What brought me here today:
I don’t watch a lot of broadcast television. My husband and I watch some streaming shows, like Doom Patrol or The Expanse. I’m usually streaming something as background noise while I work as well. Mostly old television shows, true crime, Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and the Mads. The vast majority of our screen-time viewing is actually via YouTube creators. A lot of these YouTube videos we watch are creators.
One that we both enjoy a lot is Bill Making Stuff. (He’s got a Patreon too.) As you could suss-out, from the streaming shows I mentioned, we both like science fiction. In his Patreo tag line, Bill describes his creative work as “scratch building, kit bashing and general crafting“. Bill fits neatly into that Venn diagram for me where “creating art” and “science fiction” intersect.
Bill also uses a lot of recycled and upcycled bits and bobs of all kinds of everyday stuff in his creative work, which I find incredibly interesting. I highly suggest checking his videos out on YouTube. And if you can swing it, support him on Patreon as well. His last video inspired this blog post.
Inspired what exactly?
It was a video in which he answers questions that have been submitted to him by his Patrons. Some of these questions, and his answers got me thinking about my own creative practice. And the rationale behind the decisions I’ve made, both past and present, regarding that creative practice. I think that might be partially due to a character trait that I share with Bill. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
#1 Doing creative work for others, and for yourself is WAY different:
This is an idea that’s been picking at the back of my brain for about two weeks now. Regular readers of my blog know that I’m in the midst of getting ready for an in-person, holiday pop-up sale at the end of this month. I’ve been creating a lot of new pieces to sell at this (and subsequent) sales. Creating new work is always satisfying, but making this much new work isn’t the same as making artwork for myself.
When I’m creating new work that is specifically to sell to people, I’m trying to get inside their head. I want to create something that is something that they like/love so much, they simply MUST purchase it. My problem with this is that it is completely impossible for me to get inside anyone else’s head. Knowing what a perfect stranger wants to buy is something I will never know. I can make a guess. But I’m a pretty bad guesser most of the time.
In contrast, when I’m making my artwork with no specific intentions in mind (to sell, or display, or give away), I’m inside my own mind. The work that is made is simply to satisfy myself creatively. This artwork I see as more honest and true somehow. There’s no guessing involved. I trust my creativity to do it’s own thing. The artwork is made because I want to. Not because I need to make something to sell so I can have money to buy things.
#2 Creative work for others leaves little creative inspiration for my creative practice:
I love teaching art to children. It’s something that I miss a lot sometimes. There’s an illustrator and cartoonist (and art teacher!) named Alli Gildea who’s been creating cartoons about her experience becoming an art teacher. You can read it here. Alli and I share arriving at teaching art in a similar way.
ANYWAY…teaching art for me was intense and demanding. I’m not a “super-happy-fun-easy-crafty-time” kind of art teacher. An insane amount of planning and research goes into my curriculum and lesson planning. Then there’s materials prep. And room prep. Oh, and cleaning and organizing. THEN I can get to the actual teaching part. There was little creative energy left over at the end of a day for me to engage with my own creative self expression.
All of my creative energies go into teaching art when I’m teaching. That job dictates a lot of what I can and cannot do as an art teacher as well. I never knew what kind of teaching schedule I would have from year to year. Some schools were huge, while others were small. The administration of a school could like/love art, or have no respect for it at all. Presently, I cannot see going back into the classroom. And that’s besides the pandemic.
#3 Self taught and training:
I went to art school and have a studio degree (BFA). During my time in art school I took a lot of different types of courses, but stuck mostly to two-dimensional mediums. Graphic design, typography, illustration, printmaking, book binding, etc. All of the hands-on instruction and work completed in these subjects have been of immense help to me as an artist. My knowlege of design and illustration are easily recognised in my current artwork.
But, there are many artistic mediums in which I’m basically self taught. I’ve never taken a sewing class as an adult. My knowledge of embroidery and applique has been acquired by reading books and watching videos. The paper mache methods I use were created by cobbling together several different techniques. I just kind of started making jewelry. The same can be said with polymer and paper clays. And I have never taken a class or had instruction on how to create dolls.
My need to create my artwork is what drives me to explore and learn about artistic mediums that I have no working knowledge of. Well, that and “I have no money. What can I make using this?” What I have learned to do, and what I have to work with begin to explain the context of my artwork.
#4 Organized work time:
My daily journal is what keeps me working in one general direction most of the time. I know that right now, I’m not exactly content with how my time is being used. There doesn’t seem to be enough time for me to do everything that I need to do in a given day. I’m planning some changes to my daily work schedule. I want to talk with my husband about the changes, because they will affect him as well.
One aspect of organizing my active work time is that I have so many different tasks to accomplish. I have them separated into two main groups: art creation, and computer work. Cleaning and orgainzing my work space and current pieces being worked on is lumped into the art creation group. While things like taking photos, then uploading and processing them are considered computer work. The two groups are too large and ill-defined. And to put a finer point on them, not serving me well.
I need to sit down and do some bigger-picture planning. Then I can better see where I would like to place some of the projects I want to start. When I know what I want to do, and where it needs to go. Then I can start blocking time on a daily/weekly basis to each project in my Daily Journal. The projects I want to start are things like Marielle’s house/set, and downloadable content for my online shop and a Patreon.
#5 Alone time:
This is where I think Bill and I have something in common as creators; we spend a lot of time in our own heads. I cannot remember a time in which I wasn’t all up in my own head. It’s only been in recent years that I’ve figured out why my brain works this way. Better late than never, I suppose.
It can be a boon or a bane depending upon the situation. I love that I’m able to give the artwork I create my uninterrupted attention for hours on end once I’ve got a good state of flow going. The not-so-great part of being in my head is imposter syndrome. This makes me incredibly hyper-aware of how I think I’m being seen and understood by the people around me. Bill points out the little things, like his hair, or how he picks up an object. I totally identify with this.
So, now what?
It may seem strange that I seemed to get so much out of watching a YouTube video, but here we are. My brain is screaming at me that I need to get back to work creating little angels. So I guess that’s what I’ll go and do.
Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.