Over the past few months, I’ve devoted a sizable amount of time to exploring various directions in which I could take my artwork and my online presence. Changes have been made to how I’m posting online. These have changes have made me so much more content mentally and emotionally. But, being the type of creative person that I am, I have a rather compulsive need to explore new ways in which to make art. New sets of skills, materials and techniques are always something that I’m interested in!
New Direction Inspiration:
While I was brainstorming, I realized that one aspect of sharing my artwork that I enjoyed a great deal was storytelling. When I was creating my online shop, I spent a great deal of time creating unique stories for each of the dolls that I’ve created. Some of the stories came about while I was in the act of creating the doll itself. Others came about after I had some time to sit with the doll and let my imagination take over.
I could clearly see these little dolls moving about on their own. Doing all kinds of things. Having friends and playmates. Going places. Being independent little creations going out into the world with complete personalities, ready to explore! This may sound strange to those who are not creators. It may sound childish or juvenile to some. But it’s the way my brain works. I tend to lean into it.
If you’ve been following me here or my Instagram for any length of time, you know that I’ve been working on a series of small dolls since the early part of this year. The current size of dolls I’m creating are 12 cm tall. They are the perfect size for 1:12 scale dollhouse furniture. Perhaps this is what pushed me across that invisible line. And made me connect some dots.
Once I had decided that I wanted to tell stories with my dolls, then I had to figure out how to do it. Honestly, it sounds like a pretty simple thing, doesn’t it?
Create a doll. Write a story for the doll. Make the doll act out the story you wrote.
Easy-peasy, right?! The more that I thought about it, the more complicated the whole idea became. There were so many small moving parts to my idea. Each of them generated questions that needed to be answered. This was a little overwhelming at first. There were just so many things that I felt could go really wrong.
There were small nit-picky questions like: Was I going to construct the sets myself? How would I do that? What materials would I use? Where would I store them? Could I reuse them in the storytelling? Would that limit the kinds of stories that I wanted to tell? What about the photos? Do I have the right camera for this? How am I going to process the photos?
Bigger, weightier questions: was I going to be able to create the artwork on a reliable schedule? Was the artwork that I was creating going to be good enough to share? Would the work make me look like a talentless fool? How could I utilize my limitations to my advantage creatively?!
There are times in which the fear can take over, and make you backdown. Fortunately, my internal need to create art over-road any and all of my fears.
I decided to take the leap with the little doll Marielle.
There are times that I fall completely in love with a doll from the very start. Marielle is one of those dolls. She is just the sweetest little doll! Hence, she was the natural choice to be the face of Go Marielle! Her name is pronounced MAH-ree-ehl-leh, because she’s a little Finnish girl. She’s a little girl who likes going to new places and having adventures! Go Marielle! translates to Mene Marielle! in Finnish, which I like a lot.
Currently, my plan is that I will be posting Go Marielle! stories in parts every Friday to my Instagram to start. Again, I have ideas of where I want to go and what I want to do with this idea. And things may change. It’s important for me to have an outline, but not one that is so restrictive that it’s hard to manage. Or, an outline that becomes stifling to my creativity. That is never good.
Hopefully, those who read Go Marielle! will enjoy the pictures and the stories!
Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Friday,
Understanding the harmful and the happiest parts of my life:
There is always meaning behind the work that I create. There are times in which I’m not immediately aware of the meaning behind the images, forms and styles that I’m employing. It’s there though. It’s working away quietly behind the scenes. It’s through the discovery of the meaning behind the work that I’m able to learn more about who I am and why I think and feel the ways that I do. It allows me not to lurch from ‘knee-jerk reaction’ to ‘knee-jerk reaction’ through life. I need to know why I am the way I am. It’s the only way I can see to find a way in the world.
There are things that I have learned about myself through the creation of Shirley that shines a light on some of the more unfortunate bits of my past. The maladjusted portions of my child and young adulthood that have gotten wedged inside of my mind. Those bits that won’t budge. In this piece, Shirley, I find myself questioning the incongruity of how the best and most precious parts of my childhood can be so inexplicably entangled within some of the earliest, most damaging emotionally warping experiences of my life. Each of these things have shaped me as a person. How can these things be both shitty and happy at the same time?
The five words become five phrases:
From a very early age, I can remember feeling like I wasn’t what I was expected to be. The older I became, the more I heard the same five words used to describe me: loud, obnoxious, selfish, fat and ugly. I can hear people say, “But come on! Kids can be mean. You got bullied, BIG DEAL! Get over it! Everybody gets bullied for something when they’re a kid!”
Okay. I’ll address that. The first three (loud, obnoxious, selfish) were said to me by my mother. Repeatedly. The fourth was addressed by my mother via the never-ending series of diets I was placed on as a child and teenager. The fifth was used as “You’d be so pretty if you lost weight.” and “You have such a pretty face!” I inferred that I would not be ugly if I was not fat. If I stayed fat, then I was, by default, ugly.
Believe me, middle and high school boys let me know what a fat, ugly, dog I was. And yes. That still stings like all holy hell, even today. Because my mother had let me know what parts of me she personally found so wrong, so lacking, that somehow, the negative reaction of the boys I had crushes on in school were somehow justified. They were just seeing what my own mother saw in me, mentally and physically.
Because of this, these five phases took root within my psyche:
I am loud.
I am obnoxious.
I am selfish.
I am fat.
I am ugly.
How they affect my existence:
These five phrases are deeply fixed within my identity. The roots are have wrapped themselves in, around and through every single, solitary experience of my entire life. I am never, ever without them at the forefront of my thoughts. I cringe inwardly when asked to introduce myself, or tell someone a bit about myself. The five phrases flash across my brain. I have to consciously tell myself not to say them out loud to people. Often, I fall short of describing myself in anything that could be remotely construed as positive terms. More often than not, I blurt out something self deprecating and incredibly off-putting. Part of me feels like not saying the five phrases out loud is a victory.
I was taught from an extremely early age, that what people think of me is incredibly important. The five phrases, while they were my truth, needed to be disguised, or somehow made more palatable. A semblance of normality needed to be presented to those around me. This was done in the hopes that: 1.) people would take pity ugly, fat girl, and let me be their friend and 2.) to make myself an indispensable workhorse type of person that made my presence less disgusting because I could do x, y, or z well. It didn’t matter what I felt inside. It didn’t matter how my negative self-image damaged me internally. As long as I could fake-it until I made it, all was good.
