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Speed of Creation

Recently, I found myself focusing on a group of similar comments centered around the speed in which I create my artwork. The exact reasons for my focus on these comments eluded me. It’s not that the comments bothered me. Instead, they just seemed incredibly odd to me.

Why would the seemingly quick completion of a piece of artwork I’m creating require pointing out? Spending as much time in my own head as I do, the length of time it takes me to complete a given piece of art doesn’t matter all that much to me. The artwork happens at its own pace and in its own time. It’s finished when it’s finished.

But I think there is more to this.

Speed of Creation:

I’m aware of the passage of time. In fact, I have a rather fine-tuned sense of time and its passing. As a single artist building her own brand and business, I work seven days a week. There is always something that requires me to be working on it.

There are online and social media platforms that require monitoring, as well as new additions. Emails that need to be answered. Updates that need to be installed. Blog posts that need to be written. And photos that require processing before they can be posted.

This of course is sometimes lost when I’m in a flow state. This happens most often when I’m in the act of creating my own physical artwork (sometimes when I’m working on photos). Several hours can pass without my realizing it. Flow state just makes the time slip past so quickly. My focus is on the artwork I’m creating. Nothing else matters much outside of that.

I feel as though the perception by others of my ‘speed’ in creating artwork is due to several factors.

Possible Perceptions Regarding Speed:

Those who remark on my speed of creation have much more complicated lives than I do. Children, errands, friends, family obligations, yards, gardens, meals to cook, people to pick up and drop off, and jobs to go to. They cannot quite imagine finding enough time in their busy schedules to do what I do.

I don’t have many of the things I’ve listed above. Those things that require so much time and attention. My life is constructed so that I can use the greatest amount of time to create artwork. I get up in the morning, have breakfast with my husband, then go off to my desk to work on art production and the business end of my entrepreneurial endeavors. There are no kids. No yard or garden. My job doesn’t require me to drive to it.

I have a pesky habit of reading between the lines of statements. Usually this happens when I start chewing on them mentally. As an American, I cannot divorce myself from the cultural lenses in which I view the world around me. Because of this, part of me wonders if what is between the lines of “You work so fast!” is the implication that my work is not quality work and not worth the prices I ask for it.

Quality of the Work Created:

Being told that the quality of my artwork is amazing is very appreciated. Having someone see, and comment on the details that I painstakingly add to each and every piece of the artwork is incredibly satisfying as well.

If the artwork I make doesn’t look ‘right’ to me, then I change it. That may mean that I add several more layers of sealant to a paper mâché piece, or I take apart doll because the legs just are not level. It may mean that I completely change the color scheme, because what I wanted to use is just not making me happy.

The quality of my work is something that I’ve been working on since the first time I picked-up a crayon as a toddler. Each successive piece of artwork helps me to hone my skills. Making each piece of art after that one better. The constant attention to the quality of my work is also related to the speed in which I create. I get better and quicker at the specific artwork created.

Possible Perceptions Regarding Quality:

Here is one of those times in which I run everything through my personal American culture filters. The US is a consumer society. You are advertised to through almost everything that you see and hear during the day or night. There are so many businesses and companies vying for consumers dollars. Many of them using the tactics to get those dollars. Some offer more for less. The more you can purchase for the least amount of money is seen as a good thing. Regardless of the quality of the workmanship of the items being purchased.

When I create a one-of-a-kind 9 cm fairy doll using my own patterns and designs and put a price on it of 65€, there are those who question my pricing. It does not matter how well made or unique the piece of artwork is. What matters is that the consumer is getting a very small thing for a large price. In the eyes of some, their money would be better spent on a mass produced doll for 10€ at a chain store like Walmart or Target.

This does raise some questions regarding the perception of my artwork in general as well. Yes, I make dolls. Art dolls. Dolls that are made by me are not the type of doll that you can or should hand to a small child to play with. So yeah. How my artwork is perceived factors into this as well.

Cost of the Finished Artwork:

When purchasing artwork, there is always the question of what the “real cost” of the artwork is. Again, this relates to time and quality of the artwork. Yes, I can work seemingly quickly. Approximately 30 to 50% of the raw materials I use in the creation of my artwork are up-cycled, recycled and second hand in origin. There are other materials that I find locally in shops that are low cost as well.

This might seem like I’m cutting corners. Or not using the best quality materials to create my work. That’s not the case at all. I work with the tools and materials that speak to me. A large part of the joy I derive from creating my artwork is that I take things that might be seen as less-than, or trash to some, and turn them into something imaginative and beautiful.

And then, there is the time I have spent over almost 40 years of creating, learning and growing as an artist. The price of a single piece of artwork is never, ever just the price of the materials used to create it, or just the time it took to create it.

