How to Shake the Doldrums

When sitting on the sofa, eating crappy food and feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t improve your mood, it’s time to take a different approach to attitude adjusting.

I have just come off a week-long gloom binge. I wasn’t feeling well at all.  My work wasn’t satisfying, my home life irritated me, exercise was an unattainable motivation and food…well…if it wasn’t made from sugar or high levels of sodium, I wasn’t interested.  

As a sensitive and moody artist who is prone to anxiety and depression, it can be hard at times to pull myself from the depths of my own head.  Once I’m there, the darkness can wrap around me like a blanket which, oddly enough, can feel rather comforting.  Instead of craving things that would improve the situation, I hunker down, binge on television, cry in the shower, eat ice cream for dinner and procrastinate doing anything that could possibly be good for me.  It affects my productivity in EVERYTHING.

Last week, while in the midst of a down-swing, I continued working on a painting and although I worked on it every day, I didn’t make much progress. That is kind of indicative of how my mood affects my day-to-day.  When I’m in a negative head space, everything seems to take longer and my actions don’t seem as productive as I know they can be.  It’s like everything is done in vain which depresses me even more…OH THE DRAMA OF IT ALL!

Marigny Goodyear Abstract PaintingIt seemed like every "big" change I made to this painting made no difference at all.

 

On Friday, after my 12th biscotti, 7th grilled cheese sandwich and 4th failed attempt to get to the gym, I had to do something.  I chose to take the same attitude towards my day-to-day that I take when I’m stuck on a painting.  JUST DO ANYTHING.  Seriously.  The more different, the better.  

Just as in abstract painting, contrast can also be the solution to depressive moods. Trying something opposite to instinct can help.

I decided to approve my teenage daughter’s proposed 8-person sleepover.  I know what you’re thinking: “WTF?!  You’re fighting the doldrums by inviting a slew of crazed teenagers over?!”  Yes, that’s exactly what I did.  To justify this decision to my melancholia, I told myself that I would now have the weekend to finish cracking out on crappy food, as that is what the human teenager consumes at a sleepover. 

What I was hoping is that all of these fresh faced, energetic, silly-as-hell children running around my house would totally obliterate the misery problem at hand.  You try being stuck in a funk on a Saturday night when girls are being dragged across the floor laughing hysterically, sporadic dance parties are popping up on your front lawn and THIS is standing in your kitchen:

Pig Onsie Gangster in my Kitchen

The point is that it got me out of my spin cycle.  I woke up in my van Sunday morning (yes, I gave up the comfort of my house to the juveniles for the night) and joyfully cooked pancakes and scrambled eggs for a mess of youngsters. I found it amusing (instead of frustrating) when an iphone was found under one of our cars, when I realized that two entire jars of pickles were eaten by one 90-pound girl (ew) and when I was repeatedly asked for something to eat while I was in the middle of cooking a meal. 

As it turns out, my Mother was right…it really is important to get outside and play on a beautiful day.

That afternoon, I got outside for the first time in a week and gardened (another one of those activities that is so hard for me to start, yet feels so good when finished).  Monday, I woke up and rocked that painting, continuing on in a completely different direction from where I started.  I had been painting in a pretty dark pallet so I took a light blue and painted over about 85% of my painting.  

Marigny Goodyear Abstract Painting Work In ProgressWhen in doubt, just do anything.

After a brief panic attack, (and another biscotti) I took the canvas outside and started sanding the paint down.  Layers of texture and color slowly emerged through the light blue, creating a dreamy, twisted, complicated junglescape.  Out emerged something I never could have planned or imagined and it was beautiful.

When I needed a break from that, I got on my bike and hauled ass on the bike path for about an hour.  In that time, I was able to release most of the remaining dark cloud that I had been dragging around.  It was really hard to pay attention to the blahs when I chose to engage with the outdoors for a minute.  It’s Spring, Moody Artist!  For Pete’s sake, go outside and play! 

