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...feed your soul with art & creativity!

Monday, February 25, 2013

I will not be daunted.

I will not be daunted.  That is the quote of the day and here's why...You won't believe it.  I can hardly believe it.

<BIG SIGH>  Some of you might remember what my studio looked like when I had it at the Pendleton Art Center in Ohio (featured in the Spring issue of Studios Magazine in 2012--just before we moved away!)

My lovely studio, Bohemian Art Cafe, as it once was in Ohio. *sniff sniff*  I miss it terribly!
I'm moving my art studio...AGAIN.  After struggling for the past year to get my studio set up out in the handi-house, I've realized that it just isn't working out.

Spider of enormous size!
Only one of many many froggies that
visited my studio this year!
The shed itself is great.  But, the frogs, the lizards, the spiders, the enormous cockroaches (okay, they call them Palmetto Bugs here, but to me they are still cockroaches!), the mice and yes, even a small snake have all stopped for visits.  About the only thing that hasn't made it inside is an alligator. This plethora of unwanted visitors, along with the stifling heat--since a frog or two mucked up the works of the A/C unit--have made this a most inhospitable location for my art. It doesn't seem to matter what I'm working on,  one or more of these critters jumps, skitters, or falls on me as I'm reaching for tools or supplies.

I figure I have caused more than one golfer on the 4th hole of the course where we live to completely flub there shot as I scream (I can't help it...1) I'm a girl and 2) I hate when these creepy crawly things land on me--hard to believe this is the girl who used to pet fuzzy caterpillars!

Currently used as storage, this will be my painting,
jewelry and collage space
Future home of my glass studio
So, we are planning to move my studio indoors.  My glass and enameling will go in one extra bedroom and my jewelry, painting and collage/assemblage will go in another.  My sweetie will be moving his tools and wood working studio out to the handi-house--he says that bugs and frogs and lizards, etc. won't bother him and he'll turn on fans when he is working.  We might even be able to get his stuff organized with all the shelving that will be available.

Since the two rooms are even smaller than the outside studio, I have a lot of organizing and some "getting rid" of to do.  The great thing is that I'll be able to put up more shelves and cabinets and that should make up for most of the additional space needed since I'm not using several walls (doors) in the shed.  And I'll be able to use a walk in closet for some storage--I'm thinking that for now, until I figure out a different solution, the items that I take to markets and crafts fairs can be stored in the closet and the door shut so I'm not tripping over everything as I do now.  I have a LOT of items for displaying from my Ohio studio and some of those are going into storage.

The current studio.  A lovely space, if only I could seal it from
the critters aka insects etc.  Future home of sweetie's studio.
I think it will work well.  I'll have temperature and bug control, be able to work in the evenings after sweetie goes to sleep much more comfortably than I ever felt going out to the studio outside, and will be able to enjoy time with the cats and dog.  I'll have instant access to the Internet and my PC/printer.  I'll even be able to have a TV for background.

Biggest drawbacks:  1) moving everything out of the rooms to storage and his studio 2) prepping the rooms with cabinets and shelves, 3) moving everything from the outside studio indoors and 4) it will be even more challenging for me to find reasons to leave the house.

I can clearly see that there is room for
additional organization in my studio life.
I do think it will benefit my creativity but I am worried about the space for working on larger projects and how/whether I will be able to ever teach any classes--even itty bitty ones--in these rooms.  I'll be able to let go of more stuff that I've not been using or thought I'd use and never did and be able to clear out mediums that I no longer want to use.  I'll be able to get an even greater level of organization done and really have specific areas for specific mediums and tools.  It's exciting. And daunting.  I will not be daunted.

I believe we are shooting for an April time frame to commit to this project.  I have a lot of preparation work that needs to occur before that time.  Wish me luck.

Friday, February 22, 2013

WHAT??? Too much art????