Possible Perceptions of Costs:

I do take great care in the pricing of my artwork. The prices that have been assigned to individual pieces have been thought about a great deal. In many instances, the final cost of the product for the customer works out to only a few dollars/euros per hour at best.

When it comes to the final cost of a piece of my artwork, the time (speed) and quality come into play within the mind of the customer. “Well, if she can make these so fast, they should cost less!” or “If these cost so much, then the quality should be better!” or perhaps even, “For this price, she should make the dolls bigger!

All of these are questions a customer can ask themselves. The reality is, of the three; time (speed), quality and cost, you can have two, but not all three. There will have to be a sacrifice made somewhere. You want quality and speed? Be prepared to pay more. You want a low priced, quality product, then be ready to sacrifice the speed in which you get the work. If speed and a low cost are what you desire, then the quality of the work is going to be lacking.

So Now What?

I don’t know that there is any easy way to solve this problem. The Iron Triangle (I love that name.) is just one of many different project management and business tools that I can use to gauge my progress as an entrepreneur. Strangely, I’ve taken some comfort in researching the Iron Triangle. A big take-away for me is that sometimes it’s not all about me and my artwork (products). Many times, it’s about the potential customer.

The longer that I work on marketing myself as an artist and on my business plans, the more I realize that there are simply some people who will never be my customer. They will never purchase my artwork. And that’s totally okay. What this means for me, is that I shouldn’t spend my limited resources (time, energy, creativity and money) attempting to make them understand my work and why it’s worth the money. And again, that is totally okay.

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

Links:

Speed is the Key, Sugarcubes – This is the Sugarcubes song mashed with a Commando Cody serial from the early 1950’s. If you’re a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, you’ve seen quite a few Commando Cody shorts!

Speed is the Key is from Here Today, Tomorrow and Next Week!, 1989 (The year I graduated from high school!)

Good, Fast, Cheap: You Can Only Pick Two!

The Iron Triangle (Product Management Triangle)

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Go Marielle!

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.

More Complicated:

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.

Go 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,

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Getting Out of My Own Way

Being a part of an art show or showing my work in a gallery setting is something I enjoy a great deal. But seem to do it only rarely. There are two elements regarding the exhibition of my finished artwork that have either eluded me or I have not been able to wrap my head around. Whether by eluding me or confusing me, they have become increasingly annoying obstacles for me as important components of being a (successful) working artist.

An art show in my future:

Recently, I screwed-up my courage and asked to have my work considered for display in a local gallery space here in Jyväskylä. The sage advice of my friend Dubravka was in the back of my head saying, “What’s the worst they can say, no?” This simply question works well within my tendency to try and prepare for all possible contingencies. While my natural tendency can prove to be mentally and emotionally debilitating when allowed to run amok, it works with this simple question. I mean, seriously, what could be worse than ‘No.’?

No. You’re work is stupid and ugly and everyone hates you too.”

No. You’re artwork is pure, unadulterated crap and you should be ashamed of it and of yourself for creating it.

No. Make a bonfire of your work, NOW. Here’s a match.

Believe me, I have more loaded-up and ready, but I think you get the general drift of where I can go regarding my need to prepare for all possible contingencies. In fact, I have a harder time believing it when people say, “Yes! We would love to show your artwork!

Long story longer, I’ll be showing my work in a small gallery space in January 2021. It’s official and on the calendar.

Art show parameters:

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I create my artwork first and foremost for myself. To put it bluntly, creating artwork is my therapy. A healthy Katie is a an art-creating Katie. The idea of taking my deeply personal artwork and altering it to fit within a concept or theme that is completely unconnected to me or my artwork feels odd. Then there is the idea of changing my artwork to fit a physical space. This has never quite computed for me.

When researching art shows to possibly enter, I get mentally stuck on individual art show thematic parameters. One art show may have a theme concerning water life, or oceanic environments. Another art show may have a parameter that dictates that the art work be of a certain size, or a specific art medium. My artwork isn’t easily categorized in these ways. Nor is it made with themes that I don’t wish to work within our around.

Who is it for?

I’m fiercely protective of the hows and whys of my own art creation. It doesn’t seem natural for me to create artwork that is made solely for an entry into an art show. Doing so would make me feel as though I were creating art for others first and myself second. That’s not how I create art.

So it feels as though I am presented with the choice of making artwork the way I want to make it, or to create artwork specifically for someone or something else. All in the hopes that someone will pay attention to me and my artwork. Then perhaps buy a piece of my work. This made me the entire art show/gallery concept seem deceptive to me. I’m rotten at lying too.