Today is Tuesday and I still feel my bad mood hiding out and waiting for an opening to creep back in.  But instead of engaging with it, I’ve decided to write about the ridiculousness of it all.  After lunch, I will incorporate some darks back into this painting and then I’m going mountain biking. 

Marigny Goodyear Abstract Painting Detail Blue MusicDetail of the painting after working a dark blue back in.  Sometimes you just have to keep doing the opposite thing until you land where it all comes together.

The only constant mood is the changing one 

We all go through ups and downs.  If I’ve learned anything in my 40 years being human, it’s that there is no such thing as an endless good or bad mood.  They are all temporary and part of a much bigger picture.  It’s where we choose to focus that’s important.  I’m always amazed when a once huge problem doesn’t seem quite so big when I don’t stop and stare at it.  I mean, it’s Spring in Southern Oregon…I’d much rather stop and stare at the wild flowers. 

Sometimes, it seems such an easier choice to curl up on the sofa and continue on with the pity party but right now I have to take the 180 degree turn that will get the spark back into my eyes and the motivation back into my hands.  If I choose to remain stuck in my mood, that’s all I’ll be…stuck.  Just like with my painting, I have to take action and I can’t wait to think of the “perfect” solution.  Just shake it up!  Throw caution to the wind, paint onto the canvas, and when in doubt, and if it’s available to you, laugh with a bunch of goofy kids (I hear puppies work too).

Goofy selfies with a 4-year-oldIt's impossible to be stuck in the doldrums when there are goofy selfies to be taken with adorable 4-year-olds.
 

When you feel stagnation set in, what do you do to get unstuck? Let me know in the comments below.  Goodness knows I need all the strategies that I can get!

Painting at top is Blue Music, 36x36, Paper, Acrylic and Watercolor Crayon on Canvas

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Artist Benefits from Job Hopping

The path to becoming a professional West Coast abstract artist was there all along.  I just didn’t see it until it all came full circle and I had a change of perspective on the day job.

I have been an artist by trade for approximately 4 months.  Prior to that I had worked as an Executive Assistant for a husband and wife team who ran both for profit and non-profit companies.  I was their right-hand woman for over 8 years and it was hard to say goodbye, but I was finally ready to take the leap to follow my passion.   They’ve gotten unexpectedly slammed busy, so I’ve been doing a little work for them this week and as I was working on their schedules this morning, I started thinking about all of the different jobs that I’ve had.

High Tech Ergonomic Office Equipment
My studio office. Only the best high tech ergonomic office equipment for this artist.

At one point, I described my resume as looking like it belonged to a crazy person.  I’ve been a Yoga teacher, a stock broker, an advertising sales exec, a restaurant worker (front of house and cooking), an education programs coordinator…I could go on and on.  But now that I’m having to jump back into a supportive admin roll (albeit temporarily) it’s really got me thinking about how all of those different jobs support me on my path to becoming a career artist. 

So, I thought I’d reflect on the many careers of Marigny Goodyear and explain what each one has taught me and how that’s applicable to my life as an artist.  For all those artists out there who are still dragging themselves out of bed each day to get to the day job: it is serving you beyond a pay check.

Feeling like I was seen as a quitter because I was a serial career changer was tough on my confidence, but actually each job was a learning experience that lead back to one thing…life and work as an abstract artist. 

The Hospitality Industry – “How may I be of service?”

I worked in fine dining restaurants, caterers, event planners and 5 star hotels cooking, serving, and managing and I loved it.  It was hard working and hard playing life style.  In those fast pace environments, I learned A LOT.  So much in fact, that I feel the need to use bullets:

  • How to anticipate the needs of others and give them what they need before they ask
  • Attention to detail and how to be efficient in my movements.
  • How to work on my own and also in a team.
  • The importance of forward thinking. What do I need to do today to better serve me tomorrow?
  • How to multi-task (for better or for worse) and to be prepared and organized (you’d better know where everything is at all times when you’re moving 100 miles per hour).
  • And the most important take-away: The value of good customer service. That includes doing what I say I’m going to do in a timely manner, following up even when I think it’s not necessary, taking the words “I assume” out of my vocabulary and showing gratitude…even when you’d rather give the customer a good eye poke.  