Then I met, fell in love with and married a man who loves completely unconditionally for who and what I am. This was and is to a great extent, still extremely weird to me. My husband understands me. Well, as much as any one person can understand another. His presence coupled with time and distance from the people and conditions that formed the five phrases within me, has been beneficial to my mental health. This started the inevitable destruction of my extensive mental work-arounds and fronts. It’s only natural that the artwork that I create began reflecting these changes.
Finland Changed Many Things:
With Shirley, I decided to bring the phrases out into the light and place them right along side some of those happy memories of childhood. The five phases were turned into questions. A choice was made to ask them in Finnish. Why? Because living in Finland has changed me. It has changed my artwork. It has fundamentally changed my point of view on many things.
Oletko äänekäs? (Am I loud?)
Olenko vastenmielinen? (Am I obnoxious?)
Olenko itsekäs? (Am I selfish?)
Olenko lihava? (Am I fat?)
Olenko minä ruma? (Am I ugly?)
To be totally honest, I’m not sure how to answer these questions. It is interesting to filter these thoughts through a different language and a culture that is at times similar to, yet very different from my own though. The sting is removed from the words. The words become easily teased apart into free-floating letters. When I picture the time in which the five phrases were planted within me, they are not with these words or pronunciations. I can more easily dissect these words. There is an emotional distance that isn’t provided in my mother tongue.
Yeah. I know. The English words of the five phrases are big and in yellow. The Finnish is smaller, in blue and is kind of just floating around the bigger words. Rome wasn’t built in a day. And over forty years of internalized pain are not extinguished with the completion of one piece of artwork. The completion of Shirley is the first volley of fire in a long battle.
Reactions to Shirley so far:
It’s interesting that there have been almost no comments made regarding the five words or phrases. In fact, there has been exactly one. A friend expressed said that she had similar types of thoughts running through her head. She said that she doesn’t see me that way. This made me wonder if I’ve made people uncomfortable with these five phrases. My admissions to dark, depressing and malformed ways of thinking about myself. Perhaps they think I think that way about them? No. I reserve all my poison for myself.
Is it that people don’t know how to respond to them? Should they agree with me? Would that be insulting to me? Are they put-off by the way in which I think about myself? Does that mean there are people out there that don’t think of themselves in the most negative terms?! How is that even possible?! Do they think it’s some kind of trap? Like, I’m luring them out so that they will admit they think this way about me? Or maybe they just think one or two of these things about me?
Yeah. I’ll own-up to fat.
Are people embarrassed that they maaaaybe think these things about me?
There’s a quote by Regina Brett, that has been expanded upon by RuPaul Charles “What other people think of me is not my business. What I do is what I do. How people see me doesn’t change what I decide to do.”
I don’t think I’m anywhere near living up to that quote. Someday, I might get there. Anything’s possible.
Thank you for reading, and I will see you again soon,
My time away from social media is quickly coming to an end. The break has been of great benefit to me in a variety of ways. I feel as though I have a better idea of how I want to use social media in the future so that I don’t find myself painted into yet another painful mental or emotional corner. It’s also allowed me to create art without feeling as though I have to publish every single part of my personal artistic processes.
While I’ve been taking a break, I’ve also been working on where I want to take my website in the future. I’m adding a storefront (via WooCommerce) to my site, that I hope will make it easier for customers to locate and purchase my artwork. The storefront will allow customers to simply point and click to purchase artwork, instead of contacting me personally to discuss the availability, cost and shipping of specific pieces of artwork.
I have to admit, website construction is not something that I find myself enjoying a lot. I’ve spent the greater part of the past three days crawling around in the bowels of my site, archiving blog posts and images, rearranging a lot of information, working with backups, and double-checking everything…really, quadruple-checking everything to make sure that I’ve not lost information. Images in particular are things that I don’t want to lose. I suppose that’s part and parcel of being a visual artist.
To mitigate all of the computer time, I’ve also done a thorough cleaning of ‘The Midden’. Over the past two months, the Midden had turned a corner and become ‘The Crap-Slide’. I can deal with working in a midden, but a crap-slide is a completely different animal. In a midden, I know where things are. In a crap-slide there is no organization. Piles slide into piles and get all mixed up and I can’t find anything, which results in a great deal of cursing, usually beginning with “Son-ova-a” accompanied with varying levels of crashing or banging.
I’ve organized and photographed the artwork that I will offer for sale in the new storefront. It’s all sitting patiently in boxes in the living room, because there’s not other place for it to go in the apartment. I still need to go through a great deal of the artwork I will not be offering for sale, box it up, and put it into our storage unit in the basement. I also need to make sure that all the boxes are marked correctly so I know what work is in what box in the storage unit. Hopefully this won’t take too long. Fingers crossed.
Part of me doesn’t like putting my artwork into storage. It’s not that the storage unit is damp or gross or anything like that. It’s quite dry and safe. I don’t fear anyone attempting to break into the storage unit, to either destroy or steal anything. I guess I just don’t like the idea of my work being all alone so far away from me. I don’t feel this way when my artwork sells, because I know it’s going to a place where it will be taken care of. Packed in boxes and put into storage…that just seems lonely. Yeah. I know this is weird, but it’s how I feel.
BUT….before I can do any of that, I need to go through alllllll of the work that I do wish to offer for sale and organize it into a database for “businessing the business”. This task will be slightly less boring, as I will get to interact with my artwork a little bit. AND, I get to make spread sheets. I do enjoy making a spread sheet. Really. It’s weird. I find the same kind of satisfaction in filing too. There. Now you’ve learned something new and totally useless about me.
Okay, off to categorize, organize and database.
Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Monday.
I have to say, Hunky Dory is without a doubt, one of the most perfect albums ever recorded. There’s not a skip-able song on the entire album. It’s sheer, unadulterated, total and complete perfection in audio form.
Over the past day or so, my husband has had to listen to me muttering curses under my breath while working on “Shirley”. To be more specific, the actual doll I’m calling Shirley has given me little to no problems. Or perhaps I would say, Shirley has given me no problems that I have not been able to handle. The thing upon which she sits, the little dollhouse, just started giving me fits last night while I worked on it. My husband started calling me Yosemite Samantha because of all the frustrating muttering and cursing.
