Hello and happy Friday to everyone! I hope that everyone is having a terrific day! Three Little Ladies have been added to the shop this morning and are now available for adoption. All three of them are very excited at the prospect of traveling to a new place and making new friends! Each of these Little Ladies is a uniquely self-possessed. Fearless young ladies who just happen to come in a miniature package!
Inéz is extremely proud of her Portuguese heritage, as well she should be! Film making and baking are her two great passions in life, along with learning to speak Portuguese more fluently. In a perfect world, she wants to conjure some way in which to link all of her passions together. A film (written and directed by Inéz) about a Portuguese bakery? Maybe a documentary about pastries? A family genealogy, made as a film? She has options! Inéz would be the perfect companion for anyone wishing to explore their own many creative passions!
Gwenda is one of the friendliest and most helpful people you will ever hope to meet! But make no mistake, she can spot a fake or a con from a mile off. This Little Lady is no push-over or easy mark. Don’t get on her the wrong side of her either. Once her mind has been made up about a person, based on their actions and words, she is implacable. IMPLACABLE. Gwenda would be a great companion for someone who perhaps seems quiet and unassuming on the outside, but who is off the charts as regards all manner of personal, inter and intra-personal intellect and empathy!
Whomever adopts Hilaria, it should be known that she will sing as sweetly as a tiny songbird all day long! There is a reason why her friends and family have nicknamed her ‘Shiny’. She just beams happiness from her entirety of her tiny body! Hilaria has let me know that she would prefer to be the companion of someone who loves music. Maybe someone who writes their own music? A singer? A musician? OH! She would be in heaven!
These three Little Ladies, and many others are waiting to be adopted in my shop! Each and every one of them with their own unique stories, some of them even involve each other!
Thanks for reading, and as always, if you have any questions about a specific Little Lady, or any other doll that is in she shop, contact me directly!
Every, single artist wrestles with their art. One of the largest of these struggles for me has been discovering a balance between how create original artwork that is deeply meaningful to me, and making an income by selling my original artwork. When I was actively teaching art in public school, there was an agreement between the two sides. My bills were paid through my teaching, and I was free to create any type of original artwork that I wished. It was not crucial for the artwork I created to find a place in the marketplace or for that matter, within the art world as a whole. Teaching art handled that. Any of my original artwork that was sold was extra income.
Due to world-side events, selling my original artwork has taken precedence over teaching art. At least for the foreseeable future. My entrepreneurial plans required some adjustments. A larger part of my business plan is now devoted to the selling of my original artwork. I find it much easier to ‘sell’ myself as a teacher or art workshops, than to market my own artwork.
Being successful at marketing my own original artwork depends upon so many different things that I don’t have any control over. Success also depends upon my going into the selling of my work with a degree of personal and creative confidence that fluctuates between ‘nonexistent’ and ‘okay’. Some days are better than others. As a result of my maladjusted sense of confidence, I tend to delve deeper into the how’s and the why’s in an effort to understand myself. Through this understanding, I can make the necessary adjustments that will hopefully increase my chances of being as successful a working artist as I possibly can be.
Why my artwork must be original:
I have a memory from childhood. My father found me either actively drawing a copy of a picture, or he saw a drawing I made that was a copy of another picture. The memory is a little hazy, but I think it was around the time I was 7 or 8 years old. That is the only time that I concretely remember copying a drawing. It was a Precious Moments bulletin board decoration from my classroom. It might have been Holly Hobbie. Actually, I kind of hope it was Holly Hobbie…but what artwork I was copying is beside the point.
The gist of what my father told me was that it was perfectly okay for me to copy another artists work. Plenty of artists throughout history learned how to create by copying other artists as practice. However, my father was vehement that I not copy a piece of artwork, made by another artist, and then sign my name to it, claiming it as my own. I was never, ever to attempt to pass-off someone else’s creative artwork as my own. That was just wrong. Very wrong.
How this Idea Effects My Artistic Processes:
I’m constantly running the ideas I have for my own artwork through the aforementioned memory filter. Sometimes it is less a ‘filter’, and more like a series of sieves. Each idea is pushed through a finer and finer mesh sieve with the hope of as original a piece of artwork I can create being mashed through that last and finest sieve. This process has it’s Pros and it’s Cons.
One of the cons is that this process requires me to almost constantly second-guess my own creativity. This can be annoying to say the least. What ideas have not made it through all of these mental machinations that were perhaps more original than I thought they were? What designs have I placed by the wayside simply because I didn’t want to be perceived as an artist following a trend or style? Have I actively turned away from materials or techniques that are ‘all the rage’ right now?
Another con is that when an artist is actively trying to be as original as they can, the artwork that they create doesn’t always automatically find a niche within the larger arts community. My artwork is difficult to categorize in a traditional fine arts sense. My artwork is not an easy fit into the world of fine art, nor is it completely an ‘arts and crafts’ kind of thing. Perhaps my age, and the length of time that I have been creating my artwork makes artisan feel a bit more accepting a categorization for myself and what I create, but it’s still not a perfect fit. The thing is, this categorization isn’t so much for me, but for those who see and purchase my work. The person buying my work wants to know what they’re getting. Are they a patron of ‘the arts’, or a devote of a particular form or technique? Do they want to pass the work to their children, or will it be used up and tossed out when it loses its’ allure?
A con of my pursuit of being an original creator is that there is absolutely no guarantee of a reliable amount of sales in any arts marketplace, whether it be fine art, arts and crafts or artisan. This requires me as an artist to either bend to the the expectations of reliable marketplaces, or to take an active roll in creating my own place, no matter how small, within those established frameworks. To do either of these things requires me to ask myself, ‘What problem am I solving for?’ or perhaps, ‘What am I willing to compromise on, so my problem is solved in a way that doesn’t mentally and emotionally chap my keister to the point I can no longer stand the pain?‘
The really big and slightly addictive pro:
While the concept of creating my own original artwork was placed into my head at a very young age, I cannot deny that I revel in creating my own artwork. The sheer, unadulterated bliss of thinking an idea in my brain and then sitting down and making it so that it exists in the physical world, is just the most amazing experience for me. This kind of happiness, is something that I’ve grown so accustomed to, so dependent upon as a means by which I attempt to understand myself and the world around me, that I don’t think I can not make art in some way, shape or form. Copying another artists work by comparison feels as though it would be a hollow experience for me. I find no satisfaction in it, and the resulting artwork shows that.
It appears as though my endless pursuit of creating original artwork is not something that I’m willing to compromise on. This leaves me with the task of creating my own little place within the larger, established arts related marketplaces. What I need to make sure that I do is be honest with myself regarding this endeavor. I know that I’m free to create whatever types of artwork that I want, whenever I want to. What I am not guaranteed that anyone is ever going to want to buy my artwork. This, even after I work to create my own little niche in the marketplace. I can do everything that I can to sell my work, and still never sell a single piece. The marketplace, like old age, isn’t apparently for sissies.
So, I will continue to create my own original artwork, while at the same time carefully carving out my own small niche in which to place it. Those people who like my artwork, who ‘get’ my artwork…they are out there in the world. There may not be a lot of them, but I would like to think that the numbers are on my side. These people just haven’t found me and my artwork yet. I need to make sure they do.
Thank you for reading, and I will see you again this Friday,
What is an artisan? I usually start my lateral reading online with Wikipedia and move on from there.
Precious Moments: Honestly, my flirtation with them is contained to the year 1978.
Holly Hobbie: Holly Hobbie was the creation of watercolorist Denise Holly Ulinskas. Way cooler in my opinion. Kinda hippy-esque. She was the forerunner to my love of the Gingham Girls paper doll sets.
I also remember having a small, stuffed Holly Hobbie doll, like the one in the picture below:
I’ve been working on Shirley and her dollhouse/stool for quite a while. This piece is the largest and the most complicated of any of the papier maché dolls that I have created. I think all of the pieces makes it seem as though I’m not making progress on it. When in fact, I’m completing each small piece, putting it down, then moving on to the next small piece. Repeating this process over and over has resulted in a lot of finished pieces, that need to be assembled into the final, large, finished piece. Shirley has turned into a 3-D create-your-own-puzzle sort of pursuit for me.
There are other reasons that Shirley is taking a while to complete. One reason that keeps floating to the surface is that Shirley has a tremendous amount of personal elements. Then there is the fact that for the first time in quite a while, I decided to use text in my artwork. So, I think I’ve been trying not to second-guess my instincts regarding the text. I finally decided to use the text because there just didn’t seem to be a way to communicate the concepts. Writing the word was the most expedient. Or, in my case, appliqué-ing and embroider-ing them out.
A significant part of me is terrified about what the words say. These statements are weird and wrong and embarrassing for me to say out-loud about myself. Part of the embarrassment comes from the place of having to then explain exactly where they come and why. I have had decades to live with the words. The words and statements have become little satellites to my personal identity. They are part of my identity, but then they aren’t. They’ve just been caught in my identity gravity and I never quite shook them loose.
I hate explaining my artwork. It’s not because I’m upset that people aren’t ‘getting‘ my work. The problem is three fold. First Fold: I am me, and other people are, you know, people who are decidedly not me. Second Fold: As the artist, I somehow make the assumption that just because the act of creating the artwork has helped me ‘figure things out‘, that the same deeply personal revelations should be just as clear to the persons viewing my artwork. And for the Third Fold: I feel as though I sound like an idiot.
The people who have been following my creation of Shirley have no idea that one of the reasons I chose the name was because my Aunt Katie’s name was ‘Shirley Kathryn’. She went by Katie. People won’t know that we were sometimes called, ‘Big Katie’ and ‘Little Katie’ to differentiate between the two of us. They won’t know that the two of us decided we didn’t like the big and little monikers, and made the decision to call each other, Shirley and Elizabeth (my middle name) and that no one else was allowed to call us by those names besides us.
My Aunt Katie was an integral part of my life. I sometimes felt more understood by her than my blood relatives. She was an incredible woman who had a great deal to do with the person I am today.
That’s just one reason to choose Shirley as a name for this piece too.
There’s part of me that feels that if my artwork requires a great deal of additional explaining, then I have somehow not communicated my intentions clearly. These beliefs are the mental left-overs of working in graphic design and illustration I think. When I begin a piece now, I’m starting with nothing more than a need to make something and an attraction to colors and forms. The meaning develops as the artwork progresses. My personal act of art creation aides me in discovering what the individual piece of artwork is about. My personal art creation process diametrically opposite from the creative process I employed as a graphic designer and illustrator.
“Make an ad that for this hat. Show the hat. The price is $17.99. Put the store address in the ad too.”
“Huh. I haven’t used green in a while, and I want to use a balloon for the initial form. Round. I want ROUND.”
I know I wasn’t a very good graphic designer or illustrator. But when I feel like people don’t understand my artwork, I suppose I kind of feel like a two-time failure at art.
I think too damned much about these kinds of things. I had a dream once, years ago, in which I was in a building that was falling down on top of me. I looked up to see an I-beam coming straight for my head and I thought, “Oh no. I won’t be able to think anymore.” Even in my dreams, thinking things is a big part of my life.
I need to get away from these warped kinds of ideas. A person can like my artwork and not understand where it comes from, or why I created it at all. Knowing one of the reasons why I chose Shirley for this dolls name doesn’t suddenly make the art better than when you didn’t know it. It doesn’t diminish their enjoyment of my artwork. My artwork is experienced in an infinite amount of ways by the all the different people who view it. Everyone brings their own lifetime of knowledge and experience to the instant in which they interact with a piece of art. A Gen-X’er may get my nod to Fisher-Price Little People, but a Millenial may think, “Why does she keep making these weird little poop-shaped people and yellow houses?” Meanwhile, Baby Boomers are wondering why my dolls don’t have faces.
And then, there are people who think that all artists just smash a bunch of materials together without much thought at all about anything and then just sit back and call it art and let the money roll-in. But that’s a topic for another blog post at some point in the future.
Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Monday,
Talking Heads, Life During Wartime, Live Performance 1983: I have a vague art-school memory of my classmate Christa saying that certain lyrics of this song were very similar to being a senior visual communications student. I have to agree. That final semester did feel as if we were living during some kind of wartime.
Talking Heads, And She Was (Official Video): I sometimes joked that upon entry to a graphic design program, new students were handed a variety of things that they were to become associated with, because you know, graphic designers — and art students — are supposed to be quirky, or really weird. “Welcome to art school! Here are the complete recordings of the Talking Heads! Enjoy the Weird!”
I think I need to do some re-reading of John Dewey’s Art as Experience. I’m so glad that I can find it online to read. Not all of it, but a nice chunk of it. Google Books can be a good place to find texts online that you have difficulties finding elsewhere. I’m in Finland. I can’t just head down to the library or local book seller and pick up a copy.
In the words of the great and talented Vivacious, “MOTHER HAS ARRIVED!”
Or, I could just say, that I’m back from my social media hiatus.
Potatoes, po-tah-tos. I’m back.
I’ve spent the time away from social media formulating a plan and working on my website. If you’re reading this, you can see that my website looks all kinds of wonky and weird right now. I’m adding a store to my website (WooCommerce) and am changing around just about everything on my website as a result. These changes are much needed. I’m feeling very positive about these changes. I hope they don’t take much longer. I’m shooting for a live store by the end of this week. (My husband, Berin has been helping me with the nuts and bolts of the website and online store. Honestly, if it weren’t for him, I’d be crying in a heap on the floor in front of a pile of burning dolls.)
There have been those who have told me for years that I needed to have a “real store” online. Many of these people told me that it would be quick and easy. I’m standing up to my hips in adding a store to my website, and making all of the requisite changes to the website that are required too. I can tell everyone, including those who have said it’s the quicker and easier path: it is neither a quick nor easy path. I’m reminded of something that my Marine Corps father would say about ‘…being up your ass in alligators…‘ or something to that effect.
But, I’m about halfway through the whole process of creating a store and changing my website, so I need to just get through it. I’ll be happier when it’s done.
Making all of these changes has been a rather steep learning curve for me. I’m quite comfortable with computers and technology, but when given a choice, I’d rather spend my time making something in the physical world than hunched over my laptop for eight+ hours a day clicking this, and loading that, and then having to wait while things save or load…and backing things up…and on and on and on. It’s necessary if I want my work to sell, but it’s still mentally exhausting. My brain is oatmeal by the end of the day. My brain just wont “brain” anymore.
I spend hours hunched over my desk working on art in much the same manner, yet my mind is nowhere near as mushy and oatmeal like after a long day of making art. I may be physically tired or achey after working on a piece all day, but my brain is buzzing. I can still think. I can concentrate on reading, or watching a movie, or accomplishing a task. The same amount of computer work just drains me of all ability to think coherently in any way, shape or form. I’m just a blob.
All of the work that I’m doing for my online store and website re-do are all very abstract. It’s work. It’s a lot of monotonous work that is completely abstract. I can see the results of my work on a screen, but I cannot hold those results in my hands. For me, it’s not incredibly fun work. But work that I need to do, so I sally forth.
Even before I started working on the website re-do and store addition, I had to go through all of the artwork that I wanted to put in my store. I’ve made a tremendous amount of work while living here in Finland. Hundreds of dolls needed to be sorted and categorized. I created an inventory (so, so, so much time spent creating in Excel) with all the pertinent data required.
Then I had to go through all my photos. And then take more photos. Oh, and then take more photos. Then the super-fun task of editing those photos. As time-consuming and hard as all the website changes and store building have been, there is nothing in this world that I detest more than editing photos. I’m not particularly good at it. I lack the proper software to even do a passable job at it. And, I think that when I’m facing a file folder of over one hundred photos that all need to be cropped, color corrected and their file size and formats adjusted, I just have flashbacks to a job I had twenty years ago doing the same thing. I hated that job. It was mind-numbing work for me then and now.
It should be noted that I spent about two hours earlier in the day sorting and uploading photos. I think this is why I attacked that bag of Fazer Tutti-Frutti (Holiday Jumbo Mix) candy like a badger after lunch.
Ahhhh! summer in Finland is the time for gummy candies!
I will begin posting on my blog multiple times a week. I’m still working on what days I will be posting. This week, I’m posting again this Friday. Cross your fingers for me, I want my store up and operational by Friday. I’m putting artwork in my store that I’ve never offered for sale before, so it’d be great if you stopped in to take a look! Maybe even leave a comment!
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again on Friday!
I need to give a shout-out to my friend Benedicta-Ideho Omokaro. Her advice regarding my website and building an online store were the final kick in the butt that I needed to do all of these much-needed changes to my online presence. She is a lovely, lovely person, and an entrepreneur to boot! Her work is fantastic! Go check it out! I’m glad I took a photo class with! (YES! I took a photo class and I still don’t like taking photos or processing them! Go Figure!)
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,