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Thoughts on Doing the Work

Thoughts on Doing the Work

Or My Reflections on Greatness

 

I wrote this post while walking around the Milwaukee Art Museum, surrounded by great works of art by great artists and some thoughts came to me.

Great artists get to where they are by doing the work. There is no shortcut to greatness. Things like having a point of view and something to say take a lot of work. For me part of that is the hard work of sitting down and facing my inner demons. Avoiding the work will not get me where I want to go. It is just arrogance to think that just because I want something I can do it. I need to put in the hours to attain my goals. I also need to recognize that I might never get “there”, never reach my goals and still continue on my journey to artistic greatness regardless.

Most artists take years to develop their voice and hone their talent and skills.

Avoiding doing the work will only makes the process longer. Avoiding the work, talking about the work, thinking about the work, that is not how I can achieve my goals, the only way I can do that is to actually do the work.

But the question that comes up then is, what is the work? How will I know if I am doing the work or avoiding doing the work? I think that the answer lies in my old friend, fear. The more afraid and resistant I am to doing something, the more likely it is to be the work that I need to do at the moment. I want to use fear as my guide, but in the opposite way. Instead of running away from the fear and discomfort, I need to start to embrace it, lean in and see where I can go.

It’s not easy to use fear as a guidepost, I constantly have to remind myself to do so, but in the end, (I hope) it is worth it. I want to push myself, discover what I am really capable of.

 

View of the lake from MAM

 

Artist’s Voice


I just went to an art opening at the Walker’s point Center for the arts (WPCA). I realized something while I was there, it seems obvious, but it just clicked today. Great artists have a point of view. They have something to say, an idea that they want to convey. I need to figure out what I want to express. I have been afraid to articulate what I believe and what I have to say.

What topic do I want to explore now? The idea that there is an invisible interconnected interdependent web that connects everybody and everything across time and space. We are all connected to each other in a meaningful way. That sounds spiritual. I’m also interested in art itself, what makes something art? What role does art play in our society? What role does the artist play? I don’t have a good answer for myself. I need to redefine my world, what is possible? What do I believe? What unseen assumptions are holding me back? Those are fascinating questions to me.

I believe in questioning, following your curiosity, and that there is value in art. Expressing my own unique point of view is part of my job as an artist. One role that the artist plays is that of the questioner, the disruptor. I don’t believe in absolutes, black or white, the world holds so many shades of gray. In exploring opposing viewpoints I clarify my own. No one needs a wishy-washy artist, but at the same time, as soon as you are certain of something you are wrong. Painting doesn’t have to be my medium I think that I’ll return to doing to fiber and installation art.

The unseen relationships fascinate me. What can I explore that is interesting to me now that will bring value to others? What new spin can I bring to those age-old questions? I want to start a long-term project, Maybe about overcoming fear and the resistance, about showing up every day in the face of uncertainty.

Uncertainty will always be there, It’s what you do in the face of it that counts. What am I passionate about, what lights a fire under my ass? I wonder why I’m afraid to articulate so many things fully. I think it’s a fear of commitment, once I put something into words, it becomes concrete and real, even though stating an opinion is not an obligation to hold that belief forever. Having an opinion and being wrong isn’t the end of the world. In the end, I want to be known for something. I want to stand for my convictions, but at the same time I need to hold on loosely, I’m not a fundamentalist. Maybe I already know the answers to all my questions, I need to start asking the right ones.

When I ask myself, “What do I believe in?”, “What do I stand for?”, “What is my art is about?” and “What impact do I want to make on the world?”, I hear the fear and resistance whisper to me: “What if people don’t like it? How will you support yourself with that? How are you survive?.”

First of all, “everybody’s” opinion doesn’t matter to me, I need to choose a select group of people who I care about, Whose views are of value to me. Secondly, worrying about money hasn’t gotten me very far. I‘m not making money from my paintings now, and I’m not sure I ever will. Why not start doing something more interesting? Something that has a strong point of view, that wasn’t created from a place of fear, but from a place of love for the craft, from passion? I need to stop trying to do everything and just do what I’m good at, the future will take care of itself.

I need to let myself have ideas and dream big. I want to create meaningful art, I’ve been so afraid, I need to start stepping into myself. I can only create the art that I can create, I have to stop trying to create someone else’s art. Having a strong point of view is an asset, not a liability.

 

 

My paintings on display at the Magnet Factory during Bay View Gallery Night

Art and Fear

I have come to realize that doubts and fears will always be with me, and that it’s how I deal with them and move forward that counts. Moving forward in the face of fear is a definition of courage.

The fear and doubt I feel are a sign of the resistance. They are a sign that I am moving in the right direction. I need to lean into the uncertainty, fear, and risk in order to live the life I want to lead.

There are different types of fear, fear of failure, the unknown, death, success, fear of making the wrong choice, etc. The only thing that they have in common is that they are all in my head. Fear isn’t out there, it is inside of me.

Right now my main focus is getting healthy, long-term I want to be able to support myself through my art and lead a life of adventure while making a meaningful impact on the world.

Daily I struggle with making the right choices, leaning into the fear and uncertainty, I often make the wrong choice, I’m not perfect, but I am moving forward.

I believe that focusing on my health has helped significantly. I am meditating daily, I’m up to 20 minutes. As a byproduct of my daily practice I am better able to recognize my thoughts and feelings while I have them.

 

 

The missing piece

Earlier I wrote a blog post about the definition of art. Thinking about it more I realized that the idea was not complete, I left out a key piece of the puzzle that is art. What I left out is that art has human intention behind it, the human being the artist.

A natural rock formation is not art, but a painting of it is, as is a sculpture of it, a picture of it, etc. What these things have in common is that they have human intention behind them. The role of art is to remind us of our humanity through works created by an artist.

There also has to be creativity, artistry, that indefinable spark, involved in the process. The role of the artist is is to remind us of our humanity and bring the past the present moment by tapping into their intuition and creating something with intention. That’s it.

Art and artists are bound together, they are meshed together, interwoven, the definition of one tangled within the definition of the other.

My definition of art

I have thought a lot lately about what art is. I have yet to find a good definition of art that works for me. There are so many things that are art, it seems like a giant puzzle to me and I’m still trying to fit the pieces together in my mind. I wanted to get my thoughts out there, thinking it might be interesting for you to see my perspective.

In reflection, I have found that the past is a fundamentally different thing from the present moment, in that it no longer exists, except for in our minds. There is the paradox, How can we ensure that the present moment is remembered and lives on when it keeps disappearing into the past? That is where art comes in. Art is a way to communicate over time and space. Marks left on a page, something from the past brought to the present moment. Whether written word or image on canvas, art is the collision of two worlds. But that is just one piece of the puzzle that is art.

As I was listening to the soundtrack to the Hamilton musical I was moved to tears. I wondered why, and that’s when it hit me that’s the place for art, to remind us of the fact that we are human. It moves us emotionally and touches us in ways that cannot be explained. That’s how you know something is art – when it moves you. It’s tricky because what moves one person won’t move someone else. So much of art depends on cultural context – as they say, “art is in the eye of the beholder.” Cultures change over time and art changes too.

So, as I said before, art is a way for the past to communicate with the present. The fact that art evokes an emotional response is another piece of the art-puzzle. Humans are not machines; there is so much more to the human experience than our current scientific and popular view of the world holds. I believe that the goal of art is to remind us of our humanity.

By this definition of art, I’m not sure if what I make is art. I don’t know if I can know because the definition I came up with is from the audience’s point of view. It is in the interaction between the piece and the person viewing it that art exists, the past brought to the present moment evoking an emotional reaction that reminds the viewer of their humanity. This definition is not complete yet, but I feel as though I’m headed in the right direction, what do you think?

Here is a piece I just finished:

Untitled #1 Acrylic on canvas 8"x10"
Untitled #1
Acrylic on canvas
8″x10″

 

Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about my post. Does this definition of art ring true for you? Why or why not? What is your definition of art? Did you enjoy this post? Do you want me to write more like it in the future? Thank you so much for taking the time to read it!

UPDATE:

I have written a part two to this blog post, you can read it here.

Why you should never give up on yourself

Why you should never give up on yourself

or how I climbed out of a dark hole

You might be asking yourself why I wrote such a personal post. The reason is that I want to let you inside of my struggle. Maybe by sharing this I can help someone else that’s in a similar situation as I was in and let them know that there is hope at the end of the tunnel.

For a while there I was in a dark place, it’s only in moving forward and looking back that I realized how far I had fallen. I had done okay, but then I let my fears and doubts get to me. I was stuck in an endless loop in my head: what should I do? What can I do? What should I do? etc. I looked everywhere else for answers. I listened to everyone else’s advice, the only voice I feel I didn’t listen to was my own. Each day I did less and less, I was anxious and depressed.

In my depressed state, I couldn’t see a path forward. I felt as though I had to make a choice between Art and selling my jewelry. I asked for advice from a lot of people and eventually chose jewelry. I then proceeded to put a ton of pressure on myself to sell. Only I just asked for advice on how to sell and hardly took any action.

You might be asking yourself what’s changed? What has made me better now than before? A lot of tiny things. I finally hit rock bottom when I was sitting on the bus after having eaten two Big Macs at McDonald’s and I realized that nothing was going to change unless I did something different. I remembered the saying, “If you are in a hole, stop digging”. I had just turned 30 and was taking it very hard. At 30, I’m no longer a child, and I realized that I need to take control of my life because no one else will do that for me.

The next day I went Paleo. I’m not going to lie and say that it was just going Paleo that made the difference. I’ve also started:

  • Biking outside
  • A daily meditation practice
  • Journaling more frequently
  • Listening to podcasts
  • Reading
  • Making art again
  • Seeing a therapist
  • Seeing a life coach (shout out to Sunni)
  • Taking medications more regularly
  • Doing the 5-Minute Journal (most days)
  • Going out and interacting with other people

All of that combined is leading to me having a more positive outlook and moving me forward. Yeah, it is not easy, but I keep reminding myself that easy is boring. The less I did, the less I wanted to do. The inverse is true as well, the more actions I take, the more actions that I want to take.

I’m focusing less on other people’s advice and more on my own inner voice, at least, I try to. I’ve gone a long way in these last five weeks, but I also realize that it all could go away in a split second if I stop doing the work, which means everything I talked about above.

Not that everything is perfect now anyway, I am still running out of money, my MacBook air is still broken, I don’t know how I’ll be able to get to WDS this summer and I still don’t know what type of job I want. All that and more is still there, I just can handle it now, the anxiety isn’t so overwhelming that I’m paralyzed anymore. There is still so much stuff that I want to do as well, like volunteer, sell my jewelry, make my art and connect more with other people. I also want to start blogging again and start an email newsletter.

I’ve learned that the choice between being an artist and an entrepreneur is a false choice, at least for me. Being one doesn’t exclude the other. I need to do things and move my life forward. I feel better and more alive while making art, and at the same time, taking action on my jewelry business feels good. I sold my jewelry at Milwaukee day at Turner Hall Ballroom, and preparing for that show has helped me to clarify what action steps I should take next. Having definite goals feels good. Working toward something bigger than myself feels good. Anyway, I just need to keep moving forward.

Thank you for reading this absurdly long post, I appreciate you taking the time out of your day to do so. Please let me know what you think in the comments below. Should I continue to write blog posts like this? What would you like to hear more from me about? Thanks again.

Playing Small vs Playing Big

I am striving to do the work. In the last two weeks since I have written my last post, Hard Decisions I have done less than I feel I am capable of doing. When I said that I wanted  to start selling my jewelry I wasn’t specific enough. I have floundered without a set schedule or clearly defined work. I have done stuff, just not the high-level stuff that will move me and my business forward. In short, I let my fears and anxieties win. I haven’t been taking myself seriously, first as an artist and now as an entrepreneur.

I make good jewelry, I don’t want to brag or sound arrogant, but I have worked hard over the years and built up my skill sets. What I’m struggling with now is figuring out exactly what I want and need and figuring out exactly how to do it. My problem is that I’ve played small, not living up to my potential.

I have read a lot lately. I’m halfway into the book: Playing Big* by Tara Mohr, in which she talks about woman’s issues and how they hold themselves back, for many reasons, culturally and otherwise. She talks about the inner critic. According to Tara the inner critic is “…’the voice of not-me’ -the internal chatter that tells a woman she’s not ready to lead, she’s not enough of an expert, she’s not good enough at this or that. It’s the voice of self-doubt, of the inner critic.” I identify strongly with her idea of the inner critic. I think that way a lot.

I have listened to the voice of my inner critic too much these last few weeks, letting my fears and “what if’s” get the best of me and letting it prevent me from doing the work that I need to do. The good news is that instead of waiting for the voice to go away “…you simply need to learn how to live with the inner voice of self-doubt but not be held back by it, to hear the voice and not take direction from it.” Tara writes: “In fact these woman [Cherry Murray and Twyla Tharp] grapple with self-doubt because they are playing big, regularly exposing themselves to criticism and visible failures and expressing their unique ideas and leadership in the world. Their words show they’ve been able to play big because they know to recognize the inner critic as just voice within – not the ultimate authority”

In order to deal with the inner critic what you need to do is label it, recognize that it there and keep going. “It seems too easy, but it’s true: you don’t have to do all that much with your inner critic.” says Mohr. This is very counter-intuitive to me, because what I’ve thought in the past is that I need to fight against it. I wrote about my fears in a blog post called “Choice and Fear“.  I need to remember, as Tara says: “You are not the critical voice. You are the person aware of the critical voice.”

In the book, Mohr gives 9 strategies for dealing with the inner critic, which I will not get into here, but the main thing not to do is not engage, don’t argue with it. The reason for this is: “When you spend any time arguing with the critic, the critic is ‘winning’ because while you are busy arguing with it, you are not doing your thing, putting your voice out there, risking failure to fulfill your aspirations, nurturing your budding dreams.” I love the language that Tara uses when she writes.

In conclusion, having an inner critic is a good thing, as Ms. Mohr writes: “many women find their inner critic speaks up most loudly around their most deeply felt dreams for their lives and work, because we feel particularly vulnerable about them. They experience the most panicky, overwhelming, self-doubt when they are moving towards what they truly long to do. The inner critic is like a guard at the edge of your comfort zone…when you hear a major inner critic attack, you can often greet it as good news: it likely means you are playing bigger.” Because my inner critic has been so active that means that I’m headed in the right direction. If I didn’t hear my inner critic, then I would be running away from what I am meant to do. I want to play big.

I’m working on playing bigger, staying in the uncertainty zone. I’m going to try some of the suggestions in the book and do some of her exercises. I need to work on acknowledging that the inner critic is speaking, naming it and moving on.

Is there anyone else here struggling with moving forward in the face of your inner critic? What strategies are you using? Please let me know if you are, I’m interested in hearing more.

 

 

  • *please note, this is an affiliate link if you click it and buy something I will get a small amount of money*

Hard Decisions


Hard Decisions

Or Shifting my Focus

I have come to a fork in the road, my path could lead in many different directions, but I feel I need to make a decision now. I’m tired of drifting endlessly and being so indecisive. When I declared myself an artist in November 2015 (see link here) I was very vague, I didn’t articulate what exactly I meant by being an artist. I’m at a point now where I can look at the bigger picture and I’ve come to a decision. Have you ever gotten to this point before? I know I have many times, but this time feels different.

I’ve decided to shift my focus away from the path of a fine artist and a focus my energy on to my jewelry business. There are many reasons why I decided to shift focus. Mostly it is because I feel drawn to making jewelry, it was my first love.

This is not a decision about running away, it’s about moving forward. Jewelry will be an equally hard path as that of a fine artist, but I feel as though it’s more exciting to me. The idea of pursuing it gives me energy, as opposed to the vague notion of being an artist. I’m not 100% percent certain that this is the right decision, but I learned the decision-making isn’t about being absolutely certain, it’s about taking a leap of faith. Besides, life would be so boring if you always knew what was going to happen. That said, I have decided to commit to selling my jewelry 100% percent for the next six months.

I have been making jewelry for a lot longer than I have been painting. I feel more confident about my jewelry making skills and some of my pieces are selling. If I focus my energy on one specific project, who knows how far I’ll go?

In the next post I’ll share my history with jewelry making if you are interested. Please comment below to let me know what you think.

I’m going to focus this week on selling my copper disc necklaces. Come check them out and if you know someone who might like them, feel free to share.

I have come to this decision thanks to many people, first of all thanks to the support of my fiends at fizzle.co and my friend Lisa Walker England. I’d also like to thank my mother, without whom I’d be nothing (literally).

MARN mentors

Since spring of 2015 I have been in the MARN mentors program. I applied as an emerging artist to be mentored by a local professional artist. I was really nervous when I applied, but I got in! I was chosen by Della Wells, an amazing local artist.

In reflecting on my time working with Della Wells, the main thing that stood out to me about the experience was how much I learned and grew as an artist because of it. I have grown considerably from my time working with my mentor Della Wells. As an emerging artist living in the Milwaukee area I had very few connections and little knowledge of how the art world really worked. I learned a lot from Della’s considerable knowledge. Every time I met with her I took copious notes; in fact on our first meeting I took 5 full pages. What I took away from the first meeting was: think of money as an investment; invest in myself and my career; do research; have a body of work; know what I want to say through my work, the importance of networking; and she said so much more than I have room to write here. The main thing that I have gained from Della is the ability to think bigger and set my goals and horizons higher. I had been thinking small before and not really taking my career and myself seriously. While working with Della I started to paint and established a regular studio practice. I also have more confidence in myself as an artist and have decided to pursue a career as a professional artist, whereas before I was ambivalent. I feel as though I have many more opportunities open to me in the future through having worked with the MARN mentorship program. Many thanks to Tia, Cassie, Pamela. and everyone involved at MARN.

At the end of the MARN Mentorship program there is an exhibition to wrap it up. The show is at the VAR gallery, located at 643 S. 2nd Street, Milwaukee, WI 53204. The opening reception is this Saturday, January 9th from 5-9pm. I hope you can come down and see it. If you can’t make the opening, there is a closing reception on Saturday January 23 from 5-9pm. I have worked hard on my piece for the show, here’s a sneak peak:

 

Following up on Choice and Fear

I published the post Choice and Fear about a month ago and got so much positive feedback and comments, which I really appreciate. I thought I’d let you know what I’ve been up since then. I wish I could say that my life has been all sunshine and roses since I declared myself a professional artist, but unfortunately that’s not how life works. I mean, it has been great. The first few days were amazing, I had so many ideas and inspiration was just flowing out of me. Unfortunately, the honeymoon phase did not last that long. Don’t get me wrong, I am doing the work and I love it. I’ve worked an average of 3 hours every day. I would not want to be doing anything else with my life and I’m not quitting anytime soon, but it isn’t as easy as I thought it would be.

The fear and the doubt never really went away, I don’t think they ever will. I’m starting to learn how to move forward in spite of that fact, but I had a real rough patch for about a week or so. I learned many lessons about myself from that time. I hope by sharing these lessons I can help someone else who is facing similar challenges.

The first thing I learned is not to isolate myself and plan social events. I worked so much in the studio and didn’t leave home for a few days, which was not good. Humans are social creatures and even though I need time to myself to make my art, I still need to make sure I get out there and interact with real people. I’m not yet sure how exactly I am going to do this, but my plan is to reach out daily to friends and family and try to schedule meetings in person. I also plan on finding events on Facebook and Eventbrite. All in all, I would like to get out of the house at least once a day.

The second thing that I learned is a just doing the work isn’t enough, I need to think ahead more and plan out further in advance so I know what I need to do beforehand.

The third I learned that I need to prioritize my health. If I don’t take care of myself, I can’t do anything else. I created a list to help me remember what to do daily, here’s a picture of the list, it is still a work in progress:

IMG_1641