I write, I draw, I do laundry…

I have been painting and drawing for about twenty years.  I have experimented with different mediums but overall, have always considered myself a creative-minded person.  I guess since I’ve been paid to do these things, I’ve earned the title of creative professional. I have recently added writer to my creative resume and am in the process of publishing my first novel.  I have always loved to read.  Books and poems have always been like rubrics for my imagination; a way to take words from a page and create images on a canvas in my mind.  A character can be described in painstaking detail by its author but will still have to pass through the reader’s filter.  So Baz Lurman saw Gatsby as Leonardo DiCaprio; to me, I always imagine him as Matt Damon.  Anyway…I digress.

I am a writer.  I am a mom and a wife.  I am an artist.  The plate is getting a little full but writing my first novel has been the scariest and most rewarding thing I have done, career-wise.  (Being a parent trumps everything!)  I left the safety and security of the known (otherwise known as Texas) and travelled to the wilds of London to study art.  Ultimately what came of it was some serious confidence issues regarding my painting abilities and a nearly finished novel.  What a muse she was, that beautiful, old, stinky city.  I wish that we were allowed to believe in magic and not look like a nut because London has it in spades.  Each walk, trip to a new part of the city or train ride to parts unknown lit some creative spark that I have yet to find anywhere else in the world.  I’ve been wondering, as I begin to navigate the dark waters of publishing, what will become of the 205 pages I crafted from love, defeat, fear, hope and a menagerie of other life experiences in my 38 years on this planet (give or take a few days in college where I thought I was on another one).

I’ve encountered another stark reality, there’s not a whole hell of a lot of support out there.  There are creative writing centers, YouTube videos on being a creative writer, blogs on the ABC’s of publishing, etc…etc…etc… BUT when it comes to the dollars…radio silence.  It’s a dilemma I face: following the traditional route (ie- sending manuscripts to every publishing house I can find an address for and pray to the gods, light some candles and hope to make it out alive), edit myself-promote myself-format the novel myself- try the eBook thing… well, being myself and giving the world the benefit of the doubt, I have tried Kickstarter (which I have affectionately renamed “Kickmyasser”).  It has failed miserably, almost to point of embarrassment.  Life lesson learned at this moment:  It’s all on me.  The world is not designed to make success easy to achieve.  Human nature is not as nurturing, especially to us creative folk or small business owners, as it needs to be.  But hey, JK Rowling did it on her own. I’m running on a cocktail of hope and broken dreams but I am fairly certain that when I see those pretty paperbacks with my name on them in the windows of bookstores, it will be a sweet feeling.  When I see teenagers reading, imagining and enjoying my stories, it with be amazing.

Our Kickstarter Campaign runs through October 24th.  You can also read more about the novel on my other blog page for Flying Furniture Adventures or on our www.flyingfurnitureadventures.com.

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Sometimes, a reboot is good…

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Sometimes, a reboot is good. I had pretty much exhausted myself with a new baby and tons of arts festivals.  They don’t do a lot of festivals when it’s cold.  It’s always like the third level of hell outside.  You get lots of interesting-ness at festivals; the good, the bad and the “I’m gonna sneak a picture of this cause I think my sister’s neighbor’s friend’s son’s girlfriend can just do it for me for free.” I think there are people that are built for the festival circuit.  I don’t think that I am one of those people.

I started the gouache illustrations a few months ago and combined with my intense love of invitations and paper goods, I revamped our Etsy shop and added tons of illustrated invites and announcements.  They are fun and bright.  I truly enjoy typography and drawing; this is a marriage of both.  I try to post illustrations on social media as I go and get them formatted and on Etsy as quickly as I can.  I am excited and hope my new venture takes off.

 

Gouache, where have you been all my life?