Shipping artwork to art shows:

When I’m looking at different art show call for entries, I also have to consider the shipping costs of my artwork. This can be quite costly. And there is no guarantee that my work will sell or win a prize either. So, I may just be out 200€ in shipping (and return shipping) and have nothing to show for it, except an addition to an Exhibition Page on my website.

I do know that the exposure from various art shows can help to build a following of people who like my artwork. These people might buy my artwork from me personally, or through my website. In showing my artwork along side other artists, those artists then see my work and come to know who I am and what I do creatively. There are some definitely great benefits to showing my artwork in art shows. At present through, the shipping of my work, coupled with some of the complexity of my pieces (so, many, moving, parts) is proving cost prohibitive for me.

Around, through or over:

It seems as though I’ve really hobbled myself in regard to showing of my artwork to the public in a gallery type setting. I totally agree with this assessment. And it bugs me big-time. This inability to just shut-up and create artwork to enter into art shows keeps my artwork here with me in my workspace. Or showing my artwork on digital platforms such as my website, shop, and Instagram. These are important places to have a presence, but it shouldn’t be the totality of my exposure to the public. Showing my artwork would give me an opportunity to connect with more creative and artistic people. Being part of a larger community would be great.

The gallery space in which I will be showing my artwork has no space available to display three-dimensional artwork. All of the work is displayed on the walls. On the surface, this would seem like the last type of gallery space in which I would seek to show my artwork. I’ll admit, I wasn’t quite sure about it myself. Initially, I started thinking about ways in which to just hang my three-dimensional work from wires. But that seemed lazy. When I let my mind wander, it began playing around with different methods of displaying my artwork. This was surprising, but it shouldn’t have been.

Creative problem solving:

I sat down and started doing a little list-making. There are pieces of artwork that I have that I’ve not shown previously that I thought could be displayed on a wall. My mind kind of just started working away at the challenge of showing my three-dimensional work in a two-dimensional setting. In short order, I had five separate ideas for display that I like a great deal. Each of these ideas utilizes tools, materials and supplies that I have on hand, or that can be gathered at no or low-cost.

It’s what happens to you when you’re not paying attention:

What I found surprising, especially given the fact that I’m not a person to create art for a space or theme not of my own design, is that my mind began pulling in different un-trodden paths regarding my larger, paper mâché pieces. Not exactly un-trodden. My mind was pulling me back to sets of sketches done for pieces that I have not created yet. The more I looked through these sketches, the more I found that they fit within personal themes I’ve been working on. While at the same time, solve some of the ‘walls only’ display parameters.

Living in Finland has changed the way in which I create my artwork. The physical environment of the city I live in began making its presence known in some of the sketches that I had set aside. Realizing that my immediate environment was coming through in my artwork and sketches for new artwork didn’t seem all that important. Most of my artwork is wrapped up in my personal memories. The thing is, my personal memories are increasingly tied to the people and places in Finland. The sets of sketches that I mentioned are all, in one way or another, pulled from my immediate environment.

In the end:

None of what I’m experiencing with regards to art shows is particularly earth-shatteringly or unique. Everyone, not just creatives and artists go through similar types of personal challenges. And I know that regarding some of my personal problems, I’ve taken the longer, more difficult road. To a great extent, entirely on purpose. But it’s nice to be in a place now where I feel as though I’m figuring out things so that I can be who I want to be, how I want to be and where I want to be.

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again soon,

Links:

Beneath Between & Behind:

Rush: Beneath Between & Behind, Fly By Night (1975). I’ve always liked the cymbal work on this particular song. It’s tight when it needs to be, and crashy-splashy when it needs to be. This is also the first album in which Neil Peart was the drummer and lyricist. This song was also the first in which Peart wrote the lyrics and Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson wrote the music. Fly By Night was an important album for Rush. The way in which they worked creatively lyrically and musically changed for them as a group, propelling them in a bit of a different direction than they had been previously. While writing this post, this particular song kept running through my head.

In My Time of Dying:

Led Zeppelin: In My Time of Dying, Physical Graffiti (1975). This is my favorite Zeppelin song. It’s not really a Zeppelin song though. Remember, Led Zeppelin stole from black rhythm and blues musicians with both hands!  It’s a traditional gospel song. Here’s a version by Blind Willie Johnson, under the title, ‘Jesus Make Up My Dyin’ Bed‘. Bob Dylan also did a version of the song as well. Josh White’s version is particularly lovely. ANYWAY. John Bonham’s cymbal work on this song was and is amazing to me. I love how jangly it gets, it’s almost like the entire song is crashing out of a drawer in the kitchen with all the music seeming to hit randomly all over the floor, but it’s just tight as hell!

Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic

The Police: Every Little Thing She Does is Magic. Okay. I know. This song is a little too ‘pop’, but hear me out. Stewart Copeland has this amazing finesse to his cymbal work that I have always found insanely fascinating. He’s not a basher and a crasher when it comes to his cymbals. He plays his instruments with a level of dexterity and musical sensitivity that some drummers will never achieve. Each part of the cymbal is represented in his work. Copeland can transform each of his cymbals into distinct voices within the musical composition. It’s never too much, it’s never too little.

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Creating New Small Dolls

Over the past week, I’ve begun work on a new group of Little Lady Dolls. One of the big reasons for this is that I just wanted something small to work on. Designing and building the large paper mâché Play Set Dolls, like Audrey, Kiddo or Crystal is incredibly satisfying to me as an artist. But they can also take such a very long time to create. My mind constructs the finished piece at a speed that the physical world just cannot compete with.

While I am still thoroughly enjoying the creative process, there’s a portion of my mind inhabited by the ever-impatient toddler who wants everything done right now. I can usually keep her relatively quiet. Mostly because the Play Set Dolls have so many individual moving components to them. With each completed part, my inner inpatient creative toddler is pacified a little bit. For me, this makes imagination and creativity flow a bit better.

Larger Little Lady Dolls:

A few months ago, I created what felt like gargantuan sized 12 cm tall dolls, based on the much smaller 6 cm Little Lady Doll pattern. I made three test dolls with the 12 cm pattern. Only one of them I considered a success. Two of the dolls were a full 12 cm tall and the third is 10 cm. For two of the dolls, the clothing I made just bothered me. It just didn’t look right. Putting my finger on precisely what was wrong with the dolls proved difficult, so I placed them aside and started work on Shirley and her doll house. I could always come back to the 12 cm dolls at some point in the future if I wanted to.

The yellow top on the light green doll just looks wrong to me. The colors are okay. I think it has something to do with the scale of the doll and the clothing style. This type of swingy, a-line top or dress looks great on dolls that are 5 cm tall and under. On a 12 cm doll it just looks so wrong to me. The 12 cm doll wearing overalls looks fine to me. In fact, she’s the one doll of the three test dolls that I consider a success.

The 10 cm doll is the worst of the three dolls. Her proportions are all off. The pant legs and arms need to be either longer or shorter. I thought that making the doll a little shorter would make the a-line top work. Nope. It somehow made the proportion problems even worse. The hairstyles are the only elements that I like for the above two dolls. The rest of them, especially their clothing is just…yuck. That seems so mean, doesn’t it?

Practice Makes Better:

These three dolls were practice. No one hits a home-run their first time at bat. The same is true for artists. I call my practice dolls ‘The Alpha Versions’. They are more or less, a proof of concept for me. I’m not looking for them to be perfect. And anyway, there’s no perfect in the practice of art making. It’s all a series of educated attempts. Sometimes the attempts are successful to a degree. There are times in which the attempt is just an abject failure, not even worthy of a picture as reference. Practice is practice. I learn what works, and what doesn’t work. The failures are where most of the learning takes place in my opinion.

Failure is not a bad thing. If you learn from it, and then make changes when making a second, third or fourth attempt, you are amassing quite a bit of knowledge and practice for the fifth, sixth and seventh attempts. Failure isn’t a bad thing until it prevents you from that eighth attempt at success. You may not realize it at the time, but you get a little better each time you try and (maybe) fail.

This was always a difficult concept to teach to the students in my art classes. It was therefore part of my job as an art teacher to give these students a safe place in which to fail. This made failure just part of the overall art-creating experience. And in the long run, it taught students to be okay with not being terrific at something the first time they tried it. Failure taught them to pick themselves up. Dust themselves off. Look at what they did. Make a new plan. Decide on a new course of action. Then to implement it.

Open Mouth, Insert Money:

I’m practicing what I’m preaching by giving the 12 cm dolls another try. There are some ideas that I’ve been wanting to try out on this size of doll. Smaller dolls would not necessarily work for them I think. “I think“, because I do not know. The 12 cm dolls may be an abject failure within the confines of this new idea that I have. Who knows? No one will, not unless I make the attempt.

Making shoes is one of the worst parts of doll making, in my opinion. There is just something about it that I cannot seem to get my brain around in concrete way. I’ve made the above kinds of boots for dolls previously. They’re fairly easy to create. Yes. They look like Ugg boots. Having the dolls wear them isn’t so much a fashion statement, but a means to have them stand on their own. As much as I dislike making doll shoes, I still work hard to create dolls that can stand on their own. Two legs or six, I want them to be free-standing.

