Category Archives: Emotions

My Own Path

I recently read a blog post by an artist named Salley Mavor regarding how she feels about creating patterns and instructions for people other than her self to purchase and use. You can read the post ‘To Teach or Not to Teach’ here. It was interesting to read about how an artist, who works in the same realm as I do, hand sewing, embroidery, doll creation, thinks about their own original art creation and the creation of patterns and instructions of their original work for sale to others.

Before I go any further, I should note that I have owned a copy of her book Wee Felt Folk in the past. I think it’s a lovely book with clear, easy to follow patterns and instructions for creating incredibly sweet, tiny dolls. I made a few dolls from the book and while they were a lot of fun to make, I found myself more interested in creating my own original artwork and art dolls.

One of the many reasons that I found Mavor’s post so interesting is that I have been working on a project that would at least partially encompass patterns and instructions for doll creation that I may offer for sale. Some of the points that Mavor makes struck a chord within me and made me think that maybe I didn’t want to make and sell patterns and instructions for doll making. This made me feel as though perhaps I had wasted the time that I had already spent planning, writing and creating patterns for my project.

There were three points that Mavor asserts that she feels negatively affect her feelings towards creating patterns and instructions for sale.

Salley Mavor, in addition to being an artist, is also an accomplished illustrator. She creates intricate embroidered illustrations using a variety of different embroidery techniques as well as her own original compositions that are just brimming with amazing details. Her work is enchanting, sweet and elegant all at the same time. The longer you look at them, the more little surprises you find within them, which makes them all the more fabulous!

Mavor speaks about how there have been people wanting to know if she would ever create patterns for some of her illustrations. Which on the face of it sounds like a huge compliment, but is in fact more complicated than that. Mavor states that she feels creating patterns for some of her larger illustrations and pieces of art would stifle her own artistic creativity, because she would constantly be thinking about how to create instructions for other people, instead of being within the moment of creation, actually making the art.

What makes this complicated is that would people ever ask a painter or a sculptor for instructions on how to re-create their original artistic creation? Did anyone ask Picasso for instructions on how to re-create Guernica? Was Rodin asked for instructions about how to re-create The Kiss? This is a weird double standard that artists who work with textile and fiber arts, and something that within a consumer economy, where everything is for sale, customers think that they should be able to get that pattern and those instructions, because, you know, it’s just sewing and embroidery, right? It’s not like…you know, Art of anything. It’s just craft…right? (Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox of sarcasm now.)

Another point that Mavor makes is that she wants to keep some of her own creative secrets for herself. She has her methods of construction and creation that she has honed over decades of artistic practice. Why give that away? In addition, what she does and how she does it may not be something that can necessarily be ‘taught’ via a set of instructions and a few pattern pieces.

I know that I have ways of holding the pieces of felt that I’m sewing together that work for me. Doing it the way that I do it has simply evolved over my own decades of artistic practice. At this point, I don’t need to always create a pattern either. Sometimes I just sit down and start cutting. That’s efficacy and it’s earned by years of dedicated work within an artistic medium(s). That cannot be conveyed through a set of patterns and instructions, unless the purchaser is someone who already has a fair amount of knowledge, skill and ability under their own belt. So, I get that point. I like the idea of keeping some of my magic for myself as well.

Salley Mavor has published a book of patterns and instructions, Wee Felt Folk. She took one of the simpler elements (the dolls) within her own artwork and broke down the construction into easy to replicate steps, complete with patterns. She hoped that people who purchase the book would put their own creative spin on the dolls — alter them so that they are more an expression of the person who is utilizing the patterns and instructions, rather than just an attempt to copy exactly what Mavor creates herself as an artist. As stated previously, I’ve worked with her patterns. I chose to create my own dolls instead, because…I’m an artist too. I want to make my own create visions, not the visions of someone else.

Mavor speaks about being a bit of an outsider within the greater world of Art (with that capitol A). She’s expressed that she doesn’t even really fit with current trends within sewing and embroidery movements, which are much more modern than her personal style of needlework. There is also the resurgence of needleworkers who create patterns and kits for people who want to follow someone else’s creative vision, instead of creating their own unique pieces of work. And that’s fine, but it should be noted that when you create something using someone else’s pattern and instructions, without making any type of creative alterations yourself, you are creating a craft, not a piece of original artwork.

The weird space that I feel as though I tread is not considered Art and not considered craft, simply because I utilize tools, materials and techniques that are not considered by the wider world as a form of Art — with that capitol A — and is somehow less than a painting or sculpture. I’m not bemoaning this; it just seems to be the way that people other than those who work within the same creative realm think when they look at my work.