Earlier this year we moved and left a delightfully large studio where I could teach, display my artwork, sell my artwork and work on large projects and art gallery shows.  We now live in a location that does not have any sort of artist colony or group studios and my studio is about a third the size that I used to work out of, as well as now being next to our house and not especially conducive to public browsing.

It's really been a struggle for me to get motivated to get organized and get my studio set up--partly because I have a tremendous amount of artwork.  When you create something almost every single day, and sometimes multiple somethings in a day, it is easy to accumulate "inventory."  There are some great ideas for the challenge of having "too much art."

Some of my artwork is extremely personal and something that I have no desire to sell or for which I am willing to let go.  Other pieces are good pieces but I'm ready to sell them.

Not having a shop or studio from which to sell my artwork, it's been leaning against a wall in the office for months.  We have a large wall that has very little on it.  So the decision was made that the wall be serve as a temporary gallery wall and painting storage.  Eventually I know that I will either sell these pieces on Etsy or other online venues, at a craft show, or find homes for each piece from some art related co-op or shop.

In the meantime, it is fun to have a wall to wall gallery of artwork.  I like to have my work in art galleries and multiple shows occurring at the same time so my artwork is out and being seen.  It is a sad thought for any artist or museum to have so many works that there isn't space to display the art.  I have visited some very nice art museums and galleries over the years...most limit the amount of art on a single wall, but others, like the art at the Corcoran in DC place many paintings on a single wall.

What to do with paintings in the "in between place" between creation and display or sale...this is an age old dilemma of the creative artist.  If you have a solution or an idea, please, by all means...share your comments and suggestions.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

...Leave the Ugly alone...

Artists and writers may perhaps be the recipients of some very vocal internal critics.  We edit, we critique every mark, we hem and haw about the subject matter, the colors, the mediums we use…every little ugly bump or blemish.

Our first impulse is to cover it up or get rid of it.  If it helps, pretend I’m your mother (if you ever listened to her) or your favorite teacher that you respect when I say, “Don’t do that!”  Put that gesso bottle down.

If you are convinced your piece is ugly, blemished, ruined, blah blah blah you either need to commit to trash it completely (again, hear this when I say, “Don’t do that!”) or allow it to find a home in your work.  At least for a little while.  Explore why it bothers you but don’t do anything to it.  Work around it and leave it alone.

Okay—this is a kinda gross analogy but think of that Ugly area as if it is a zit.  If you had a mom like mine, she always said, “leave it alone.”  If you mess with it, it could get worse, could cause an infection, or leave a scar.  This is true in art and writing also.  Just leave that Ugly alone.  It is more than possible that if you focus elsewhere it will take care of itself.  Remember, your definition of ugly may be quite narrow and others may have an entirely different view of what you see as ugly.

I’m not saying never cover over anything in your work.  I’m saying to pause to consider how that Ugly could be an asset.  If nothing else, if the work is well and truly Ugly and ruined, consider sending it to the Museum of Bad Art or intentionally making a series of Ugly to put into a gallery show featuring work of the inner Critic.  If you absolutely must cover up the Ugly, do so after you have stopped to consider why you are covering it over.  If you are convinced it must go, then, finally, give yourself the permission to cover up the Ugly.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Never Start a New Project…

HAH!  You probably thought I was letting you off the hook creatively.  Don’t start celebrating yet…you haven’t heard the caveat behind that ellipses (…)

Here’s what the whole sentence is:  Never Start a New Project…until you have completed the old one.  (Shhh.  I hear you groaning.  Stop that.)

"Finished" in sign language
When you start a project and then stop to start another one, and then another one, et cetera, your creative energy gets spread too thin.  Each person only gets so many “attention units” that their mind can hold onto.  For each unfinished project, you leave behind attention units that cannot be freed up until the project is completed. 

Ask yourself…why did I quit working on that unfinished piece?  Perhaps you didn’t like the direction it was going, didn’t like the color scheme or even (gasp) thought you might have “messed it up” or ruined it.  Maybe you got bored.  Maybe you aren’t sure what stopped you in your tracks. 