These boots aren’t perfect. I will need to tweak the pattern here and there. Hopefully, I will get closer to what I want after making a few more pairs. As you can see, the boots are removable, at least for now. I’m not sure if I will attach them permanently or not. What I do know is that at this point, just after making the boots, these two 12 cm dolls look better proportioned to me than my previous attempts.

I’ve planned their outfits out a little bit. Colors have been chosen as well. I know that I will not be creating any swingy, a-line tops or skirts for them. See?! I’m learning!

Conclusion:

Practice is great. It won’t all look good. Some of it will look bad. In my experience, a lot of this practice will kind of look ‘okay’. The point is not to despair! Keep working, even when you’re not quite sure what’s not right, or where you might be going. Plant one creative foot in front of the other and do the work.

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

Links:

Nukkekoti Väinölä: Maria Malmstrom has an amazing doll house site! Her miniatures are fabulous! Her designs just blow me away! She’s got all kinds of kits to purchase! Check out her online shop here!

Gepetto: I have a few pieces of Gepetto furniture. It’s super-cute and very easy to put together. They have multiple scales available and they’re kid-friendly. One of the pictures earlier in this post has my dolls sitting in Gepetto chairs.

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Autotelic Creating Artwork Utilizing Flow States

There were two things that I read over this past week that got me thinking about selling the artwork that I make. One was a response to a picture of my artwork posted on Facebook. The other being something that I read in passing on Instagram. At first glance, they don’t seem all that related to one another. It was only after unpacking them that I made the connections.

I had posted a series of process pictures of some small and tiny dolls that I had recently started making. Previous to this, I’d posted a picture of the neat, little, stacks of felt pieces that I had cut in preparation for making the dolls.

…I have often wondered if you have more than the allotted 24 hours in a day because of the volume of what you make with your gifted hands…how do you do this?!?!?

How do I do this?

Here’s a more direct kind of hourly break-down. he picture above shows twenty-two doll heads. Ten of them are for 12 cm tall dolls, and twelve of them are for 6 cm tall dolls. To sew, stuff and embroider twenty-two small doll heads took me around eight hours to complete. Attaching the abdomens to the heads takes another six (or more) hours of work. Sewing the base hair onto each doll head took me a little longer than eight hours. I started the arms and legs yesterday afternoon, and managed to complete six dolls limbs in around four and half to five hours.

If I were to be cheeky about answering my friends question, I would have said, “I just sit down and work. That’s how it gets done.” Of course, that’s just me being a bit of a jerk. And I would never answer someone so flippantly. But, my cheeky answer is the closest to the truth. I sit down. Work starts. Time passes. The work continues. My mind is occupied. The work is completed. In reality, it’s all just me entering a flow state.

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’…

I’ve talked about flow state before in my blog. In a nutshell, when a person is actively working on something that they are very interested in, or perhaps extremely invested in, on a personal or professional level, a person can become so engrossed in what they are doing that time just kind of slips by with little notice. The work becomes the center of all attention.

For me, flow state isn’t difficult to achieve. However, I’ve made decisions about my life that have allowed me greater freedoms to do as I wish with a great deal of my time. My husband and I both work from home. And we don’t have children. Together, we have built a life in which our wants and needs are few. Outside distractions for me are extremely limited. I am free to create for hours on end, while not depriving anyone or anything of my attention.

My personality is also fairly autotelic. Which also just fits into the overall construction of my life at present. I create because I need to create. It’s great to sell my work too. Regardless of whether it sells or not, I will continue making artwork. Creation of art is not done only for the potential of a monetary reward.

Seven further qualifiers:

Owen Schaffer added what he calls the Seven Conditions of Flow to Csikzentmihalyi, Nakamura and Cherry’s work on the concept of flow. I think they’re very much in play while I’m actively engaged in creating my artwork.

  1. Knowing what to do
  2. Knowing how to do it
  3. Knowing how well you’re doing
  4. Knowing where to go (if navigation is involved)
  5. High perceived challenges
  6. High perceived skills
  7. Freedom from distractions

My friend expresses disbelief that this much work could be created in such a short amount of time. It’s not magic. The seven conditions almost seem like a set of step-by-step directions to me. Know what do to – CHECK! Know how to do it – CHECK! Not all of the conditions have to be present at all times either. Sometimes, I have no idea where I am going when I’m creating artwork. I suppose that the perception of the challenge compensates for no internal sense of direction at times.

It should be mentioned that this is not the first time that I have received comments like the one that spurred this post. Rarely are the conditions right for me to offer-up all of the information I feel explains this perceived ‘ability’ to anyone remarking on my high-output of artwork. Can you imagine offering up all of this information to a total stranger at an art show? A cocktail party? A cook-out? (Insert hysterical, off-putting laughter here.)

