and get them into my online shop.

Something completely different:

I had an interesting…communication (?) on another social platform regarding the four bottle dolls I discussed earlier. It was an comment that instructed me to “unmake” my artwork. Now, I’m a trained, degree-carrying graphic designer. Art school, and especially my graphic design and illustration courses, did an excellent job teaching me how to critique work. This comment was in no way, shape or form a valid critique of the artwork I posted.

This ham-fisted, semi-coherent, decidedly negative critique of my artwork was just, for lack of a more accurate word, dumb. It felt like the least informed or intelligent person you know attempting to make you feel bad because you’re doing something that they aren’t able to do. And while the words are oozing from the dank bits of their communication innards, they think themselves the funniest person on the planet.

So…yeah. That happened. I did not engage them, other than to say, “No.” And a total stranger came to my aid with similar sentiments. The whole thing was just so weird and out of left field. The Transitory Property of Assholery prevented me from from further engagement with the little squidget. As we all know, when you call out a person for being an a-hole, you too become an a-hole in the eyes of everyone witnessing the exchange.

So now what?

I get back to work. There is a lot of art to make, and only so many hours in a day.

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Friday.

 

Posted on

Computer Filing

Keeping my tools, materials and supplies relatively organized is easy for me to accomplish. The deluge of photographs and graphics I create is another matter entirely. While the aforementioned tools, materials and supplies are three-dimensional and more or less, in my face all the time. Computer files are formless little strings of numbers that I only see when working on my laptop.

I freely acknowledge that I need a better ways of organizing myself in the digital realm. For heaven’s sake! I’m still working on an old MacBook Pro I purchased used seven years ago! Don’t get me wrong. I’m not belly-aching about wanting/needing a new laptop. My laptop has done yeoman’s duty for me. And I’m very thankful for Omena (Her hard drive name).

For me, it’s not necessarily about the computer I have to work with, but what I can accomplish with said computer. The big question is, how can I do what I want to do right now, with the equipment that I have. Not the equipment I ‘wish’ I had. So, here’s how I do what I do.

Laptop:

From the ‘About this Mac’ window, my computer is a MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2010), with a 2,4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor. It has a 4GB 1067 MHz DDR3 of memory. And  NVIDIA GeForce 320M 256 MB graphics. I’m still working with OS X 10.10.5 Yosemite.

To be totally honest, a lot of the above just looks like gibberish to me. As a trained graphic designer I feel as though it should mean something to me. The memory bits do…to some extent. And again, being as honest as I can be, as an artist, not being able to touch or feel the aforementioned computer ‘stuff’ means that it’s completely abstracted to me.

Fortunately, I have a husband who does understand all of this stuff. And he guides me when I require assistance or explanations. It’s his jam. And I’d rather be sewing or painting anyway.

Files:

To say that I have a lot of photographs could potentially be the understatement of the century on my part. Between the photos that I take of my artwork (finished and in process), items that I have for sale in my shop, and Go Marielle, I have a lot of photos to organize and store.

To keep myself as organized as possible, I try and harness my love of filing and the contentment I feel when I put things ‘where they live’. There are two main file folders; Website and Go Marielle. Within each of those files are subfiles.

Website files:

I keep anything that I use for my website, including my online shop, in this file. Files for my inventory, pieces listed in the shop, photographic elements used in the design of my site, coupons, and miscellaneous items. Finding these files is easy. I prefer to use the icons instead of the list to find my files. I’ve also made the icons a bit larger, as my eyesight is getting a little wibbly.

When it comes to the items I have listed in the shop. Each of them belongs in a separate sup-category. Little Ladies, Creative Experiment Dolls, Tiny Animals, etc. Because each of the dolls I create has their own individual name. Their photographs are filed in a folder with their name on it. If I need to find Beanstalk, or Alice or Bernard T. Honkstorker, I just look for the name.

My inventories are maintained in a computer file (Excel) and in paper form. Changes are made to the paper version, then updated in the Excel file. I keep backups of this file in a separate hard drive used only for file storage.