The most oft repeated curses involved the following phrases:
“Why won’t you just go into the hole?!?!”
“The HOLE is where you LIVE! GO THERE!”
“The hole is your HOME! GO. TO. YOUR. HOME.”
“How in the am I supposed to get a hole in THAT corner?!?!?”
“I HAVE MADE YOU A LOVELY HOLE. JUST. GO. IN. THE. HOLE.”
Believe it or not, all that I was attempting to do in the interior of the dollhouse seat was to install tiny curtain rods and tiny curtains. The curtain rods are around 4 cm in length. All the tiny curtains and rods have been finally installed within the house. I may be adding some rolling window shades to one room, but there will be far less cursing around the concept of holes as a result.
I could argue that my problems with the rods and curtains were a result of my own poor planning for this little dollhouse. I don’t think that’s far off the mark, but I’m increasingly, for lack of a better term, winging-it as I work on this particular piece. In reality, winging-it is nothing more than relying on my own efficacy. All of the cursing and frustration are just the points at which my efficacy either comes to an abrupt stop or becomes a little squishy and ill-formed. I could have chosen to just throw everything down and declare my entire idea of using paperclips (unbent and stripped of the plastic outer covering, then clipped to size and bent to fit into specific holes made around the window frames) and pieces of handkerchiefs (thank you Dubravka!) and old pillowslips that I used white glue to create seams instead of sewing them (because my #12 needle is too big, even with a single strand of thread, to sew the seams and have them look good) a bad idea and simply started over with something better. But I didn’t.
That place where my efficacy ‘abruptly ends’ and ‘throw everything down and declare my entire idea to be bad’ is the place in which some of the most important learning for me is done. It’s the forge for my own artistic efficacy. I kept moving forward. Even when I cut the wires too short and had to start from scratch again. When I had to go back again and again and widen holes and make new ones. When I had to widen the holes as I was poking the wire through them. When I realized that I couldn’t make the bends before putting the curtains onto the wire. It would have been so easy to just toss it all in the trash and try another idea.
The frustration as I worked (that spilled out into so much cursing) was actually quite (Lev) Vyvotsky-esque. The cursing was just my inner speech spilling over the sides. That area where my personal artistic efficacy was being built is pretty much textbook Zone of Proximal Development. The curtains don’t look exactly how I had imagined them. I’m already making adjustments for imagined future pieces. The result that I achieved isn’t bad enough that I would toss them out, but isn’t good enough to make me think that I cannot do better in a future attempt.
Part of me feels as though I should be creating more sketches of my ideas and thoughts. If not for me, then for some far-off imagined posterity in which artistic fame will be granted to me, and my artwork accepted by the masses. This all done while my body decomposes deep in some Nordic forest (I wish to be wrapped-up into a nice burlap bundle and buried under tall trees where my body will biodegrade and return to the earth. My personal version of returning to ‘the force’ if you will), a curious few will wonder “How/Why did she do that?“. If I’ve written it all down, then they will know!
Or…I could just be realistic and decide that it’s not that important in the grand scheme of things. Who really gives a rats pink whoo-ha about how I created tiny curtains for a tiny dollhouse? It’s not like I’m curing cancer or ending climate change or anything. I’m just making art, and by doing so, figuring out how I work and where I fit, or even if I fit. Or perhaps, should I even want to fit? Hmmm…perhaps I have more in common with tiny curtains and curtain rods than I thought?
“Why won’t you just go where I want you to go?!”
“THIS is where you LIVE! Stay HERE!”
“This is your HOME. STAY. IN. YOUR. HOME.”
“How am I supposed to explain this to people?!”
“I made you! Just do as I say!”
Wow. That got a little psychological there for a minute now, didn’t it?
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again next Monday.
Tiny Rods and Tiny Curtains:
The tiny dollhouse is still under construction. The second level and roof are not permanently attached to the rest of the house shell. This is why it looks as though there are weird gaps between the walls.
The days have been slipping by since my last post. I continue working on my own art as the world continues to kind of go off sideways in some corners. The weather here in Finland has been for the most part, simply lovely. There have been some beastly hot days recently (31°C / 87°F) with high humidity. It’s still not nearly as bad to New Mexico heat during the summer! Yuuuuuck!
My work progresses. I’m pleased with the progress. I’m not rushing anything, and continue to try and stay within the moment creatively. It’s interesting to not be taking so many pictures, because I’m making tons and tons of mistakes. All kinds of things are happening in my work that is just not good. It sounds weird, but I’m kind of liking that. With no fear of having to document the process with pictures and post them, I can just royally screw-up all over the place. No one ever has to know either. Well, that’s not totally true, the end product may just be a total disaster held together with baling wire and chewing gum!
Not taking pictures somehow is adding to the creative freedom I found originally through my original Creative Experiment. I called the Creative Experiment to an end in November 2019. The experiment had served its purpose and I needed to move on. I have found bits and pieces of the Creative Experiment surfacing in my current creative processes. I didn’t think this added creative freedom would be a side effect to taking a break from social media, but here we are.
The increased feeling of creative freedom — essentially, just the freedom to create my artwork without self broadcasting the actual work-in-process in real time — has made me realize how exhausting it was to continually document my processes in real time. This doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy sharing my processes and my artwork with people. I think I just need to create a framework for sharing and posting that is not as painful for me. I use ‘painful’ because yeah, it was getting painful. While I’m typing this, I have a low-level panic attack going on. I’ve not felt like this since last Monday when I posted.
So I need to figure out how to have an online presence without it causing me all manner of anxiety and panic. I’m confident that I will get there. As always, I just need to make sure that what I’m doing is the best for me in the long run.
This brings me to another one of those things I’ve read or have had said to me that makes me go:
I had touched on this in a previous post. It has to do with the following Sarah Andersen cartoon:
The societal myth regarding the sad artist resulting in great artwork. Man. This one ticks me off so much. I’ve done some research into this topic, being that I’ve got mental health issues and am an artist. It’s a topic near and dear to my existence. I’m surprised at how early these kinds of stereotypes are taught to children. It never ceased to surprise me when a student in one of my classes would chirp-up with some kind of “artists are all kind of crazy” comment about an artist we were looking at, or the art we were making in class. Again, students would know that some guy who painted flowers cut his ear off and yeah, he was totally coo-coo-nutty-crazy-bananas.
Yes. There are some artists who take their awful experiences and resulting sadness/depression and turn it into artwork (Guernica, The Scream, The Third of May 1808, Woman with Dead Child just to name a few) In the case of van Gogh, some truly great artwork. But that’s just one artist out of millions that have existed since the beginning of human history. And yes, I know that there are others, like the ones I listed above. Sarah is correct with her ‘Truth’ portion of her comic. Content artists are happy and healthy and productive artists. I can speak from personal experience here. Before I got a handle on my depression through lots and lots of therapy and medication, I would go months without creating anything. I just couldn’t see the point of it. My work sucked, and being depressed made it such even more. The little artwork that I created was just so, so, so bad. To be truthful, I destroyed a great deal of it, and what little I have kept, has been stored away and is not meant to be seen by anyone other than me. It’s awful work. It’s disturbing. I makes me cringe. CRINGE. I kept it to remind myself of what happens to my creativity and creative output when I don’t take care of my mental health.
The musical soundtrack to this not-so-fabulous, insanely deep depressive and unmedicated part of my life was Bob Mould’s Black Sheets of Rain. Oh man. I love Mr. Mould something fierce, but after going through therapy, I actually hid this album from myself so I wouldn’t end up in the fetal position on the floor of the bathroom crying into the bathmat while listening to It’s Too Late on repeat.
Once I had gone through a lot of therapy, that made me feel a lot worse before it made me feel better, I started making art again. The artwork was much better. So, so much better. As I started to figure myself out, my work became the means by which I began to paste myself back together again. For me, being contented and healthy, means that I am actively creating artwork that is fairly good (I think…) and I am continually productive as an artist.
The one part of Sarah’s comic that I differ from is the use of one word, ‘happy’. I prefer to use the word content instead. I liked The Oatmeal’s cartoon in which he talks about happy and unhappy being at the opposite ends of a continuum. “I want to be busy and beautiful and brimming with ten-thousand moving parts” is something to aspire to being.
There is research shows that there are some higher rates of mood disorders (depression for one) among artists. For me, it’s a chicken and the egg kind of thing. Am I depressive because I’m an artist, or am I an artist because I’m a depressive? Or…is it both? A little nature and a little nurture? I tend to believe the latter for myself, however, every artist who has a mood disorder will have their own unique circumstances of both nature and nurture that shapes them as people and as artists. To simply think that ‘all artists are nuts‘ is just a blanket over-simplification of a topic that is far, far, far more complicated than most people are comfortable talking about. I don’t know many people who want to talk about visual art and mental illness in separate conversations, much less together in the same conversation.
I feel as though I’m having what I call a ‘Charlie Watts Moment’. Allow me to explain. In the Rolling Stones documentary 25×5:The Continuing Adventures of the Rolling Stones (1990), there’s an interview of the band in which they are all asked about touring. Charlie, being quintessentially Charlie, states that he dislikes touring a great deal, but he loves playing drums with the rest of the lads. As the interviewer goes on to question Mick and Keith and Ronnie, Charlie is still mentally chewing on the conundrum of loving to play music with his bandmates, but not liking that he has to tour to do it. He mutters something along the lines of “It’s just a vicious cycle…goin’ ’round and ’round…”
I love making art and showing it and my processes, but the act of sharing it makes me not happy. It’s just a vicious cycle going ’round and ’round in my mind right now and I need to make sure that whatever solution I come up with keeps me mentally healthy and content so I can continue making art that I want to create.
Thank you for reading, and I will talk to you again next Monday.
This is the first post of any kind I have made since deciding to take a break from posting almost daily on social media. It’s been enjoying myself quite a bit. Remember, I am still working on my artwork; I’m just not posting pictures of progress and process. There is something about having that time with my work, as I’m creating it — having it back, just for me and me alone that has been particularly restful for me mentally and emotionally.
I have been thinking about a lot of different things while I work. I tease apart my own thoughts, trying to discover their various origins and how they influence how I interact not only with myself, but the people and greater world around me. I sometimes find myself mentally gnawing on specific things that have been said to me regarding my artwork, or being an artist by different people at different times over the course of my life. Some of the things I have heard just get stuck to me. Velcro’d down tight to my mind, almost immoveable, while others are more like stepping in gum on a hot summer day, messy, annoying and hard to control.
I’ve had one of those ‘stepping in gum’ things banging around in my head for the better part of a month now. The core message of the phrase remains the same, while the delivery is somewhat plastic. What it usually boils down to is something along of the lines of “…someday, when your work is in a museum…” The aforementioned phrase usually has something about my talent in it, or the degree of fame or influence my artwork will have on future artists, etc. I have increasingly found myself having a reaction not unlike the picture below:
The meme posted pretty much fits with how I inwardly process this kind of comment. I know that whomever is telling me that my work will be in a museum someday means it as a compliment, I don’t think they really understand that what they are really saying to an artist is…problematic.
Let’s take a look at the implications made in a statement like, “Oh! Don’t worry! Someday, when you’re art is in a museum, everyone will see how talented you were and be inspired by it!”
Sometimes, the “Oh! Don’t worry!” portion of this statement seems directed at an artists desire to sell more of their work, or be able to gain more clients, have a greater amount of performances, or to be able to display their work in some way, shape or form that will gain them exposure to people, persons, or organizations that would be willing to purchase their art. To be quite frank, artists, both performing and visual are constantly worrying about these things. An artist with no place to show their work or perform is still an artist, but one with very limited means of procuring money, which is exchanged for goods and services, like food, clothing, rent among other things. We worry because we know our ‘talent’ won’t get us a seat on the bus, because the busses take money, not interpretive dance or drawings as bus fare.
On to the next word the phrase, “…someday…” Someday. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not three weeks from next Tuesday. Someday. Someday. An imaginary date in an unknown, distant future. The artist may still be alive or maybe is dead. The artist may be long dead. Or perhaps the artist is just really, really, really old. That’s when the artists’ artwork will be recognized as worthy enough to be placed in socioculturally-ordained building where important, expensive or rare things from around the world and different times in human history are placed behind glass and velvet ropes and curtains, so that people can come and look at them after they have paid a fee to enter.
In the simplest of terms, the use of ‘someday’ could be interpreted as a polite substitution for the phrase, “after you’re dead” or “when you’re close to dead”. (Please refer to the above Nick Young meme) Pull at those threads a little more, and it makes an artist feel as though the only time in which their art will make any money is when there is no chance of any more of their art being made. Dead artists don’t make art. This makes the supply of their art finite. An artist can get knotted-up thinking about these kinds of things. Is my work really good now, or will it only be ruled good after I die? Or is it after I’m dead and a museum decides that it’s good — or at least rare — artwork?
Yeah. I know. It seems as though I’m getting a little…dramatic. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been accused of being so. I should simply take the compliment, smile and move on. Believe me, I do. However…the way in which I interpret this phrase has changed between the first time and the most recent time that I have heard it. I know that I must sound childish. That there are artists out there that would love it if people would tell them that they think their artwork is good enough to be in a museum. Compliments are nice, but assuring me that I will have some degree of fame when closer to death, or already pushing up the daisies, well…that doesn’t help me get across town because the bus is €3 each way.
This brings up another interesting part of this phrase; fame. One assumes that if an artist has their work in a museum that they must be famous, right? What artist doesn’t want to have a degree of fame?
When I think about artistic fame after death, I think of van Gogh. I’ve been to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. It’s a stones throw from the Rijksmuseum where several works from Rembrandt van Rijn are, including ‘The Night Watch’. Much of van Gogh’s life is at least partially known about by most people. “He’s the crazy painter who cut off his ear!” and that he painted sunflowers is what most people glean from his life at a minimum. Rembrandt is known of, but I don’t believe most people on the street (outside of the Netherlands) would know what his work looks like, or anything about his life. (I personally like that the bubble water I buy at Lidl is called Saskia, his wife’s name.)
Each of these artists had their own trials and tribulations, to put it very, very mildly. Van Gogh shot himself with a pistol and died a day or so later, feeling like a failure. Rembrandt died penniless and wad buried in an unmarked grave. Rembrandt was considered a master in his own lifetime. He knew he was brilliantly talented and so did everyone who saw and purchased his work. Van Gogh struggled his entire life. His last nine years alive saw him create a truly amazing amount of drawings and paintings. He sold two paintings when alive. It was after he was dead that artists and admirers began showing his artwork to a public.
Why the rise in fame after his death, and not before it? I’ve always thought that it was two part. First, there will be no more new paintings or drawings by van Gogh, and second, the story. The majority Vincent van Gogh’s life suuuuucked. He had problems. A lot of problems. He struggled with everything. With love, with religion, with his family, with the world, with his own mind. Then there’s Theo, the brother who never stopped supporting him. Never turned his back on him, even when Vincent was…really going through the unbearably bad stretches in his life. Theo’s widow compiled the letters the two wrote and published them. Vincent’s work was saved by her efforts.
Oh. And, van Gogh sold one painting during his life time. It was less than a year before he took his own life. He sold The Red Vineyard for 400 francs (around $2,000 USD).
The letters of Vincent and Theo were published. A museum was eventually built and houses an impressive collection of van Gogh’s work. It’s €19 ($21.30 USD) for an adult ticket to get into the museum. Free for those under 18. You pay more if there is a special exhibit. In 2015, the Van Gogh Museum took in €27.3 million ($30.2 million USD). The museum is very nice, but I don’t know that I’ll ever go back. The galleries were packed with people who wanted to see the ‘famous’ paintings. There were people packed in tight taking selfies in front of van Gogh’s work. They really didn’t seem interested in the work per se. They seemed there more for the selfies than anything else.
So wait, let’s go back a bit…to €27.3 million?
I stood in a room covered with the work of van Gogh while they snapped selfies in front of his most famous paintings. They paid €19 to do this. I know, some people were there to actually learn something and experience the artwork, but…the whole museum made me want to cry. Van Gogh is famous. His work sells for millions and millions of dollars. His artwork is reproduced on everything front toilet seat covers to fabric to car wraps. Many people make money from the artwork that he created.
He’s famous. He’s dead. He had a life that really suuuuuuucked.
So, when I’m given the compliment that my work will be someday recognized as good, and placed in museums, this is the kind of thing that runs through my head. Everyone BUT me will be able to, in the words of Hank Venture, “Get a slice of that fat money cake.“
I sometimes feel that the implied meaning behind the “someday you’ll be in a museum” compliment is that I desire fame (I don’t) and am willing to live a weird-outsider bourgeois-imagined la bohéme existence complete with some sort of mental illness (I’m on meds for my depression, does that count?) that somehow makes me “extra special” in some sort of pleasantly acceptable sort of way to the vast majority of people who have no personal knowledge of art or art making.
My specialness! My talent! They were simply too far ahead of the curve! This is why I’m not selling my work now! I’m making art for say around the year 2050 or so! It will all sell when I’m dead! I’ll be so famous then! When I’m dead! This changes EVERYTHING! I’m so glad that I can pay my bills with the aforementioned promises of ‘someday I’ll be in a museum’ fame and fortune.
Yeah. I know. The lady doth protest too much. I think just needed to vent a little, I guess. If I didn’t get sarcastic about things like this that begin to chafe me mentally and emotionally, it would start coming out in really inappropriate places and times. I know that no one has money to buy artwork right now. The most that some can do is pay me a compliment, or give me a thumbs-up or a like on a social media platform. I get that. It’s just that sometimes, the compliments begin to remind me of how much I’m failing miserably right now. Because if I were truly talented. If my work were truly good, I would have found a way to make it all work for me by now, and I haven’t. And thinking about people paying €19 to come and take a selfie in front of a piece of artwork that I made while dragging myself, body and soul through a mental minefield of broken glass, while not even looking at the work, or realizing what the work is about…or why I made it…that’s just smashes me.
Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Monday.
Last Thursday, I created a post for my Instagram account. I’ve been wrestling with some challenges* in my creative, artistic and entrepreneurial plans for some time. Some of these challenges I couldn’t predict (pandemics, lock-downs, social distancing, etc.). Some challenges were ones that I thought I would be better at weathering at this point in my life. While I feel as though I’m doing pretty-kind-of okay most of the time, there are other times in which I know I’m most definitely not doing “okay”.
I need to be “okay”.
I think Sarah Anderson described my current situation best her cartoon below:
The pervasive societal myth of the artist as unhappy, depressive who creates art from their own horrible mental and physical existence is a topic for another post. There’s a lot to unpack in regards to that myth that I want to say, as it relates to me personally as an artist. But like I said, it’s another post topic for another time.
Back to the topic at hand…
I am not happy with where my creative endeavors and my entrepreneurial efforts are going. My efforts are not yielding the desired results. Due to a lot of my own personal mental and emotional experiences (read: “baggage”, and again, a post topic for another time) this is causing an inordinate amount of pain for me. Please know, when I say “pain” understand what I mean. My current situation hurts me. I pay attention my mental health. As a person diagnosed with clinical depression, who is medicated, it’s important to know when I’m not feeling right and why. This could mean that I need to have my meds adjusted, or it could mean that I need to alter things within my life to address whatever is making me not “feel right”. Or in this case, I need to address something that is causing me mental, and increasingly physical pain.
What I need to do is remove myself from a situation that is causing me pain. Right now, that means I need to take a step back from posting my art and my artistic processes on social media. I need to take a break for a while so I can figure out the changes that I need to make to my creative artwork and my entrepreneurial plans for the future so that I can be happy and relatively pain-free. I can’t do that when I’m not feeling right. When I’m in pain. When I am unhappy.
I’ve been working on a piece for the past few weeks. It’s a large, papier maché doll that is intended to sit on top of a dollhouse, complete with furniture. I’ve enjoyed working on this piece a great deal. There’s a lot going on within it. Lots of moving parts. Lots of different inspirations. Lots of references from my own life, culture and experiences. I realized several days ago that the compartments on the side of the head were much too small to hold the spooled embroidered felt banner/backdrop I had created. I had two viable options: 1.) make the banner/backdrop smaller somehow so it would fit what was already made, or 2.) take apart the head, make requisite repairs as well as a new set of housings for the banner/backdrop.
As difficult as it was, I chose the second option. I have an intense dislike for destroying anything, especially things that I have made myself. I suppose it’s hard-wired into my identity to create, rather than destroy.
This morning, when I looked at the corrections I had made to my artwork, I was much happier. What had made me so unhappy about the piece had been adjusted. I could see that even through I had to go in a different direction than I was normally comfortable, the end result was my own contentment as an artist.
So…what does this break from social media look like?
I’m going to take a month off from social media. (June 15 to July 15, 2020)
I won’t be posting any pictures of my artwork in process or of my finished artwork.
I will continue to make artwork. I just will not be posting it on social media or anywhere else online.
I will post here on my website once a week on Mondays (June 15, 22, 29 and July 6 and 13)
I am hopeful that this time away from social media will give me some pain-free breathing space to figure out what I want to progress with my entrepreneurial plans going forward.
“*Challenges” — I’m using this turn of phrase as a substitution for other possible words like, difficulties, problems, trouble, issue, worry, mess, obstacle, setback, hitch, stumbling block, quandary, setback, headache, etc.
Sarah Andersen is a phenomenal artist. Go look at her stuff. If you don’t want to buy my work, buy hers.
My website is my place on the internet where I showcase my artwork, try to make connections for selling my artwork and as well as advertising my services as an artist and art teacher for art workshops. I love sharing the artwork that I make and my personal artistic processes with people who are as passionate about art making as I am. This is what this website has been created for. This is what I need it to be.
That all being said, I need to acknowledge that 2020 has been difficult from the get-go. To put it more bluntly, it has really, really sucked on a variety of different levels. Not just for me personally, but for the entire planet. I hit a wall yesterday after being in what I would consider a low-level panic attack space for about a week. I desperately wanted a very large gin and tonic, or two or three of them. Having no alcohol on hand, I crawled into bed to escape into sleep. I just needed everything happening to go away, even for a short time.
When I woke up several hours later, I realized that I hadn’t felt the way I was feeling since the results of the last presidential election were revealed. I just shut down for about 72 hours. I was in shock. I was in disbelief. I spent part of the time crying. Everything just felt so wrong to me. So incredibly wrong. And there was nothing that I could do about it. I just had to get through it.
I felt powerless then, and I feel powerless now. I’m an American expat. I live in central Finland. I adore living and working in Finland. No country is perfect, but for me, Finland is a great place to be, especially here. I live in a university town within a large and incredibly diverse international community of students and families. Living here has given me a greater degree of understanding of the world as a whole. The friends that I have made have helped me to grow as a person. And for that I am eternally grateful. I am a much better person for having known them, talked to them, worked with them, studied with them and eaten meals with them.
When preparing to move here to attend school, I was told by a family member that I had to remember that I was “representing” my country. No pressure there! Seriously? I was to represent the entirety of the United States of America? Was I to represent only the good bits? Was I to leave out all of the icky bits? You know, the things that the US isn’t proud of, or ignores, and perhaps sweeps under the rug and hopes that no one asks about them? I decided to represent myself instead, and I hope that has been enough for the people I have me and the friends that I have made.
This brings to me to the ‘ugly underneath’ part of my post today. The part that is so incredibly hard to chew and swallow. The truth. The really, really, really ugly truth. Made more difficult by those who do not see it as a truth. Systematic, institutionalized racism is Godzilla-sized huge in the United States, and it has been for hundreds of years. I’ve known this for years. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ve been an unwitting participant in it through my own white privilege. I’ve been shaken to the core of my being at the images of police brutality towards those protesting in US cities. I cannot fathom how the police think that what they are doing to protestors is moral or ethical.
Here’s the thing though, black people in the US are far too familiar with this kind of brutal treatment by the police than I could ever possibly be. Yeah. I’ve been arrested. I was treated with kid gloves. The arresting officer made personal calls for me on my behalf. He refused to ‘put me in the tank’ with the other women in custody, because I ‘didn’t belong in there’ with those sorts of people. I posted bail and was back at work in the same day. I didn’t lose my job. I didn’t lose my car. I was not beaten. More importantly, I did not fear for my life when I was arrested, cuffed, put in a police cruiser and taken downtown. My personal belongings were returned to me. The arresting officer didn’t allow them to be checked-in; he held my crocheted, black bag and waited for me to be bailed out. Then returned it to me personally.
I never once feared for my life. I never once thought, “I might die today.” or “I hope he doesn’t hit me.” or “I hope the officer doesn’t rape me.”
Why didn’t I have these fears? Because I’m white. I’m a white woman. The arresting officer didn’t want to arrest me, but there had been a bench warrant issued for my arrest and he had no choice but to arrest me.