So yeah. (clears throat) That’s how I do what I do.

What was the other thing?

I’m kind of kicking myself for not downloading it. It was something that popped up in my Instagram feed. The post was by a ceramicist, and directed at potential customers purchasing original art and handmade objects directly from creators. It was something like the picture below.

I think that the text of the Instagram post that I saw was very similar to this one. There are several of these kinds of posts floating around on the internet and social media.

What relates the post to what your friend said?

When I’m in that flow state, and I’m creating. Time is gone. My art is in front of me. I’m working on it. Everything outside of my mind and my hands and my art is gone. And yes, for me, time is suspended. I derive an insane amount of pleasure from creating what I create. Sharing the artwork that I create with people, perhaps even selling some of it, that’s also amazing. The overlap occurs within the act of creation for me.

When a person buys my work, they’re getting a slice of the flow. My flow.

It’s like stepping into a stream and feeling the current of the water around your bare feet. Then reaching down and picking up a shiny pebble. It may have taken ten, twenty, thirty years for that bright, shiny pebble to make it’s way down from the top of the mountain. All the while, the water kept moving. And moving. And moving. And the pebble got pushed a little here and a little there. That pebble got to where it was from all that flow pushing it along right to where it was in your path and it grabbed your attention.

I encourage everyone to go out and stick your feet in a stream or pond now and again, if it’s possible. Or, you could go look for a your very own slice of flow in my shop. You’re choice. No pressure. I needed to get in my shameless plug for sales.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again on Monday,

 

Links:

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: TED Talk about Flow

Schaffer, Owen (2013), Crafting Fun User Experiences: A Method to Facilitate Flow, Human Factors International

Steve Miller Band: A live performance of ‘Fly Like an Eagle‘ or you can you can give the LP version a listen here.

Autotelic Personality: How Personality and Self-Perception Relate to Flow Propensity

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What Shirley Tells Me

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.

Viisi Lauseita:

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 CharlesWhat 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,

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Why My Artwork Must Be Original

Holly Hobbie is a creation of the watercolor artist Denise Holly Ulinskas. I loved her when I was a small child. I still love her as an adult.

Every, single artist wrestles with their art. One of the largest of these struggles for me has been discovering a balance between how create original artwork that is deeply meaningful to me, and making an income by selling my original artwork. When I was actively teaching art in public school, there was an agreement between the two sides. My bills were paid through my teaching, and I was free to create any type of original artwork that I wished. It was not crucial for the artwork I created to find a place in the marketplace or for that matter, within the art world as a whole. Teaching art handled that. Any of my original artwork that was sold was extra income.

Due to world-side events, selling my original artwork has taken precedence over teaching art. At least for the foreseeable future. My entrepreneurial plans required some adjustments. A larger part of my business plan is now devoted to the selling of my original artwork. I find it much easier to ‘sell’ myself as a teacher or art workshops, than to market my own artwork.

Being successful at marketing my own original artwork depends upon so many different things that I don’t have any control over. Success also depends upon my going into the selling of my work with a degree of  personal and creative confidence that fluctuates between ‘nonexistent’ and ‘okay’. Some days are better than others. As a result of my maladjusted sense of confidence, I tend to delve deeper into the how’s and the why’s in an effort to understand myself. Through this understanding, I can make the necessary adjustments that will hopefully increase my chances of being as successful a working artist as I possibly can be.

Why my artwork must be original:

I have a memory from childhood. My father found me either actively drawing a copy of a picture, or he saw a drawing I made that was a copy of another picture. The memory is a little hazy, but I think it was around the time I was 7 or 8 years old. That is the only time that I concretely remember copying a drawing. It was a Precious Moments bulletin board decoration from my classroom. It might have been Holly Hobbie. Actually, I kind of hope it was Holly Hobbie…but what artwork I was copying is beside the point.

The gist of what my father told me was that it was perfectly okay for me to copy another artists work. Plenty of artists throughout history learned how to create by copying other artists as practice. However, my father was vehement that I not copy a piece of artwork, made by another artist, and then sign my name to it, claiming it as my own. I was never, ever to attempt to pass-off someone else’s creative artwork as my own. That was just wrong. Very wrong.

How this Idea Effects My Artistic Processes:

I’m constantly running the ideas I have for my own artwork through the aforementioned memory filter. Sometimes it is less a ‘filter’, and more like a series of sieves. Each idea is pushed through a finer and finer mesh sieve with the hope of as original a piece of artwork  I can create being mashed through that last and finest sieve. This process has it’s Pros and it’s Cons.