I have recently moved from mostly acrylic paintings to illustrations. I have one question- gouache, where have you been all my life?  I LOVE you!  You are bright, quick-drying and very textural.  It makes the perfect backdrop for more detailed layers of pen and ink drawings.  It is always fantastic to try new mediums and discover that you actually like change.  I have reopened my Etsy store with tons of printables using my illustrations and continue to add more every week.  I love stationery.  I still write notes and send cards.  This is an exciting new chapter in my artistic career and I look forward to seeing where it might lead me.  There are a few projects coming up:  I am working on illustrations for my first novel in the Flying Furniture Adventure Series, The Adventures of the Flying Furniture: The Return of the Great Flyer which currently has a Kickstarter Campaign going through October 24th.  We, of course, have our Etsy Shoppe up and running with tons of customizable stationery and invitations.  Not a bad gig…

 

I once was a painter…

FridaI have been painting for a long, long time and completed my Master of Arts in Studio Art back in 2015 from Middlesex University in London, United Kingdom.  I enjoy painting.  It is labor-intensive and I often-times, am overly-critical of myself.  BUT, I always feel a great sense of accomplishment when I sign and varnish that canvas.  Having a busy schedule, a sort of grown-up job and a two year old can make it difficult to dive deeply into a work like a used to in my younger, freer days.  I’ve completed tons of door paintings, some pretty amazing keys and a few portraits.  Lately I have turned my attention to illustration.  I, as one university professor put it, am a mark-maker.  I enjoy the manipulation of the pen on paper.  Even in my paintings, I love the visible brush strokes and textural qualities of unblended paint.  Perhaps that is why I love acrylic so much; it doesn’t give you the freedom or the room to keep working at mixing and smoothing the colors into one another.  You have to be quick and definitive, neither being a particularly strong personal attribute.

I haven’t put much stock in galleries, sort of exhausted the local festival circuit and focused on mainly commissioned works, throwing in a large mural or two here and there.  But the illustrations, they are almost daily.  I look forward to sharing them and making sure that I don’t neglect to post them here and most importantly… on my Etsy Shoppe

Adaptations Welcome

Every now and again, in a moment of clarity (generally when I am lucky enough to get at least 5 hours of sleep in a row), I have a revelation; a “Eureka” moment.  I recently saw a post on social media that inspired me.  It is strange considering most things on social media cause me to doubt my faith in humanity or stop what I’m doing to make some sort of microwave mug cake I saw posted.  It forced me to think about my art and about my life.  The two run parallel most of the time.  I begin a painting with a faint idea of what it will turn out to be.  It begins in planning, makes me angry, makes me excited and usually turns out completely different that what I had planned.  When bits of my plan don’t quite seem to fit, I try a different technique.  I adapt and then I improve.  Why is my life any different?

I look back to my teenage years, before low metabolism and car insurance payments…sigh.  I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of inadequacy, not only with myself, but with my circumstances.  Neighborhoods and high schools and colleges were not good enough; I had to go where I felt the grass was greener but I always felt out of place regardless of where I went.  I would never adapt.  I would hang on to what I had known before; what I felt was not good enough as if it were some subconscious effort to sabotage my personal well-being (nobody can identify with that one, right?). Back to the social media post:  someone took something ugly, run-down and unloved and made it beautiful because where they are in life, physically, geographically, spiritually, etc… is good enough.  Basically, in a nutshell, I should not give up on myself, where I am from, what I do, what I like, etc… because that ever-so-annoying voice in my head says it’s not good enough.  Instead of abandoning it, help to improve it.  Just like a painting.