I can see my own thoughts regarding my artwork reflected in what Mavor writes. There are two big differences between the two of us though. 1) I’m a very, very, very small art creator by comparison and 2) I’m an art teacher.

I truly enjoy teaching people how to create artwork, especially their own artwork. This may mean that they begin their work by utilizing a pattern or technique that I have demonstrated or supplied, but their end product should be, will be, their own. Mavor stated that teaching people how to create using her techniques is not something that she is interested in. And she totally has the right to say that. She doesn’t owe anyone anything, period.

As an art teacher, I have learned how to give the student enough information to get them started, to allow them to get comfortable with the entire creative process, so that when it comes to the point within the creative process in which the student needs to take that leap and put themselves into their artwork, they are brave enough to be unique and add themselves into their artwork. Teaching art is not something everyone can do or wants to do. I love being there when the art begins to happen. When the confidence is built. When the students tries out an idea, and another idea and another idea. I love the planning, creation and implementation of art lessons. I think the biggest part of why I love it so much, is that I want to share with my students this amazing thing that makes me so incredibly happy and I want them to be able to experience it as well.

So, I am going to continue working on my plans for patterns and instructions…and the other things I want to go along with it as well.

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

Forks and Spoons

I’ve received criticisms about the artwork I make. When I say ‘criticisms’, I mean to speak about the good, the bad and the not-so-great things about a specific piece of artwork that I’ve created. I majored in Visual Communications (Graphic Design) in art school and learned a lot about how to critique another person’s artwork. Within my studio, we could get into some fairly gory depth and detail during our critiques. I never took the negative comments personally. It just meant that what I was trying to do wasn’t working and that I needed to try something else. I also felt that these sorts of critiques would prepare me for the much rougher world of graphic design that I would eventually enter once I graduated.

What this early training in art criticism did not prepare me for was the world of non-commercial art. (Regular art? Fine art? Gallery art?) To be more specifically, it didn’t prepare me for the things people who are not makers of art will say to me about my artwork, techniques, materials, craft and presentation.

The how and why of some of the things that people have communicated to me leave me confused and sometimes annoyed. I’ve talked to another artist who work in the same vein as me and they have too have had some similar feelings and experiences. I talked at length about these weird, confusing and annoying comments, in an effort to try and figure out why a person might say these things, and what the root causes might be.

1. The Customer is Always Right:

I almost feel as though this concept is baked into the DNA of most of the people in the US. I take a great deal of joy when I see that my artwork makes people happy. I take even greater joy when a person thinks my artwork is good enough that they decide to open their wallet and purchase it. I know that my artwork is more or less a luxury item, serving no other purpose than to make the customer happy to know they own it. I mean, it’s not like one of my paper maché play-set dolls is going to complete their taxes for them, or perform useful household tasks like dusting and laundry.

What will stick in my craw wrong, is when the customer will offer a completely unsolicited opinion on how I should make my artwork, as well as the types of artwork they think I should be making, you know, so I can make lots more money. Because you know, money is the only possible reason I would spend as much time as I do making artwork, right? Getting lots and lots of money is my end goal, right?

You should make Minecraft and Duck Dynasty dolls. People would buy those!” This comment by far is one of the stranger ones. I also got a “You should make dolls like Ugly Dolls! People love those!” comment once. I would think that the people offering this advice know very little about copyright law.

I think this is part and parcel of a consumer society like the US. There are some people who feel as though the conveniences of buying just about anything they can imagine at any time of the day or night, translates into this being their ‘right’ as a member of that society. And when they do not get what they want, when they want, how they want, they will tell you, either to your face, or through a negative review online.

2. Dolls are Not Always Toys:

My artwork is incredibly personal. To some, it doesn’t appear that way. To some, all they see is a doll. Sometimes that doll is cute and sometimes that doll does not conform to the persons preconceived ideas of what a doll is and isn’t. To many people, a doll is a plaything for children and is therefore something that is almost a disposable item, both physically and mentally speaking. Toys are part of childhood. Period.

The dolls that I make are not play things for children. They are art. As an artist, I’m constantly exploring why the doll is a constant theme of my artwork. It never goes away, which means, I still have things I need to ‘figure out’ about the doll and why it is so important to me. Each individual piece is a creative exploration of who I am as a person.

Dolls have never been ‘just toys’. They have been used to teach children about religion and societal roles, and to train young through creative play as to what is expected of them within their culture as well. For me, the dolls that I create have become a fusion of many different roles that dolls have played for humans over the millennia.

