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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.

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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:

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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:

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Evolving Process

Ironically enough, the reason I started painting was because I wanted to make something faster than I could with fiber art. Naïvely I thought “how hard could this be?” And proceeded to start painting. My cross stitch pieces take months to realize and I wanted to have more pieces to sell. I knew that I could have prints made of my paintings and sell them as well. I’ve been drawings my designs for a long time, leading me to underestimate how difficult painting would be. I never took a painting class in art school, so I decide to teach myself by doing. That’s not exactly true, I did take 2D concepts class and there was a unit on painting. Anyway, I had all the supplies from then, plus the paints and brushes that my grandma gave me, which is a story for another time.
So here I was late spring/early summer of 2015, painting. I didn’t document my work well enough, from now on I’ll take more pictures as I paint. You can tell my early work by the sloppy brushwork and the white backgrounds. They are also on boards. I actually cover the boards with white paint before painting. I didn’t know much about mixing colors or transitioning from one to another, they are very flat and two-dimensional.

first acrylic painting April 21st 2015
first acrylic painting April 21st 2015

I thought I was doing well and was proud of them, looking back now, I’m really embarrassed. What woke me up was my mentor Della Wells. In the summer I met with her monthly for the MARN (Milwaukee Artist Resource Network) mentorship program and she gave me great advice.

Della is someone who tells things like they are, she doesn’t sugarcoat things. I showed her the paintings I had made up to that point and she said that I wasn’t ready yet, I forget her exact words, but she said that I needed to learn more, take classes, continue working on my technique and refine my process. I was little devastated at first, my ego really took a hit, but it was exactly what I needed to hear at that time. After that, I started watching tutorials on YouTube and I became more open to learning. I discovered that there is so much more to painting than I had thought before. Painting is one of those things that takes a little time to learn, but a lifetime to master.
Some of the things I’ve learned since then:
– Put a wash/ground on the background for the first layer
– Different brushes have different names and functions
– Paint is really expensive
-The more time and effort I put into painting, the better I get
– You can layer colors on top of each other to create a richer tone
– If you put dark on the edges and a lighter color in the center it creates a 3D effect
– I enjoy painting

There is so much more I would like to learn, I’m glad I started painting and feel as though I’ve come a long way in just a few months, I wonder how far I’ll get.

Early Paintings

 

Works in progress

choice and fear

I made a major decision today. I chose to pursue my art full-time and not look for a job, full or part-time. In other words, I am committing 100% to being a professional artist. This is a huge decision for me because it is something that I’m really afraid of, but also it’s the thing that I really want. I’m telling you this for many reasons, first of all I want to be held accountable for my actions. The second reason is that I wanted to let you know about what I’m up to. Maybe you’ll connect with something I wrote and get some value out of it, I don’t know, but I want to get this off of my chest and get my thoughts in order. I’m scared to share this post with you, but I think that the fear I’m feeling is showing me that this is something that I need to do. Please let me know what you think of this post, I would really appreciate the feedback.

I have so many fears about being an artist professionally, for instance:

  • putting myself out there in the world
  • people judging me because I don’t have a “real” job
  • people thinking that I don’t contribute to society
  • people thinking that I live in a fantasy world and that I need to wake up and stop dreaming
  • what gives me the right to pursue my dreams while so many people aren’t able to
  • being a leech on society
  • I don’t have what it takes to be a professional artist
  • my work isn’t good enough
  • etc.

Even though I have so many fears and reservations, I’m going to lean forward into the uncertainty and fear, because that’s where the potential for growth is. I know that most of my fears are irrational, but I still think them anyway. What fears are holding you back? What are you doing to overcome your fears? I have so much potential that I can’t let a little thing like fear stop me.

You might be wondering who I am, what I want to do as an artist, I am planning on writing a post on that, but I haven’t finished articulating my thoughts yet. I will add a link here once I’m done writing that post. I am a fine artist that works in a variety of media. I don’t know yet what I have to say, but I know that I have a voice and the responsibility to use it.

Right now I have the least responsibilities that I ever will have in my life, I am single, no kids, I have some money and if I don’t buy many frivolous things I can live off that money. I intend to live an intentional minimalistic lifestyle. I need to stop spending money eating out and going to cafés. Hopefully I will soon earn some money through my work that I can start saving some.

Starting to live as a professional artist will be hard, but if I don’t I will always wonder, “what if?”, what if I gave it my all, worked my hardest, what could I have done? How far could I have gone? I don’t know if I could live with that feeling and I have the means to do so now, so why not make that leap?

You might wonder what I mean by being a “professional” artist. To me a professional artist is an artist who makes a living from their art. I’m going to treat my art career like a 9-5 in that I will have regular hours and take it seriously. I will spend at least 3 hours each day making art. I plan on building up my body of work to roughly 50 paintings, then I will have a big enough body of work to approach galleries. I will also sell limited edition prints of a number of my pieces. I will continue to sell my jewelry on the side to make money, but my main focus will be on my art practice. I heard on a podcast, the thriving artist podcast, in an interview with Carolyn Edlund that professional artists spend half their time creating their work and the other half marketing. I’m going to create a schedule for myself and stick to it.

Thank you so much for reading this far and if you want to support me through this transition period while I make my body of work through a MARN (Milwaukee Artist Resource Network) micro-fellowship for a tax-deductible donation, Click on the link: here. To learn more about MARN’s micro-fellowship program click: here. To buy some of my jewelry visit my shop page To follow me and get updates on what I’m working on in the future sign up for my mailing list here

a shot of a work in progress in my studio
a shot of a work in progress in my studio