I learned many years ago from one of my instructor’s, Stewart Cubley of The Painting Experience, that rather than quitting or destroying the unfinished piece, I should keep working on it.  Perhaps in order to continue it requires finding one small square inch area on which to focus.  Maybe it requires stepping back and choosing a different paintbrush or color.  Maybe it requires a short break—take a quick walk around the neighborhood or get some sleep, setting a specific appointment time (as if you were attending a class you’d paid a great deal of money to attend) to show up and start in the morning.

Sometimes we quit because we think we are bored—but I have found that the mind can be very canny at protecting us—and sometimes when I think I am bored, what I really am is afraid or emotionally churned up.  This is a prime time to force myself to continue working.  It is what often is the breakthrough point

The next time you have the urge to abandon a piece of art or writing, commit yourself to finish it before you will start a new project or destroy an unfinished piece.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Assign an Alive-line

Some people just cannot complete a project unless they have a deadline.  Their Powers of Procrastination are well-developed and they may be easily able to ignore the piles of incompletions or the unfinished artwork.

Some people balk at the idea of a deadline.  Perhaps, like diet, it brings us too close to our mortality and causes the deer in the headlights effect.

If you find yourself unable to complete an art piece, a writing project or some other creative assignment then you need to assign an alive-line.  Make sure you put the end-game date on every calendar you use and see.

Setting an alive-line can serve as the proverbial kick in the butt to revive your project so you can finish.  The great reward of finishing is that…you get to start something new.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Expect Resistance…but Remember It is Futile!

If you are avoiding your artwork, your studio, your writing, your PC or typewriter because you’ve somehow Fallen off the Habit Wagon of Daily Practice, you can fully expect resistance when trying to climb back up on the treadmill.

Developing good habits, by their very nature and our definition of them, can be quite painful, particularly when you have:
1.  Gotten distracted and therefore stopped all momentum;
2.  Never developed the habit in the first place; or
3.  Started a “bad” habit.

From long experience, I can just give this warning:  To wait for inspiration is the death knoll of the creative process.  Creativity requires a habit of “showing up.”  Your mind, your body, even your social milieu or schedule may push back against your daily showing up.  You must pick up the brush, the camera, the clay…you must sit at the computer and turn it on and start or begin to fill the empty page.  To resist is futile, for our creativity is the siren call that artists and writer’s can only resist at great pain and…eventually, succumb to doing.

Right now.  Get up.  Go do your art, your writing, your creative work. No excuses.

Friday, February 8, 2013

More Happiness Please!

Last week I read about how Photographs can boost your Happiness.  It seems like everywhere I look this drive to be more happy is exploding on the scene.  Just look up the word happiness on your browser...you may get as many as 245 Million hits from which to choose.  That said, everyone should be able to find something that makes them happy.

With the advent of Social Networking venues, the sharing of every little photo op moment (even those that we sometimes wish people would not share) seems to bring a lot of happiness to the world at large.

I know personally that I absolutely adore Pinterest (having lost quite a bit of interest in other venues as a result of the far more creative outlet of Pinteresting—and yes, that is a Verb.)  Some nights, prior to falling asleep, I’ll Pinterest and my Sweetie swiftly thumbs through hundreds of photographs posted by others.  Many of those photos, especially the ones of animals and people’s pets, make us smile and laugh.  Happiness.
No fancy equipment needed.  Use a pinhole camera.
Photographs apparently boost happiness because we—the human species, love to see and remember the faces, the places and the experiences we have enjoyed or even…love.  I haven’t found it yet but I am certain that somewhere out there there is a study that quantifies happiness levels with the number of personal photographs displayed or viewed in ones surroundings—on the wall, as screen savers, in wallets…
Photographs are a lovely way to not only help yourself be happier, but to work the synapses of your brain and memory muscles by reviewing photo albums.  Some people even make this process into a family tradition on specific holidays. 

Yes, you’ve seen that enormous fish (that makes you just a tad jealous of cousin Bobby) and his grin a hundred times, but so long as you and cousin Bobby get along, each time you see that photograph there’s some endorphin rush of family-love that courses through your veins. 

Photographs help you remember happy times.  Think about it…you very likely do not pull out your camera in the middle of a family argument (although that might serve as a neuro-linguistic shock causing the argument to halt)…other than for insurance purposes, you don’t  whip out the phone to take a picture of your favorite car after it gets smashed up—because, unless you’re sociopathic, it doesn’t give you pleasure to see those pictures.  Thankfully, other than investigators and perhaps morticians, we as a culture no longer take posed photographs of the dead.

Not a happy family memory...Victorian Era post-mortem family portraiture
Human beings enjoy looking at faces—even when they are people we do not know.  We like to see faces full of character—faces that portray others full range of emotions—because it confirms that we are not alone.  Photographs of people abound.   MORE HAPPINESS PLEASE. 

So, all in all, I ought to be in a very happy place today.  I spent several hours at the Museum of Photography in Tampa today.  I hit it with perfect timing as I got to see one of the Masters of black and white photography’s great works.  Dorothea Lange’s compelling photos of the early and mid-20th century photos documenting the effects of The Great Depression were featured.  While the subject matter was not especially Happy inducing, the mere activity of being at a gallery was very happy inducing for me.

When I left the museum, I was inspired to take a few photographs of some visually arresting architecture, a lovely water fountain, and a large scale mosaic on the wall of the Children’s Museum of Tampa.  I have yet to screw up my courage and start taking photographs of people I don’t know in their natural setting.  But I am inspired to try it sometime…  Taking these pictures made me happy.

And further, those pictures will make me happy when I am able to find uses for my photographs in my art.  YET MORE HAPPINESS!

(c) SZing, Photo of artwork--glass enameled heart pendant

So, to wrap up…feeling down? Grab the camera and start snapping shots.  Or get on your computer and review some social networking photos.  Or…if you tend to prefer low-tech, get that family photo album out, make a cup of tea and spend an hour refreshing your memory and allowing your love-induced endorphins to zip around your body spreading happiness.  It’s oh so easy.  Check out The Happy Movie for more.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Adult Coloring Renaissance

One of the greatest creative joys that children get to partake of in their daily activities or as a result of a parental make-busy plan is coloring.  As an adult, coloring, like nap-time, has been sorely lacking.  Isn’t it time to have an Adult Coloring Renaissance?

Now there is a solution for Adult Coloring.  Not only are the Crayolas named with adult names like “My Goodness I Seem to Have Developed Some Sort of Infection Chartreuse” (and who doesn’t love chartreuse anyway?!) or “My Underwear Matches my Bra Rose,” or “This is What my Face Looks Like When I’m Angry Fuchsia".  

You could, perhaps, create your own crayola names…if you are a creative person, imagine the fun a 64-color box will provide….

Remember when you would take your stress out on your coloring book and grab the darkest red you had and grind the scribble out of the coloring book page?  What in the Adult World harmlessly gives such instant satisfaction while at the same time releasing so much pent up emotion? NUTHIN’.

For me, Crayolas marked the beginning of my creative dreams.  I had aspirations of being Hallmark’s greatest greeting card designer ever (and boy did my family get a hoot out of my hand-crafted celebration cards). Those mini wax wonders also stoked the fires of my writer/illustrator passions in Ms. Kelly’s third grade class where we made numerous “books” on a variety of subjects from pets (I chose cats even though all I had was a turtle and a gold fish) to Native American History of the Southwest--I think I did the Pueblo and Hopi Indians—seeing as how I was surrounded in a state with about 22 different reservations (New Mexico).

So I’m excited to think that I could bring this art form to life again, add to my pitifully stocked “stress releaser” activities and perhaps, have a resurgence of happy childhood memories.  Just the smell of the wax and some pulpy paper might be enough to send me into a dizzying whirlwind of regression.