Go Marielle:

The files for Go Marielle get a little more complicated. If you have read the stories that I post on Instagram, you know that I post a daily single panel, and a weekly 10+ panel story every week. There are an average of 80 to 100 photos taken for one 10+ panel weekly Go Marielle story. Each single panel daily post takes 3 to 10 photos.

So, how do I organize and store it all? Well, the first division is between the daily posts (I call them singles) and the weekly story posts (I call them long posts). Each of these categories has their own file folder. The subfiles within them are each named according to what they are. So, within the daily posts file, there are files named Marielle and the Frost or Marielle at the Bus Stop, etc. The same goes for the once weekly longer stories.

In addition to having separate files for these two types of posts for Go Marielle. I also attach a color tag to each file. Red for ‘posted’ and green for ‘not posted’. My rationale is red is for stop and green is for go.

Go Marielle complications:

Go Marielle is much more complicated than a single photograph of my finished artwork, or for an item in my shop.Each of the photos has to be processed. This entails choosing the photo to be used, cropping and color correcting it (GIMP and a Preview). Then story boarding the photos. Sometimes I need to add or remove a photograph to make the story flow better.

My rule is that if a photo is removed from the original story boarding session (meaning, it’s been cropped and color corrected), it goes into a file called ‘Photos not used’. I do this just in case I change my mind. No one wants to do a job twice. Any photos not selected for cropping and color correction go directly into the trash and are deleted.

So at this point, I have between 5 and perhaps 20 photos depending on whether it’s intended for a single panel post or a long panel post. Now it gets even more complicated.

More complicated:

The photos are run through GIMP and the faces are removed from the dolls used in the photos. Sometimes there are other bits of correction I need to do as well. It’s a lot of clone stamping and magic wand kinds of work. I also do any additional color correction work as well. At the conclusion of this, I now have two versions of the same photos. One with faces and one without faces.

I separate these photos within the file. With Faces, and Without Faces. Now, the without faces are ready to upload to another platform, Canva. One of the reasons I use Canva is because it’s cheaper than Photoshop or Illustrator. I don’t have to think about the dimensions of the pieces I’m creating either. It’s also off my computer, so it’s not a program taking up space on my hard drive.

Once is Canva, I use a palette of facial features that I drew myself. And processed through GIMP. I lay in the story as well. Sometimes I do the faces first, then the story. Other times it’s the other way ’round. Once the panels are finished, I download them to my desktop. I run them through Preview again, and make them a little smaller. This makes it easier to send them to myself via Gmail.

EVEN MORE COMPLICATIONS:

The finished Canva files. These are the ones that I will post in Go Marielle. They are the third set of photos that need to be placed in a file. They are kept in a separate file. Labeled with the story or post name. At the completion of any Go Marielle single or long post, there is a veritable set of Russian nested doll of files.

The individual panels for Go Marielle also hang around in my Gmail account for a week or so after posting as well. I do this in case something goes wrong with initial posting. And I need to do it again. They are eventually deleted. Usually two weeks after the initial posting.

Back-ups:

I have an external drive that I back everything up to. I tend to have a lot of copies of files in different places. Most of the reason for this can be traced back to my time in art school when I lost a ton of work and had no back ups at all. I had to build the entire project almost from zero.

Because of my Canva account, I can leave a lot of graphics there. Most of the announcements for Instagram Stories are created in Canva. I still back them up to my external drive. Always as a ‘just in case’.

So, now what?

The ways in which I work on computer isn’t by any means meant to work for anyone but me. I suppose that I wanted to show those who are reading this post that you don’t have to have all of the expensive computers or programs to get started on your own personal creative journey. Decide what you want to create, then figure out how to do it with what you have right now.

There are computer and periphery equipment that will at some point in the future will be purchased. Again, I’m very glad to have my husband’s guidance on the subject. But until then, I will continue as I have, with what I’ve got. It’s better in the long-run I think.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday!