My current work plays with the struggle between simple vs complex, and easy vs hard.
I just read the book, “Love People Use Things” by The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus. In the following quote, they provide the origin of the words “complex” and “simple” and it blew me away.
According to the book:
“The Latin root of the word ‘complex’ is complect, which means ‘To interweave two or more things together.”
This applies perfectly to my artwork as it deals with the interwoven complexities of life.
Lately, I’ve been trying to simplify my art to the essence of what it is without losing what makes it unique and special. What began as an exploration of color has now become an exploration of form.
By contrast, according to the book:
“The word ‘simple’ shares a Latin root with the word simplex, which means ‘having only one part’.”
I am exploring the intersection between the two, where simple and complex meet.
I am struggling with the concept of letting things be easy right now, especially in my art. The reason why is that I’m at a point in my art where I am starting to like what I make and not hate it. I’m working on a series of pieces for the MARN Salon show and it seems like the concept is too simple, too easy to execute.
I’m creating two large-scale (for me) canvases that are 3′ x 4′ and I’m intimidated by them. I have never worked so large scale before and I don’t know how they’ll turn out. I’m used to creating complicated and complex designs. I created two smaller sample pieces and accidentally came across a new technique that is easier to do and looks good.
If it is easy, it doesn’t feel as valuable to me, for some weird reason. The value of art is not the effort put into a painting but the way it looks when it is done, or at least that what’s I’m trying to think.
There is a story (probably apocryphal) about Picasso on a train. Someone asked him to make a drawing for them, and it took him around 3 seconds to draw it on a napkin, he handed the drawing to the person and said that will be $100,000 (or something like that). The person who wanted the painting said, “That only took you 3 seconds to make, why are you charging so much for it?” Picasso said, “No it took me a lifetime to be able to draw it in 3 seconds.”
This story illustrates how the effort in building skills should not be devalued. Yes, painting has become “easier” to me, but that is after I’ve put time into learning it.
As they say, “The simplicity on the other side of complexity is priceless.” It feels a little like cheating to slap paint on a canvas and then draw my design over it, but I really like the results.
Challenge is one thing, but making things hard and complex for the sake of it is not a virtue. I need to embrace ease and flow. I am often told I’m too hard on myself, so letting good enough be good enough is hard.
How about you? Do you struggle with similar issues? If so, how do you deal with it?
If something (a style, a technique) comes easily to you and you enjoy doing it, then don’t stop. You may feel that it is effortless, but other people may struggle to do what you find so easy, so don’t make things harder for yourself by setting yourself unnecessary challenges. Above all, have confidence in yourself and your vision; few people will believe you if you do not believe in yourself.
I found this quote after publishing the original post and thought it went so perfectly with it that I dedcided to incorporate it.
This year I decided to make necklaces. If you want to follow along, you can see my progress on my Instagram account: @CKnight_jewelry or Facebook page: @CarleyKnightArt.
I hand make the necklaces using beads I repurpose from older pieces of jewelry, some of which are vintage. I usually get my pieces of jewelry from thrift stores or rummage sales during the summer. I then wire-wrap the beads and use chain and a lobster clasp to complete the necklace. I am really liking the results so far. I’ve been playing with shapes and color combinations.
The reason why I’m doing #The100DayProject is mostly intrinsic motivation. I’ve felt like I’ve been stuck in a rut all winter and I have not been productive creatively. To be honest, looking back I was a little depressed. I wanted to express myself artistically and do something every day.
When I heard that the 100-day project was starting up again, to be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to participate. I only decided on April 2nd that I would participate and would be making necklaces. Doing the 100-day project has awakened me creatively, I’ve started to paint and sketch again! More importantly, I’ve been feeling better too.
Today is day 21 of my 100-day project and I’m really liking the results. Even though the reason I’m doing it is personal, I managed to sell 1 necklace so far! I mean, I would still be making my necklaces no matter what other people think, but it is nice to be validated in that way.
Speaking of selling, I just created a shop on my site: carleyknight.com/shop you can find my jewelry listed there for sale. I’m still listing items, but you can check out my necklaces and bracelets.
I’m looking to do more fairs and festivals over the summer, and am still looking for venues to sell, if anyone has any leads, please let me know. You can email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I would appreciate it if you were to stop by my shop there and support me! Thanks for your time.
Hello world, I’m back! I took a break from blogging that you can read about here: Pivoting on my Path. I didn’t abandon my art after all.
While I was gone I successfully completed a 100-day project where I made a pair of earrings a day for 100 days. You can find those earrings on my second Instagram account @CKnight_jewlery Or you can buy them in my Etsy Store.
Here are some highlights
I’ve been exploring a new direction with my painting lately. I’ve been playing around with a palette knife and I’m really enjoying the results. I’d love to hear what you think, please leave a comment below.
I might add my usual abstract design on top of a palette knife exploration. I’m enjoying playing around with color and texture.
I’m not a real artist, I’m just pretending to be an artist. There, I said it. Yes, I am making art, I went to art school (and then dropped out for financial reasons), my art is starting to get noticed, I’ve been accepted to art shows and I could probably get into a gallery if I tried, but I feel as though I’m a fake. I feel like at any moment I’m going to get called out, “She’s not a real artist, she’s just pretending to be one” and the jig will be up. The whole reason that I’m an artist is that I’m calling myself an artist and no one has caught me yet. The more progress I make in the art world, the stronger this feeling gets. Sometimes this feeling is enough to make me want to quit and change course.
The thing is though, I’m beginning to realize that I’m not alone in this. I heard that there’s a name for what I’m feeling, “Imposter Syndrome”, which according to Wikipedia is:
Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Some studies suggest that impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women. 
So knowing that this is a thing and I’m not alone helps me to feel better, it doesn’t solve the problem though, the feelings don’t just magically go away. I hope that by sharing my story this issue can start to be discussed more and by it being discussed, fewer people will feel alone. Does anyone else feel this way, and if so, how have you managed to overcome it? I would love to know, please comment below to share your experiences, as I would love to hear them.
I’ve been thinking lately that maybe I’m not meant to be a visual artist, maybe this isn’t the path I want to go down anymore, maybe I want to be a writer.
When I think about it though, no matter what path I chose there will be struggle, uncertainty, hardship and pain. If I let that stop me now, I’ll just get to the same problem in a different place and it’ll be even harder to stick it out because I won’t have built up my grit muscles. I need to stick it out and keep going for my sake.
The type of life that I want to lead is a meaningful, challenging, fulfilling one where I’m able to keep growing as a person.
Maybe I don’t “have what it takes” to be an artist, but I’ll never know unless I actually try and make an honest go of it. If I really work at it and fail that will suck, but at least I’ll have done my best and I won’t wonder anymore. And if I try, I might succeed. That’s the scary part there. If I succeed I’d need to actually change, and change is scary. I need to rededicate myself to my work, like I said before, I need to lean into the fear and uncertainty.
But how? So far I don’t have a good answer, but I’m learning that by taking small steps and focusing on my daily actions instead of the bigger picture I’m feeling less anxious, calmer. As long as I do what I need to do, i.e. eat healthy, exercise, and meditate daily I’m better able think and be creative. When I don’t do those small things I start to fall apart and second guess myself. I need to figure out how I’m going to support myself in the future, sure, but now I need to focus on the present, not worry so much, and have faith that the bigger picture will take care of itself.
I read a book about uncertainty a while ago by Johnathan Fields, it was called “Uncertainty” and I probably should reread it. The book talked about uncertainty and how you can live in the face of it. I remember he talked about how daily rituals help sustain a creative practice. I also want to reread “Art and Fear” by David Bayles and Ted Orland. A friend recently recommended it to me after I posted my last blog post. I had read it when I was in art school, but I can’t remember much from it.
Anyway, I need to put less pressure on my art, focus on making progress everyday. I miss making art, I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere I let fear rob me of my art making. I haven’t worked on my art in a few weeks and I miss it. looking back, I think what happened was I showed at gallery night and I didn’t sell anything so I got discouraged, I need to remember that the goal of making art isn’t to sell it, the goal is to make it. I need to think small: progress, not perfection.
Thanks for listening to my ramblings. I wrote this post as a journal entry to myself and I thought that maybe someone else might get something out of it. If you enjoyed this post please feel free to leave a comment below and let me know what you think. Have you encountered similar issues? How have you managed to overcome them?
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.
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.
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.