My arrest was a veritable tip-toe through the tulips. I laughed and joked with the officer. I laughed and joked with the nurse who took my medical information. I had everything explained to me thoroughly and thoughtfully by every person I encountered during my processing at the police station. I was treated with kid gloves. I think I would have been given a coffee if I had asked for it.
Now. Let’s contrast my arrest with someone like Sandra Bland. Or Philandro Castile. Neither of these people had a bench warrant. What was the big difference between them and me?
My heart hurts. I’ve felt so powerless to do anything to help. Then, I started reading my cousins Facebook page and I decided that there were some things I could do. Chief among them was to be vociferously anti-racist, calling people out and letting them know what they were doing and saying were not okay at all.
“Confront racial injustices even when it’s uncomfortable” Y
So…it should be incredibly clear as to which side I have chosen to align myself. Because until black lives matter, no lives will matter to those who hold the power.
Thank you for reading, and I will talk to you all again soon,
(Note: I wrote this yesterday, but for whatever reason, didn’t actually post it. So, the Wednesday Business and/or Entrepreneurial post, which is being altered for the time being, is being posted, in altered form, on a Thursday because I guess sometimes stuff just happens. I’m not deluding myself in thinking there are people out there who are champing at the bit to see what I’m going to whine or ramble about in my posts either! Ha! Anyway, here’s my post!)
My Wednesday posts are intended to be devoted to my entrepreneurial endeavors. I want to talk about marketing, money, online store fronts, in-person sales, patterns, dolls, teaching workshops, etc., in these Wednesday posts. I’m going to suspend the entrepreneurial content for these post for the foreseeable future, or at least until the world returns to more normal functioning. Another reason that I’m making this small change is because frankly, I’m tired of feeling like a big, fat, whiny baby about my (lack of) business. I’m just so very tired of hearing myself complain about it. The negative aspects of my lack of business progress, and talking about them is just making me feel like crud. I know it’s important to acknowledge my feelings and where they’re coming from, but I’m tired of wallowing in them. At least for now.
With all that being said, I did have one sale this week! I’m tremendously happy about it and got it sent off to the buyer earlier today. I hope that the tiny little dolls I sent make the buyer and the person they are intended as a gift for happy!
I’d been thinking about questions that have been asked of me about my dolls in the past. I thought that it might be an interesting idea to document these questions and my answers to them. I’m not sure how many questions there will be. If you’re a reader of my blog posts, contact me with any questions you might also have that you don’t see here.
Questions and Answers Regarding my Recent Doll Creations:
1. Why are you making all these tiny dolls lately? What happened to all the paper maché dolls that you had been making for the past year?
Okay. Starting off with a two-part question. Good. The tiny dolls, and why am I making them? I’ve always been fascinated with tiny things. Tiny dolls in particular. As a very small child (3 or 4-ish?) I had some mass-produced dolls that I adored. I cannot remember anyone giving them to me as gifts. I think that the majority of these dolls were once my older sisters dolls. I’m not sure how the dolls became mine. My sister could have given them to me because she was getting older (13-14-ish) or it could have been that I just claimed them as mine and took them. Toddlers have a nasty habit of doing that at times, and I was quite the sticky-fingered kiddo.
I remember called these tiny dolls ‘Bitsies‘. I guess a take on ‘itty-bitty‘. The dolls that I had were anywhere from half an inch to two inches tall (There were some that were closer to four inches tall, but I don’t remember them). They were colorful and detailed and I loved that they could be tucked-into pockets because they were so tiny and they had tiny accessories. Their hair was so cool too! So long!
These tiny dolls were Liddle Kiddles. They were a line of dolls by Mattel that ran roughly from the mid 1960’s until the early 1970’s. I had quite a few of them. The dolls that I had were mostly from the Kola Kids and Kologne Kids series, and the Lucky Locket series, with a few of the storybook dolls and the tiny jewelry-themed dolls thrown in here and there. I lost some of the clothing and most of the accessories fairly quickly. Many of the Liddle Kiddles I had just had their little dresses on. I loved their sweet little faces! They were so adorable, with great big eyes! When you look at their faces, you can tell which ones were made by Mattel and which ones were cheaper knock-offs. The 1994 Tyco dolls I think lack the charm of the original Mattel dolls.
I remember being fascinated with the hair colors of Liddle Kiddles. Orange hair!? Green hair!??? I loved their little themed names and outfits for the different lines of dolls. I can look at these Liddle Kiddles Kola Kiddles (OH! The spelling! It BURNS!) and know exactly when my fascination with color and specific color combinations started. My color fascination was furthered by Sesame Street, but that’s another post entirely.
It cannot be overlooked that the Liddle Kiddles came in series. The way in which I’ve been creating the tiny and small dolls that I have since the beginning of the year are all part of a series. The Creative Experiment dolls, especially the small ones using buttons in lieu of faces were a long series (approx. 200 dolls, give or take). The number of pieces in a series I create seems to be dependent upon my personal curiosity regarding the series. By the time I’m a dozen deep into the creation of a specific type of doll (or any other art) creation, I know that there is something that I’m trying to figure out or decode that is coming from deep within my personal identity.
I wrote a post last December (Wringing Meaning from Turnips) about creating the tiny dolls had become my attempt at reconnecting with a place and time in which I was content being me. Not happy. Happy is a fleeting concept. Being content for me is finding a balance within my own mind in which my inner and outer worlds are working in concert, with neither one of them figuratively screaming at me for attention.
These Liddle Kiddle dolls came into my life as I was just nearing the end of that time in my life in which I remember being the most content. Before the world became more ‘screamy’ at me. They were so tiny and precious. They were colorful and sweet. I have intense memories of looking at their little faces and realizing that each separate doll had slightly different faces, but they all looked like they belonged together. Like they were related. In retrospect, I suppose my little toddler self thought of these little dolls almost as some sort of religious talisman. I wanted to protect them and keep them safe. I wanted to tell them all my secrets. I felt like they were safe receptacles for them. They wouldn’t tell on me or laugh at me. Being that I was on that cusp of having the outer world rush in to begin its influence on me cannot be ignored. By the time I was five, I knew there was something wrong with me. The outer world was telling me so. I was too loud. I was too obnoxious. I was selfish. I was fat.
Screamy. Screamy. Screamy.
So yeah. I’ve been making tiny dolls. It’s personally therapeutic for me, and creatively satisfying.