The Cons:

One of the cons is that this process requires me to almost constantly second-guess my own creativity. This can be annoying to say the least. What ideas have not made it through all of these mental machinations that were perhaps more original than I thought they were? What designs have I placed by the wayside simply because I didn’t want to be perceived as an artist following a trend or style? Have I actively turned away from materials or techniques that are ‘all the rage’ right now?

Another con is that when an artist is actively trying to be as original as they can, the artwork that they create doesn’t always automatically find a niche within the larger arts community. My artwork is difficult to categorize in a traditional fine arts sense. My artwork is not an easy fit into the world of fine art, nor is it completely an ‘arts and crafts’ kind of thing. Perhaps my age, and the length of time that I have been creating my artwork makes artisan feel a bit more accepting a categorization for myself and what I create, but it’s still not a perfect fit. The thing is, this categorization isn’t so much for me, but for those who see and purchase my work. The person buying my work wants to know what they’re getting. Are they a patron of ‘the arts’, or a devote of a particular form or technique? Do they want to pass the work to their children, or will it be used up and tossed out when it loses its’ allure?

A con of my pursuit of being an original creator is that there is absolutely no guarantee of a reliable amount of sales in any arts marketplace, whether it be fine art, arts and crafts or artisan. This requires me as an artist to either bend to the the expectations of reliable marketplaces, or to take an active roll in creating my own place, no matter how small, within those established frameworks. To do either of these things requires me to ask myself, ‘What problem am I solving for?’ or perhaps, ‘What am I willing to compromise on, so my problem is solved in a way that doesn’t mentally and emotionally chap my keister to the point I can no longer stand the pain?

The really big and slightly addictive pro:

While the concept of creating my own original artwork was placed into my head at a very young age, I cannot deny that I revel in creating my own artwork. The sheer, unadulterated bliss of thinking an idea in my brain and then sitting down and making it so that it exists in the physical world, is just the most amazing experience for me. This kind of happiness, is something that I’ve grown so accustomed to, so dependent upon as a means by which I attempt to understand myself and the world around me, that I don’t think I can not make art in some way, shape or form. Copying another artists work by comparison feels as though it would be a hollow experience for me. I find no satisfaction in it, and the resulting artwork shows that.

It appears as though my endless pursuit of creating original artwork is not something that I’m willing to compromise on. This leaves me with the task of creating my own little place within the larger, established arts related marketplaces. What I need to make sure that I do is be honest with myself regarding this endeavor. I know that I’m free to create whatever types of artwork that I want, whenever I want to. What I am not guaranteed that anyone is ever going to want to buy my artwork. This, even after I work to create my own little niche in the marketplace. I can do everything that I can to sell my work, and still never sell a single piece. The marketplace, like old age, isn’t apparently for sissies.

So, I will continue to create my own original artwork, while at the same time carefully carving out my own small niche in which to place it. Those people who like my artwork, who ‘get’ my artwork…they are out there in the world. There may not be a lot of them, but I would like to think that the numbers are on my side. These people just haven’t found me and my artwork yet. I need to make sure they do.

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again this Friday,

Links:

What is an artisan? I usually start my lateral reading online with Wikipedia and move on from there.

Precious Moments: Honestly, my flirtation with them is contained to the year 1978.

Holly Hobbie: Holly Hobbie was the creation of watercolorist Denise Holly Ulinskas. Way cooler in my opinion. Kinda hippy-esque. She was the forerunner to my love of the Gingham Girls paper doll sets.

I also remember having a small, stuffed Holly Hobbie doll, like the one in the picture below:

 

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No Foolin’ Around

I’ve been working on Shirley and her dollhouse/stool for quite a while. This piece is the largest and the most complicated of any of the papier maché dolls that I have created. I think all of the pieces makes it seem as though I’m not making progress on it. When in fact, I’m completing each small piece, putting it down, then moving on to the next small piece. Repeating this process over and over has resulted in a lot of finished pieces, that need to be assembled into the final, large, finished piece. Shirley has turned into a 3-D create-your-own-puzzle sort of pursuit for me.

There are other reasons that Shirley is taking a while to complete. One reason that keeps floating to the surface is that Shirley has a tremendous amount of personal elements. Then there is the fact that for the first time in quite a while, I decided to use text in my artwork. So, I think I’ve been trying not to second-guess my instincts regarding the text. I finally decided to use the text because there just didn’t seem to be a way to communicate the concepts. Writing the word was the most expedient. Or, in my case, appliqué-ing and embroider-ing them out.