I just don’t know what I would do with a doll. You know, I’m a forty-year-old-woman! I don’t play with doll!.” Said to me at a craft show, while her sticky-fingered daughter touched every single one of the highly embroidered and appliquéd faces of some of the dolls I had for sale.

At the time, I was a forty-year-old woman who was making dolls. Lots of dolls.

3. Handmade Things are Not as Good as Store-Bought Things:

My younger brother once told me that he didn’t want me to give him handmade gifts, because he’d just rather have a gift card or money. At the time, I thought it was better that he was honest with me, but it really hit me like a brick in the face. I’ve never made him another gift.

For some people who may want to purchase my work, they get a little ‘sticker shock’ when I give them a price for a specific piece of artwork. Sometimes, they will try and get me to lower my price, with weird back-handed compliments. When those don’t work, then they start to comment on what they perceive as the shabby parts of my work, thinking, I guess, that I will believe them and say, “Oh! You are so right! 300€ is way too much for this piece! It’s really tremendously crappy construction and made of cardboard and newspaper that I got for free, and you know, the 100+ hours that I have spent working on it don’t really mean anything. I was already ‘paid’ in the emotional sense, so I’ll let you have it for 20€, no, no 10€!”

I once took a doll to work to show my supervisor. He was curious about what I was making and I valued his criticisms and advice regarding placing it in an upcoming art show. A woman in our department saw what I was showing my supervisor and offered me $20 for the doll. It was a large and complicated doll (Cactus Mama, an opuntia cactus with multiple faces and smaller babies) and I declined her offer. She walked away and then came back a few minutes later and hung into the doorway and kind of rolled her eyes and said, “Wellll….I GUESS I could give you $40…” Again, I declined her offer, stating how many hours I had worked on the piece. I put the piece in a show and won a ribbon.

4. People Who Have No Knowledge of Art Creation of Craftsmanship:

I make the artwork that I make, with the materials and techniques that I use, because it suits me to do so. In my personal experience, that’s kind of how creating my own art works. I’ve spent more than thirty years making art with anything that I could get my hands on. I’ve been an art teacher, and continue to teach art workshops here in Finland. I have been fascinated with my hands since I stuck my own right thumb into my mouth while still in utero. I started drawing as soon as I could hold a crayon and have never stopped. So it always surprises me when someone who does not make art, or do any kind of craft or activity with their hands, attempts to tell me what they feel I’m doing ‘wrong’ in my artwork, and how I might fix those things, so I can be more successful as an artist. Their only credentials seem to be that of ‘personal opinion’, and that their personal opinion of my work is something that I should change my own personal artwork because of. (Fnck my drag, am I right?)

I spend an insane amount of time inside my own head. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about, planning and physically creating my artwork. As I’ve stated previously in this post, my work is extremely personal in nature, but I do reference other artists (of the older, more dead variety, as well as of the more alive, breathing, and contemporary kind), art movements, music, literature, nature as well as vintage toys (GAH! The toys of my childhood are now ‘vintage’!) and contemporary toys. I am mining my own life experiences and how I interact with the world around me while creating my artwork. My life. My experience. My thoughts. My art.

A few weeks ago, my husband came over to look at some of the tiny dolls I was working on. He said, “You know these kind of look like Lego Minifigs, right?” Yup. Totally. I was aiming for something in between a Lego Minifig and a Playmobil figure visually speaking, so his observation told me I was more or less, on the mark with my artistic intensions. These are toys from my childhood. Take those toys and smash them up with my fascination with miniatures and dollhouses, and my creating these tiny dolls makes sense.

I suppose that this section paints me in a rather snobby light. The insinuation being, that if a person doesn’t have the experience of what it’s like to make or do something with their own hands, that encapsulates their own unique visions, emotions, thoughts, and dreams, while using a variety of materials, supplies and techniques, as well as having a depth and breadth of knowledge and practice about the subject of art (or gardening, or writing, or cooking, or modern dance, or film, or carpentry, or playing a musical instrument, or sewing clothing, or crocheting items, take your pick of all the creative fields!) then deciding that without any of the aforementioned credentials, that they can tell an artist how to make their work better, or more sellable, does not hold a whole lot of water with me. Making art is when I feel the most ‘myself’ and I’m fairly sure that there is no one out there who can tell me how to ‘be me’.

My husband and I talk about ‘forks’ and ‘spoons’ a lot. When I was teaching art in the elementary school, I would have lessons in which I would give the students a lot of three dimensional recycled and up-cycled items and we’d create sculptures. I remember on exercise in which I was holding up some of the materials they would get to use to create these sculptures and as a group, we would brainstorm about all the things that the object could become. I held up a plastic fork first and the whole class said, “It’s a fork!” I asked them again, but what could it be, use your imaginations! “It’s a fork for a person!” Okay. Okay. I will re-frame the question for them. Imagine you’ve never seen anything like this before, and you find it while you are walking in a forest, what do you think it could be? I got a lot of silent stares, until…someone yelled, “I’d use it to eat food with!

I was about down to my last spoon with that last answer.

Some people see my artwork for what it is and accept it. There are others who don’t find it attractive, or interesting, and simply move on without saying anything about it. Then there are others who think my work should be a fork and they tell me why it should be a fork. Hopefully, I will have enough spoons to deal with it internally.

And occasionally through a blog post.

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

 

A little additional reading, if you are so inclined:

The Customer is Always Right

Spoon Theory

I’m good at thrashing around inside this concept: The Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Business End of Things

From the South Park episode “Gnomes”, the 17th episode of Season 2. Originally aired 16, December 1998

I’m the first to say that the business end of my present (and past) entrepreneurial endeavors are the parts that I personally struggle the most with. There are elements to it that I don’t feel as though a completely understand, no matter how many times I have them explained to me by my insanely patient marketing and business-degree-holding husband. I know that I’m smart enough to handle business and marketing matters.  There are specifically two elements that give me agita: discussion regarding money and having to place myself at the forefront of my ‘brand’, i.e., people will actually have to look at me and interact with me. The mention of these two elements makes my heart rate increase.

The bigger part of me just wants to make art and teach art and have someone else handle all of the business money and marketing. But, that’s not the route I’m currently taking. I want to do this as much as I can on my own, but with guidance (as needed) by people like my husband and by the people in groups like Työbileet. (Wow. I’m one of the first videos on the site. Yikes! BAD HAIR!)

That all being said, I’ve actually been trying really hard to pay attention to the business and marketing items in recent months. I’m trying to move at a speed that is comfortable for me. I tend to get overwhelmed with all of the things that need to be done in a business, and for my degree in graphic design, creating my own brand and logos, well, any ability I possess that might be of help with that just goes straight out the window.

I’m much more in my own element, swimming around in all that lovely, expansive, grey area, turning my formless ideas into solid, physical artwork. Those parts of my brain that make me good at creating and teaching art, aren’t always the same things that will help me get more organized and moving toward a business goal when it comes to the business and marketing aspects of my entrepreneurial path.

I have to remind myself that it’s okay that these things make me anxious. But at the same time, I need to figure out how to still do the business and marketing things that have to be done without sending myself into a mental and emotional meltdown. I need to find and then implement things that will acknowledge my fears, and to not allow them to hold me back. Along with the business and marketing, and the creating of the artwork and the designing of art workshops and lessons, I had to also come up with a way to make these things more mentally and emotionally comfortable for me.

Some of the comfortable steps I’ve taken are built on Albert Bandura‘s work on self-efficacy. I’ve created some achievable goals relating to the business and marketing of myself as an artist and an art teacher, and through repeated successes of achieving those goals, I build my professional efficacy related to my business, art creation and teaching. One of the reasons that I’ve begun to post regularly on my website, is because it’s an achievable goal. I post every Tuesday and Thursday. My Tuesday post is a journal-like post, talking mostly about art making and how it makes me who I am as an artist and teacher. My Thursday posts are for talking about the business that I am creating. Posting every week makes me stop and think about what I need to be doing business and marketing-wise. Repeated exposure to these things, coupled with some successes, make business and marketing less anxiety ridden and give me a modicum of success to build future plans upon.

What is a ‘modicum of success’? The goal I set for myself is that I’m contributing more to the household budget, with a little left over for more art supplies for me. So far, I’m hitting that goal. Each time I can contribute for the regular household expenses, I reinforce my internal belief that I can have success at my business. All of these successes, and learning from the points in which I fail, because, lets face it, failure will happen, will help me get back up, dust myself off, and keep going.

I have more plans for things that I want to try in the new year. I have art workshops and classes that I would like to teach. I have new products that I would like to create and offer for sale. I’m excited to start these things, and smart enough to know that I need to take this all at my own pace.

To close out this post, I thought I’d add a little more humor, because why not?

Here is a little advice on success from the great Leslie Jones, one of the funniest people on the planet! Her comedy special Time Machine is hysterical!

And, of course, some B. Kliban:

I remember this image from I think a wall calendar, when I was a kid. I don’t think I was necessarily supposed to see it…and I certainly didn’t ‘get it’ as a kid!

Sticky Brains: Control Issues

I’ve always liked mice, however, I know that they sometimes are the carriers of nasty things like the plague. Such horrors carried in such a cute, tiny, furry, squeaky package.

We all have things that have been said about us, perhaps to us, that for whatever reason, stick to the inside of our minds like mice in a glue trap, and never, ever go away. Ever. These are the kinds of things that bubble-up when you find yourself asked to describe yourself. When cornered like this, whether in person, or while filling out a form, I inevitably, I describe myself exclusively in the most negative terms. Loud and obnoxious are my typical go-to’s, with ‘has control issues’ in rapid succession. These reactions are so natural, so unquestionable to me, that when friends ask me why I’m saying these things about myself, or inquire as to whether or not I’m being self deprecating, I have no answer other than, ‘but… I’m being truthful. These things describe who I really am‘.

But, am I being truthful?

I’ve been teasing apart the phrase, “Katie has control issues” for some time now. Recently, it’s surfaced by way of my most recent artwork.

My Thought Process:

Wanting to have a level of control over your own body and immediate surroundings is not something that is out of the ordinary for an individual. During your lifetime, you experience periods of control to a greater and lesser extent. Children have far less control than the adults who care for them. The elderly have less control as they age. Those who have mental and physical conditions that require differing levels of interventions, lack complete control over themselves. Society and culture exert a level of control upon the people within them as well. Religion can control the actions of the adherents. Good grief! Paying taxes is a form of governmental control. Humans spend a great deal of their lives being under the control, with various degrees of stress or anxiety attached to that control, for a large part of their lives. It’s no wonder that as an individual would want to exert as much personal control over their lives as possible, even if that control can be detrimental to the person exerting it.

When I started looking at the phrase “Katie has control issues“, I discovered that it can be interpreted in different ways, depending upon the context in which the phrase it uttered, and by whom it is uttered. I should note that this phrase was said to my face, by people in positions of authority over me, by way of familial relationship. When I was a young person (under 18), I interpreted this phrase to mean, “Katie has no self control” or “Katie is out of control“. This personal interpretation dove-tailed nicely with my inability to lose weight and be more like my female peers. I just thought, oh well. I cannot control my eating. There must be something wrong with me. I have no impulse control. Okay. I’ve got ‘control issues’.

These beliefs were internalized, along with being loud and obnoxious and that was simply that. I could file that away, and pull it out when the situation required the information. I know who I am. I am loud, obnoxious and lacking in any sort of control.

It wasn’t until fairly recently (the past five years or so) that my interpretation has been called into question by people around me. I mentioned in one conversation with the friend, “Oh, I’ve always been told I have control issues…so, yeah…you know…I can’t control myself…” or something to that effect. My friend was a bit incredulous. She said she didn’t think I had control issues. She said I had issues with being controlled by others. Those who stated I had issues, simply did not like the fact that I resisted their attempts to control me.

What?

What my friend pointed out, is that I simply did not like having anyone, even someone within my family attempting to control me. No one likes being told what to do, when to do it, how to do it, all of the time. I’m sure you’ve had a job where this came into play, and how did it make you feel? I began to get rubbed raw as an art teacher in the public school when I felt as if my action and agency were being squashed by administrators who felt as though with no experience in the arts or as an art teacher, they knew how to teach visual arts to children better than I did. For me personally, the levels of personal and professional control I felt was being unreasonably exerted upon me were crushing, and I had to leave. I needed space. I needed a change. I needed to find a place in which I was much more in control that I felt I had been in the past.

Prior to moving to Finland, the place in which I felt the most centered, the most myself, the most in control, was within my own artwork. It served as my therapy and helped me from completely shattering into a billions of gooey bits. I could reign in those erroneous beliefs about myself. I could bring them to heel and have some control over them when I was making art. It should be noted that I still feel this way when creating art while living in Finland.

Teaching art, the act of teaching to children and adults is where I feel the most myself while I’m interacting with people. Making art myself is where I am deliriously, completely and totally myself while I’m alone. Both of these activities have varying levels of control embedded within them. Regarding teaching art, it’s more like a controlled chaos, which I find invigorating from a creative standpoint, as I like seeing what happens when ‘this’ smushes up against ‘that’ and something completely new is made. It’s a little chaotic and messy, but beautiful. And as strange as it may seem, I feel a greater level of control within it.

My most recent artwork, the creation of an extended series of tiny felt dolls that I call, Little Ladies has brought to the surface the ideas and beliefs about control that I have as an adult, and where they came from during my childhood. As a child, I found so much happiness within dollhouses and miniatures. I don’t remember a time in which I wasn’t fascinated by miniature things, especially dolls. I could create perfect little displays within these dollhouses. I could make it anything that I wanted it to be. Looking back as an adult, I see what I was doing and why.

I know that I will struggle with the glue trapped mice of external control mechanisms placed in my head for the rest of my life. Some days, they win, some days they don’t. The difference is that I know what they are and why they are there, and for me, that helps to give me back the control I need.

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

As a Generation X’er, I thought adding Janet Jackson’s Control (1986) was appropriate.

Naturally Occurring Processes

Recently, I’ve had a few people ask me how I create the artwork I make. Specifically, there were a few who asked me if I did any kind of sketching prior to the creation of my work. It sounds like an easy question to answer. It’s a yes, no, or ‘sorta’ type of question. If you’ve read anything I’ve posted here in the past, there is no such thing as a ‘simple answer’ for me. I’ve got to make it insanely complicated and dissect my whole personal history of sketching, so that I can answer, yes, no, or sorta.

I’ve had sketchbooks for as long as I can remember drawing. My early adult manner of keeping a sketchbook solidified when I was in art school in the early 1990’s. I’ve always found proper drawing paper incredibly intimidating, so the vast majority of my sketchbooks were 5 by 7 in. (12 by 18 cm approx.) Mead 5-Star Spiral Bound Notebooks, college ruled. I did a great deal of writing in them, along with drawings and sketching out ideas for illustrations, prints and hand-bound books. Yes. You read that correctly. I was learning how to bind books, but chose a mass produced sketchbook for myself.

There was a period of my life in which I lived the greater part of my creative life inside of my sketchbooks. They were always close at hand. I was very possessive of them, never letting anyone look at what I was writing or drawing. By the time I moved to New Mexico, the vast majority of my physical art creation were direct photocopies of selected pages of my sketchbooks, hand-painted and sometimes altered. I was letting people see portions of my sketchbook, but edited and altered them as I saw fit.

I’m sure that these sketchbooks are largely unintelligible, due to the subject matter I was writing and drawing about, as well as my incredibly bad longhand writing style. I coded some things within my sketchbooks, on the off-chance that anyone would read them. When I was in my early teens, my younger brother read portions of my personal journal. When I complained, loudly and through tears, to our mother, I was made to feel as though the invasion into my privacy did not matter. That left a deep mark on me. I leaned-in to my horrid handwriting and added codes and abbreviations to deter/confuse anyone who might attempt to pry into my private thoughts.

My privacy was invaded again as an adult, when people in the small office I was working in went through my sketchbook and journal when I was out of the office. They could make heads nor tails of anything I had written (remember: bad handwriting and codes) or drawn. My personal style is very Dada and Surrealism influenced, so my drawings meant little to them. I’m led to believe my co-workers did this because they thought I was writing down things about them.

Nope. I was just writing about how depressed and unhappy I was. (insert shrugged shoulder emoji here.)

When I began teaching art in the public schools, my daily Class Notes became the place in which I did a great deal of writing. This writing was a form of reflexive writing, used to assist me in being a better teacher. I had a form that I printed out, with four sections. I filled out the day and time, the class grade, teacher and the lesson taught. I still wrote in code. Again, there were times when my clipboard was out of my control. Although, now that I think about it, my handwriting was enough to disguise everything. ANYWAY, these class notes were kept for use by me, with occasional usage by others, like classroom teachers, or principals. They really did save my bacon a number of times, and in a variety of ways.

After moving here to Finland, I began making my own sketchbooks, partially because I wanted to, and partially because the types of note or sketchbooks I wanted were out of my price range. Even though I can create utilize much more complicated bookbinding techniques, I go the easy route with my own note and sketchbooks; a saddle stitch. I use recycled carton board for the covers, and loose-leaf notebook paper for the inside pages. I like the graph paper that is used here in Finland. It lends itself to drawing as well. A little folding, a little stitching, some tape and ephemera decorations and voila! I have a sketchbook. I do sometimes use a sulfide drawing paper, but not always. It depends on the mood I’m in, or rather, do I really want to hunt for the drawing paper.

My current sketchbooks are filled, just like my previous sketchbooks, but not in the same amount of detail (and not nearly the amount of depression) that they once were. I feel like there has been some switch flipped in my brain regarding the amount of sketching or drawing I do prior to beginning a piece now. I just don’t feel like I have to, or need to spend days or weeks drawing before beginning work on an idea or theme or doll. I’m choosing to call this the ‘Pinto Rule’.

(Okay. Long story longer. I had a photo teacher while I was getting my art education degree who counseled me regarding writing good art lessons that were in compliance with the state standards and benchmarks for art and education. A good lesson would fit nicely, and the standards and benchmarks would fall into place within the lesson, some lessons you might have to rethink or work a little to make them fit, while other lessons just did not fit and would never fit, maybe. So, just put them aside and work with the lessons that do. Applied to my own personal art creation, I use this rule to use and keep the good ideas, the ones that won’t leave me alone mentally. The others, that require too much effort to stuff them into my sketchbook. Put them aside and let them be.)

In New Mexico, I created very detailed sketches of the dolls that I was creating. Full-on colour sketches with over-lays, etc. And while I like the work that I did, there seems to be something missing in it when I look at it now. I think that’s because I know what the sketches looked like and how the finished work failed to live-up to the vision I had for them. The doll work that I have created here in Finland has, by comparison, very little sketching or planning done prior to the actual artwork being created. This has been practiced for the past two years through the Creative Experiment.

The Creative Experiment was meant to just give my creativity a little jump-start. It evolved into something far more complicated for me creatively speaking. In a nutshell, I did no sketches and just started working with the materials in front of me. I felt as though I needed to be more comfortable swimming around in the ‘grey space’. One of the unexpected outcomes from the experiment was that I stopped needing to sketch or draw so much. I was still drawing and sketching, in my mind, but also in three-dimensions, while I was creating the work. And the ‘sketching’ that I’m doing happens more as performance, while taking this shape and putting it with that shape, in the physical world. My sketching is me playing around with the forms that I build out of cardboard and papier mache.

I still sketch. They’re really rough though. Mostly shapes and colours. I may work out how I want the limbs to look. How I want the eye to travel when looking at the piece. I do still enjoy seeing how different ideas smash up against other ideas on the pages of my sketchbook, but I don’t ‘live’ there anymore. I don’t have to anymore. My handwriting is still awful and yes, I will always write in code sometimes. And no, I will not share my sketchbook with you, and woe be unto the person I find pawing through it without my permission.

Woe. (insert a stern look here.)

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

 

Breakdown the Pretence

Marcel Duchamp New York, Bicycle Wheel 1951 (third version, after lost original 1913) MoMA

What is the problem you are solving for?

I’ve been thinking about this question for quite some time as it relates to the artwork that I create. I’ve been pulling at strings to see where they go. I’ve found myself surprised at what parts of my thinking and feeling that these strings have become attached to. There are times in which I become impatient and pull a little too hard on that string, from a little too far away. Then I find myself knee-deep in an emotional mess that will take me days or weeks to mentally clean up. Curse my never-ending curiosity! Curse my never ending impatience! (insert angry fist shaking at the sky)

The aforementioned question is related to what I think is simple envy. Envy of artists and creators that have found a level of acceptance and/or acclaim by I guess what you could call, the ‘larger professional art world’ as well their levels of financial success. As the mortal sins go, envy is one that I do not like seeing within myself. It can get ugly unbelievably quickly. I spreads and begins poisoning all thought and emotion. This the thread that I have been tugging on.

I have recently had some small successes in selling some of my own artwork. It’s been nice to have some extra money coming in. I’d like to be able to make that continue. Small sales successes are super-nice and I am insanely grateful to those people who have purchased my artwork. Maybe doing that would keep envy at bay for me?

No. I don’t think so, because I’ve been looking at the question all wrong and being far too simplistic in my answer to myself.

The artists and craftspeople who are successful are working their collective asses off. They hustle hard. Then they go and hustle some more. They are dedicated and keep plugging away, making pieces of artwork to sell. Packing it up and taking it to art and craft shows. Putting it all up. Tearing it all down. Turning around and doing it again, and again, and again. The whole while, they’re making more artwork to sell. (Insert the sound of a needle being ripped from an LP)

Wait a minute, what was the problem I was solving for again? Oh yeah. I make my artwork for me. In the words of Colin Moulding (XTC), “I am the audience.” I make the artwork that I want to make, when I want to make it. I do not make artwork for an imagined customer. It’s great when people do purchase my artwork. They’ve seen something that they like and they like it enough to give me money for it. I don’t know what people in the ‘greater art world’ think of what I make. I never seem to get far enough along in the process of showing my work in well established galleries to find out what they think. (shoulder shrug inserted here)

There have been times in my past where I have made artwork expressly for sale, but I never quite got the knack of it. It never felt ‘right’ in the sense that I don’t feel like I was being true to myself and my own need for free creative expression.