Work, Paint, Baby…

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The animated version of Alice in Wonderland is playing in the background…on DVD…how archaic of me.  That is my world now.  Animated films and breaking from work every two and a half to three hours (if I’m lucky) to change, feed, burp and snuggle with my tiny man.  It has definitely been a challenge to prepare for my first large art festival with a newborn baby.  My pregnancy was pretty challenging and working a full-time job already had me decently exhausted with swollen feet and an aching back.  Despite my love for creating; especially for painting, I could hardly find the energy to prepare dinner much less design and execute an entire painting.  Ollie, being his father’s son, decided waiting until his due date was far too conventional for his taste and surprised us all by making a hasty exit at 7:20 in the morning about six and a half weeks early.  All was well and we had a very healthy, absolutely beautiful baby boy who had no idea how to eat.  Babies apparently learn that during the last few weeks of gestation and Ollie had come before he had the change to develop that necessary suck reflex…so…it was my job (along with a team of professionals that I will be paying the bills for until I die) to teach him to eat.  We spent nearly four weeks in the NICU where my husband and I would sit and watch a baby sleep until it was time to eat.  Then, we would beg a baby to eat.  UPDATE: we have ZERO trouble eating now…now we need to learn to stop.  Bringing Ollie home presented a new set of challenges.  While I used to put on the headphones and crank up the painting playlist on the iPod (yes, I still have an iPod to go right along with my DVD player), now I need to make sure I can hear and see the little while I work.  So New Order’s greatest hits have been replaced by cartoons and occasionally, just the sound of the fan.  Being a mother motivates me to produce more and better work and to be a better advocate for my work but coming by those extra bits of energy I once had when I was a single, childless youngster is not so easy- those moments of clarity and go-get-um are oh so fleeting and generally end in being barfed on or in conversations about poop. Being a professional artist is not as glamorous as folks imagine it to be but a mother is even less so.  I would not give up either one for anything.  I will create and be creative to produce a rich, colorful and exciting life for my son.  I refuse to give up; I refuse to have that regret to pass on to my son or to dump off on my husband.  I feel that I need to soldier on and continue on the path I chose nearly eight years ago because my success will not only be mine, it will be the gift I share with my family.

 

 

Public Seems to Like it; Critics and Academics…Not so much…

Creating a work of art is not as simple as it used to be (for me).  A free afternoon, good light through a studio window and an emotionally appropriate playlist on the iPod and away we go into a magic world of “let’s see what happens.”  Enter the academic and the critic and my already tiny and unsteady boat is lapped, lashed…well, I will just state it like it is, gettin’ the shit beat out of it by enormous waves of doubt and dissatisfaction.  I’ve been at university in London pursuing my advanced degree in Fine Art for several months now, hence the radio silence, and I am finding the world of fine art production vastly more multi-faceted than I originally thought.  Not only do I need to please myself (if that’s possible, I’m an artist) but now I have to please academic tutors, my program peers, exhibition curators and art critics (we will save them for another post, blood pressure rises).  In this mix of art minds is born my dilemma… people purchase my work at art markets.  Guests visiting the studio stop, comment and seem to positively receive the works.  Academics and critics wouldn’t wipe their a*@ with it.  It was even recently suggested that I take technical painting courses; like remedial math for artists.  In no way would I ever compare myself to Picasso but I often wonder, he stuck eyes in people’s foreheads, did he have to put up with this?  I have researched several contemporary artists who get flack from critics and academics but are, for the most part, laughing all the way to the bank.  So, here’s the question:  Does it really matter what these art “professionals” think?  They do make their living off the fact that actual artists create art.  When we stop, they stop.  The institution crumbles.  I guess they might ride the coattails of artists past until that ship sinks but something new will have popped up by then like…celebrity mudwrestling for charity.  I would enjoy knowing the breakdown of how much art is actually purchased by academics and critics versus celebrities, people in “shipping”, and the wives of the folks in corporate ivory towers, not to mention everyday people purchasing more affordable art at markets and fairs.  I’m willing to bet the ratio is more than a bit skewed to one side.  There is the debate, however that critics especially are the filter through which art has to pass to reach the consumer.  If critics bash something, do gallery owners want to take a risk on said artist?  I guess what I’m debating is whether this is a symbiotic relationship or could artists just say “peace out” and go about doing what they do.  Do I change because some teachers and critics don’t appreciate what I do?   I am all for evolving; that’s why I am thousands of miles away from my friends and family in a strange city where I get asked daily why my country is so racist and has a fascination with guns.   (I wore cowboy boots one day and gave myself away as an American.  Before I was getting Swedish because I smiled regularly.)  Academics, I understand may feel the need to push an artist and challenge them to create in the best way they know they possibly can but is a push toward originality or to conform to notions of what is contemporary? There exists a formula, a recipe, much like the fancy cakes I see on Pinterest.  There are no substitutions.  If it calls for two eggs, use two eggs or chaos ensues.  Are academics and critics the eggs or the garnish ( if you don’t happen to have sprinkles, it ain’t gonna change the taste of the cake to leave them off)?