There are plenty of places online to download or purchase Adult Coloring Pages.  This collection is one of my favorites.  One of my favorite magazines, Mental Floss has a lovely feature on the top 10 Adult Coloring Books.  Check out the “Coloring for Grownups” coloring book.  Be sure you use it in the privacy of your own space after the kids have gone to sleep or school because the title really should come with the “contains some Adult Content” warning label.Here is a site that has adult coloring contests and shows some of the works--I'm not sure which colors they used but the pages are fun and you can buy the coloring book.

With all of the covert (and not so covert) interest in all things Adult, I see an unlimited potential for XXX coloring product lines—colors and coloring books.  Wheeeeee!  What a great way to introduce art and creativity to someone who otherwise might never get the, um, exposure.  And the R-rated coloring pages are just plum FUN! Perhaps even some Adult Coloring Games to spice up the ol’ sex life.  You know, you color in the area where you’d like to have your partner….okay, you get the picture….

All I can say is…isn’t it time that we find some Adult Artistic Endeavors that don’t require you to plug into a gadget. Any gadget.  Even the adult kind.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Thick Skin or Be Bruised Forever

One of the trickier aspects of life as an artist or writer is how to handle criticisms both big and little.  The good news is that throughout life we are given many opportunities to develop the emotional scar tissue or thick skin that helps to carry on beyond negative feedback.

What does it mean to have a thick skin? It means that you are not easily offended and that you are largely unaffected by the needs and feelngs of other people; insensitive.  Now, insensitivitiy does not mean being rude, mean or cold to others, it means that you are that duck on the water swimming calmly, and the water just rolls right off your back. 

Albrecht Durer's Rhinoceros 1515
There are a number of types of "digs" that can occur and can be hurtful.  

Critiques are necessary and can even be helpful.  But that doesn't mean that they cannot also hurt, especially since it may or may not be done in a kind or sweet way.  Critiques can be brutal if the intention behind them is not intended to truly be for your benefit.  And let's face it, even the best critique may hold a tidbit of truth, even when we don't necessarily want to hear it.

Out and out insults--those comments and attitudes that basically tell you that you or your work is not valued.  There are, in my opinion, no nice insult.

Words said out of anger or hurt--when we are emotionally involved with people, words can come out as a result of anger or hurt.  Most of the time, these words are not the truth but aimed where they can do the most damage and pain.

And maybe the worst of the worst is Indifference.  This is when someone really doesn't care about you or your work in any particular way. They aren't mean.  They aren't nice.  They just aren't interested.  

I'm sure that there are many other hits that we all can take.  The bigger question is how to overcome the pains and emotional bruises received.

The biggest and best advice I have to offer is to write down whatever it is that was done or said that caused you harm.  Then set a timer and take a few short minutes to pick that experience apart.  Was there some truth in it? Why was it said? Was there something that happened that might have caused the pain?  And is there anything that was said that you could embrace and use to improve or take into consideration?  Then...let it go.  Get what you can learn from it.  Then burn up, shred or just throw away the paper.  Move on in your mind and don't dwell, stew, or create resentment.

Sometimes we receive the emotional blows by not choosing wisely with whom we share our art, stories or plans.  Let's face it, not everyone has our best interests at heart.  Some people, for their own reasons, sometimes even wish to see others fail.  Develop your relationships and share your treasures only with those you find deserving.  If you know someone isn't trustworthy or may cause harm, don't share with them.

Rockin' Rhino, (c)  Maria Ryan

Develop a positive self-image and self-attitude.  Know for yourself the value of you and your work.  If you are not dependent upon others to validate what it is you are about, you are in a far stronger position.  This is one of the BEST ways to develop a thick skin.  There are many other benefits of this position as well as helping to minimize the "slings and arrows" of life.

Keep your mind, thoughts and heart on your artwork.  Learn what you can from criticism and let the rest go.