2. Now, for the second part of the question, regarding the larger paper maché dolls. I have been calling them ‘playset dolls’ because their construction is more complicated with lots of moving parts. I mean for these larger paper maché dolls to actually be played with. It strikes me as odd that when I show pictures of them, or when I had some of them in a small exhibit locally, no one who was looking at them knew about all those moving parts and all the things that were hidden away in the drawers within their bodies.
As these dolls grew larger and larger, they took on a guardian-like presence within the world I’ve created with my dolls. Very simply put, the big, scary, weird, strange outside keeps the tiny, delicate, sweet, doll parts safe on the inside. I’m completely aware of the metaphor working here. It’s kind of a metaphor delivered with a sledgehammer, but I guess I gotta be me. Connecting this metaphor to my personal childhood experience, to a cornerstone of the beginning of my creativity seems natural.
I will be creating more large paper maché dolls in the future. I have two or three that are getting rather noisy inside my head and are itching to come out. No skull splitting required!
Thanks for reading, and I will see you again next Wednesday (even though I know it’s Thursday, but then again, what do days of the week mean now anyway?)
D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths, by Ingri d’Aulaire and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire This is one of my favourite books from childhood. I was twelve or thirteen when I won a $20 gift certificate to Cambell’s Books store with a piece I had entered in a county childrens’ art show. I bought this book. I can still remember how the floorboards creaked as I walked through the store, right over to this book on the shelf. I didn’t need to look around. I knew what I wanted.
Vintage Liddle Kiddles I didn’t have any of these larger Liddle Kiddles, or any of the big accessories like the carrying cases or playsets. This video is a little funny, in that some of these poor little dolls are naked! They look a little sad, but I’m guessing that they were well loved because so many of their accessories are gone. The Lucky Locket Kiddle Kiddles are the ones I had the most of.
“Close ups reveal the weaknesses of the whole premise.” (1)
I didn’t write any update for my entrepreneurial pursuits last Wednesday. I was just not in a good place mentally speaking to do so. I’m an ambivert, so I’ve been relying a lot on my more introverted tendencies throughout this weird time. Staying in, making art and basically nesting, has been totally okay with me until last week. The staying in and maintaining social distance is beginning to wear a bit thin for me. My husband is far more introverted than I am, and is also is a person who is in a higher risk category related with COVID-19 infection. This means that even as the restrictions are eased a bit here, we’re still social distancing and continuing with other precautions.
I don’t mean to say that I’m climbing the walls or anything. I’m just beginning to get tired of it. I know myself well enough that I need to acknowledge my feelings so they don’t get so large and cumbersome that I find myself becoming overwhelmed by them. I know myself well enough that figuring out my feelings takes me some time, and I need to let them percolate through my mind so that I feel as though I understand them, myself and how I’m reacting to them.
Making art is my therapy. Making art is my passion. Teaching people how to make art is my vocation. Selling my artwork is (sometimes) my Waterloo, or perhaps my windmill? It could be many things.
If only I could pay my bills in personal fulfillment. My life would be damned near perfect!
I’ve been working on some new pieces and have begun some planning for some larger and more complicated pieces. My artwork to a great extent, guides and informs itself. I’m basically the one with the thumbs that brings the art into existence. I’ve had some things (ideas, thoughts, concepts, techniques, materials, etc.) swimming around inside my head for quite a while that I feel are ready to be created.
This is one of the hardest things to try and explain to a person who does not make art of their own. Differentiating between when it’s time to create a piece of art and when it’s not. There are some pieces, like the series of small dolls that I’ve been working on for the past few months, in which I can have an idea, sit down and complete the piece in relatively short order. I can see the results of the idea fairly quickly, then move on to the next idea. I can process through a lot of smaller ideas and acquire a lot of creative, emotional and mental satisfaction in doing so. I suppose I could liken my creative processes in this regard to hors d’overs and a main course. One is a lead-up to the next.
The part that can be the most baffling is knowing when is “when”. I cannot pinpoint when an idea or concept is ready to be created. I just know when it’s ready. There seems to be a point in which my brain or my sketchbook just isn’t a satisfying place to work on them anymore. There’s this weird tight-rope walking element to the whole process as well. If I start working on a piece too soon, the entire experience is somehow less satisfying mentally and emotionally for me. The art was not ready to come into existence. On the flip side, I run the risk of losing the entire idea or concept if I begin it too late. The finished piece of art lacks some je ne sais quoi that renders it a failure in my mind.
I’m struggling to discover how to make this sense of knowing work for me as an entrepreneur attempting to sell her artwork. My sense of knowing when to do something, when it’s right for me, should be a transferable skill. This ‘instinct’ for knowing when a my artwork is ready to be created is ephemerally ill-defined. Just because it works well in one capacity does not guarantee that it will work in another, wholly different capacity.
I suppose that when I say instinct, I may be referring efficacy in part. However, I don’t believe that they are the same thing. I see them as related, or perhaps working in concert (or at odds) in different circumstances. Instinct is different from acquired knowledge. Instinct can be based partially on acquired knowledge, but it’s more primal than that. Instinct is a gut-feeling. That little tug on your thoughts that says, ‘Wait a second.‘ This tiny amount of time can be invaluable in decision making processes. It can aid in building positive experiences that are an integral part of personal and professional efficacy. Acquired knowledge is everything learned in structured settings (schools, churches, clubs, etc.) and unstructured settings (family, friends, society, culture, chronosystem, etc.). Every event in my life has added to my acquired knowledge, making me a unique individual.
None of the above will get me a seat on the bus unless I learn how to use it to my personal, and yes, monetary benefit. Otherwise, I will simply be the most self-aware person walking her ass home in the rain.
I hate having to go out in the rain.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again next Monday.
(1) Episode 912. “The Screaming Skull.” Mystery Science Theater 3000. Film Short, “Robot Rumpus.” 29 Aug. 1998
(This dialogue is Mike Nelson, during the film short. This short never ceases to make me laugh until I have a stitch in my side. I love MST3K, but some of the comedic writing for the film shorts is some of the best writing from the entire series in my opinion.)
Natascha Rosenberg. She’s an artist and illustrator whose website I stumbled upon while looking for something else entirely. Her work is tremendously cool. Go and look at it! If you don’t like my work enough to buy it, buy hers!
I’m a visual artist living in central Finland. I create surrealistic dolls utilizing a variety of materials and techniques.