WP_20150221_002  The Gatekeepers: Fantasy, Perfection, and Fear  2015

Stuck in the Middle

I am looking to finance my residency and graduate studies in London next year.  I started my educational trek more than a decade ago, before the internet was readily available to anyone really.  I had to rely on the knowledge (and willingness to help-which, let’s face it, was pretty much non-existant) of my high school counselor (snort, laugh…).  I went to the library and found grants and scholarships in biannual publications (books).  I figured this time around would be easier. With the click of a mouse, I can find lists, caches of information on scholarships and grants to help me study in London and not be homeless.  As I search the bounty (snort, laugh…) of scholarships and grant funding available for my particular educational venture (snort, laugh…) I am seeing a common thread.  I fall into that gray area, the slimy soupy pool of those who are too normal for help but not wealthy enough to mooch off of your family.  I have all four limbs, my mom wasn’t a crack head, I had a house where my dad regularly mowed the lawn ( somewhere amongst the 100 hours he worked every week ) , I am slightly hearing impaired but not enough to qualify for anything of merit, etc, etc… I have never built houses for tribes people in the jungle (mainly because I am terrified of snakes and guerilla anarchist rebels with automatic weapons who really hate women and Americans-two strikes for me).  I am waiting to click on the one blue title and read the description ,” For Intelligent American Students who wish to study art abroad with two employed, middle-class parents who followed the rules and paid their taxes.”  I’m not finding any of those.  I know it is more than wrong to even begin to complain about a life of normalcy.  I was most always healthy and had parents who cared for me and our home.  They worked hard to keep our family afloat and followed those unspoken societal rules that you care for your lawn, walk your dog, wash your cars on Sunday afternoons and don’t let your kids drink too much soda.  I have had very little hardship but don’t have the luxury of everything in my life being paid for.  Student loans will get me part of the way, saving what I can will add a few rungs to ladder but I will continue to attempt to bridge the financial gap. The more I think on it, the more I realize that nearly half of the people I know intimately fall into the same category as me.  We are simply too normal.   BUT…I refuse to give up because, as I recently expressed to someone, this is one of those things that if I don’t do it, I will regret it for the rest of my life.  The very first day of art school after I quit my job as a teacher, I remember saying that I WILL go to graduate school in London.  Money is the only thing standing in the way.  I have a few scholarships and student loans but there is still a deficit.  I will continue to sell everything I own on eBay and comb that annals of the scholarship databases.  I will not give up.  

Knowing When to Quit…

Those who have spent a good deal of time painting will know exactly what I mean… There is a noticeable feeling I get when a painting is behaving as it should.  Colors are brighter, strokes are tighter or flow more evenly.  All the planets align and a fantastic painting is born.  Sometimes, however, things don’t quite work out how I expect.  It could be a combination of stress, creative exhaustion… a melting pot of a thousand other ingredients that keep me and my trusty brushes from doing our best work.  Just the same as when all is well; when the badness begins, you just know.  I usually toss my brush in my water jar and think , “This ain’t happenin!”  I usually try to leave it for a few days hoping that when I return to the easel, the planets will realign and I can turn this thing around.  Every so often, this works.  Most of the time, it doesn’t.  So the question at hand is, “When do you call it quits?”  It is easy to pour a bowl of gesso and return to a blank slate.  Not that paintings and kids are the same, well for artists, sometimes they are…it’s a labor of love thing.  If your kid is having a rough patch, misbehaving; those aggravating things kids often do, you don’t return them and start over.  Parents spend time correcting the behavior to create something beautiful and worthwhile.  I want to try to employ the same tactics in my “not-so-good” paintings.  Leave the gesso on the shelf and keep soldiering on until it is completed.  When the muses and painting gods seem to be against me; it seems like a waste of energy to keep fighting the inevitable…my painting WILL be crappy. Quit or keep going, quit or keep going?  I ask myself this a hundred times when I reach “the point.”  Is the time I already invested a waste?  Some of these paintings are ones that cause me to question whether or not I am actually a good painter.  Each work started with an idea, a enthusiastic thought that I have mentally designed something that will be good.  Perhaps they each deserve to come to fruition, fully.  I think the key is to identify the triggers that cause my work to head south in the first place.  I know this will be an ongoing investigation…

Below: the stagnant Einstein

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