A significant part of me is terrified about what the words say. These statements are weird and wrong and embarrassing for me to say out-loud about myself. Part of the embarrassment comes from the place of having to then explain exactly where they come and why. I have had decades to live with the words. The words and statements have become little satellites to my personal identity. They are part of my identity, but then they aren’t. They’ve just been caught in my identity gravity and I never quite shook them loose.

I hate explaining my artwork. It’s not because I’m upset that people aren’t ‘getting‘ my work. The problem is three fold. First Fold: I am me, and other people are, you know, people who are decidedly not me. Second Fold: As the artist, I somehow make the assumption that just because the act of creating the artwork has helped me figure things out‘, that the same deeply personal revelations should be just as clear to the persons viewing my artwork. And for the Third Fold: I feel as though I sound like an idiot.

The people who have been following my creation of Shirley have no idea that one of the reasons I chose the name was because my Aunt Katie’s name was ‘Shirley Kathryn’. She went by Katie. People won’t know that we were sometimes called, ‘Big Katie’ and ‘Little Katie’ to differentiate between the two of us. They won’t know that the two of us decided we didn’t like the big and little monikers, and made the decision to call each other, Shirley and Elizabeth (my middle name) and that no one else was allowed to call us by those names besides us.

My Aunt Katie was an integral part of my life. I sometimes felt more understood by her than my blood relatives. She was an incredible woman who had a great deal to do with the person I am today.

That’s just one reason to choose Shirley as a name for this piece too.

There’s part of me that feels that if my artwork requires a great deal of additional explaining, then I have somehow not communicated my intentions clearly. These beliefs are the mental left-overs of working in graphic design and illustration I think. When I begin a piece now, I’m starting with nothing more than a need to make something and an attraction to colors and forms. The meaning develops as the artwork progresses. My personal act of art creation aides me in discovering what the individual piece of artwork is about. My personal art creation process diametrically opposite from the creative process I employed as a graphic designer and illustrator.

Make an ad that for this hat. Show the hat. The price is $17.99. Put the store address in the ad too.”

Huh. I haven’t used green in a while, and I want to use a balloon for the initial form. Round. I want ROUND.”

I know I wasn’t a very good graphic designer or illustrator. But when I feel like people don’t understand my artwork, I  suppose I kind of feel like a two-time failure at art.

I think too damned much about these kinds of things. I had a dream once, years ago, in which I was in a building that was falling down on top of me. I looked up to see an I-beam coming straight for my head and I thought, “Oh no. I won’t be able to think anymore.” Even in my dreams, thinking things is a big part of my life.

I need to get away from these warped kinds of ideas. A person can like my artwork and not understand where it comes from, or why I created it at all. Knowing one of the reasons why I chose Shirley for this dolls name doesn’t suddenly make the art better than when you didn’t know it. It doesn’t diminish their enjoyment of my artwork. My artwork is experienced in an infinite amount of ways by the all the different people who view it. Everyone brings their own lifetime of knowledge and experience to the instant in which they interact with a piece of art. A Gen-X’er may get my nod to Fisher-Price Little People, but a Millenial may think, “Why does she keep making these weird little poop-shaped people and yellow houses?” Meanwhile, Baby Boomers are wondering why my dolls don’t have faces.

And then, there are people who think that all artists just smash a bunch of materials together without much thought at all about anything and then just sit back and call it art and let the money roll-in. But that’s a topic for another blog post at some point in the future.

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Monday,

Links:

Talking Heads, Life During Wartime, Live Performance 1983: I have a vague art-school memory of my classmate Christa saying that certain lyrics of this song were very similar to being a senior visual communications student. I have to agree. That final semester did feel as if we were living during some kind of wartime.

Talking Heads, And She Was (Official Video): I sometimes joked that upon entry to a graphic design program, new students were handed a variety of things that they were to become associated with, because you know, graphic designers — and art students — are supposed to be quirky, or really weird. “Welcome to art school! Here are the complete recordings of the Talking Heads! Enjoy the Weird!

I think I need to do some re-reading of John Dewey’s Art as Experience. I’m so glad that I can find it online to read. Not all of it, but a nice chunk of it. Google Books can be a good place to find texts online that you have difficulties finding elsewhere. I’m in Finland. I can’t just head down to the library or local book seller and pick up a copy.

 

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&%$#!

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.

PS:

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.

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My Little Gray Cells*

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!

Anyway…

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:

Yeah. That’s DeForrest Kelley as Dr. Leonard McCoy in Star Trek:TOS. I can never hide a thought or emotion. I get Bones McCoy face.

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.

So…

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.

 

Links:

Charlie Watts — just a lovely, talented man. He’s a gem.

Bob Mould

*The Little Gray Cells — I’ve been listening to a lot of Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot mysteries over the past week.