My question is answered. Envy has been abated.

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

PS: Here is a Santigold song, L.E.S. Artistes that I’ve had as accompaniment in my head for the past week.

 

Mental Bonfire Making

I have an incredibly distorted view of how I’m seen and understood by the people around me. My assumption is that people do not like me. Whatever situation I find myself going into, I actually think to myself, “Now remember, people don’t like you. You are loud and obnoxious. People will hate that. Oh yeah, and you’re fat too. People hate that as well.” I tell myself that I need to compensate for these deformed bits of my personality and physicality, as well as preparing myself mentally and emotionally for ‘Personal Interaction Scenarios A thru ZZZ’. I seriously hear the flipping of a rolodex in my head when thinking about my mental and emotional ‘contingency plans’.

I’m constantly surprised that I have friends who actually willing to spend time with me. As a write this, I’ve got plans this afternoon to meet up with some friends for our annual Christmas cookie exchange. And even thought I’ve known these lovely people for more than four years, I’m still surprised that get invited to do things like this.

Until meeting, dating and marrying my husband, I had an incredibly ‘transactional’ understanding of the concept of love. Romantic love, fraternal love, all kinds of love and friendship, etc., it had become hard-wired into my mind that if I wanted someone to love me, or simply want to be my friend, I needed to give them things (gifts) to make them love me or at least tolerate my company. The more things I gave them, or did for them, the more likely it would be for them to love me and accept me for the loud, obnoxious, lumpy creature that I am.

What does this have to do with anything other than explaining how incredibly messed-up I am? This malformed part of my emotional functioning is one of the foundations upon which stands career as an artist. That is to say, my hesitation and difficulties in creating a more stable artistic career for myself.

As I’ve written previously, my artwork is personal and comes from weird mental and emotional head-spaces of my current and past life experiences. Having this as inspiration for art work creation is well and good, but when money is added to the equation, my mind and heart race and panic begins to set in. (As I type this, I can feel my heart-rate increase.)

Uhh…what are you talking about?

Money makes me panic. Having too much money. Having too little money. Having exactly the right amount of money. It just makes me panic. I don’t like thinking about it. I certainly don’t like worrying about it. For me, money is panic and panic is not good. I like being in control of my mind and body and panic takes that control away from me, until I can wrestle it into a modicum of control.

Anyway, back to how adding money to the equation that includes quantities like my artwork. (Man. For a self-proclaimed ‘non-mathematical person’, I sure do use a lot of mathematical functions to explain myself.)

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I create a lot of artwork. I post a lot of pictures of my artistic process and how my work comes together in the physical sense. My most recent work has not been offered for sale, mostly because I don’t think anyone would want to buy it. I spend weeks working on individual dolls, and I feel as though the prices that I would ask would put off prospective buyers, with most thinking that my prices were too high for an unknown artist. Even calculating a price for one of these pieces sent me into a panic-spiral.

There are times in which I create art that I think might be something that an individual might want to purchase. I do at those times, offer my dolls, my artwork, for sale. When those pieces don’t sell, then enters my malformed internal ‘transactional love’ mechanism.

Allow me to explain via a scenario: I make a piece of artwork. It gets a lot of likes. People tell me that I should be selling this artwork. I feel love and acceptance, because people I have never met tell me they like my artwork enough to buy it. I post the artwork for sale. No one buys the artwork. Love and acceptance fading. Malformed internal ‘transactional love’ mechanism reinforced. Money = Panic bond reinforced.

Let me be the first to say, I KNOW THIS IS REALLY, REALLY, STUPID AND NOT AT ALL THE WAY THAT ANY OF THIS HAPPENS OUTSIDE OF MY OWN, TINY, INSULAR HEAD. NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE. I’m not so mentally and emotionally unaware that I do not know that this is incredibly, horrifically, insanely messed-up, and that all that ‘messed-up’ is totally on me. I grew up with this weird understanding of love as being something transactional. I know that the world owes me exactly nothing. I am free to make all the artwork I want to, but there is no law that says anyone has to like it and/or buy it. I know this. I know this. I know this. But this is the logical part of my brain, the emotional part of my brain is still madly scribbling complex mathematical equations on a chalkboard, sobbing uncontrollably and contemplating creating a bonfire of my artwork.

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