 

Having a baby was what ultimately made me leave the restaurant industry.  The hours were hard and I realized that once my daughter started school, I would never see her, so when a friend of a friend offered me sales job at a magazine, I jumped at the opportunity to become a… 

…Advertising Executive – “We don’t take no for an answer!”

Oy…my least favorite job.  I always took no for an answer.  When my boss would call me on it, I’d say “but they said no….what I’m I supposed to do?”  Great sales person, right?  I assumed that I just sucked at sales but really what was going on is that I didn’t feel genuine in the importance of what I was trying to sell.  I learned about dealing with clients and the necessity of follow up, follow through, organization and meeting deadlines. But what I ultimately learned from this experience is that unless I am passionate about what I am selling, sales are a waste of time for me. 

To be honest, the whole thing just stressed me out and so I decided to take a hobby and make it my job and I quit to become…

…A Yoga Instructor – “Let’s get our Om on, Y’all!”

I loved Yoga.  I did it all of the time and so when my teacher suggested that I become a teacher, I jumped at the opportunity.  I went to a month-long teacher training course in the Bahamas (because WHY NOT?) and started teaching immediately when I got home.  Private clients trickled in and I was gaining a little following at a few Yoga studios but really what I was gaining was a massive amount of debt. 

Yoga along the Mississippi New OrleansNora and I practicing Yoga along the Mississippi River

In the few years that I taught Yoga I learned how business can grow if you stick with it although I didn’t have the time or money saved to stick with it very long.  I also learned the importance of breathing.  This is where my meditation practice began and hear me when I say that I would be a crazy person without my daily meditation practice. 

I still do Yoga sometimes but not like I used to as I also learned that sometimes taking something I love and making it a job can beat the love for it right out of me.  I ended up taking another part-time job with a very successful money manager, organizing receipts in order to figure out how much money his wife had spent on their new house renovation.  That led me to become a…

…Junior Stock Broker - “$$$$$$$$$$$”

I learned how to talk to a different type of clientele…one with money.  I also learned how to make a mean spreadsheet, a tool that I use frequently and may one day make an art project out of.  I learned about stocks, bonds, money markets, mutual funds, basic analysis and became a licensed stock and bond broker.  Ok…so I admit that a lot of that stuff oozed right on out my ears when I quit, but basic finance will always be with me and I will never forget learning the importance of nurturing your clients….again…back to good customer service.  Sending birthday cards, holiday gifts, email updates, whatever it takes to make them feel special and attended to.  It’s mandatory. 

Artists use spreadsheets tooArtists use spreadsheets too...at least this one does.  I would be lost without my spreadsheets.

I was on my way to getting an additional license to sell insurance and I actually would have stayed longer in the finance industry but two life changing things happened within 6 months of each other:  I fell in love and hurricane Katrina (aka The Storm) hit New Orleans.  My job moved from New Orleans to Birmingham, Alabama.  I stayed for 9 months but when my now husband proposed to me, I chose love over the career and moved back to Post Katrina New Orleans where I had trouble finding work.  A good friend of mine’s father took pity and hired me to…

…Organize financials to be used in divorce litigation

I worked at his CPA firm for about a year and I learned that I NEVER wanted to get a divorce…But being as far away from the arts as this job brought me and wanting to support New Orleans artists who were struggling after The Storm led me to open my own business and, in a way, back to the arts.

B-native.com…”Buy New Orleans Art Y’all!”

Marigny Goodyear Abstract Art

My logo for (now closed)b-native.  An online art market for New Orleans artists.

My first business venture.  B-native was a web site where NOLA artists could have a platform to sell their art online since New Orleans tourism was suddenly non-existent. It was a juried online art market that I kept alive for 5 years.  It was quite the experience and labor of love.  Here I learned to be careful about going into business with friends and if you do, get it in writing.  Not having a formal partnership agreement from the get go was the ultimate demise of my little on-line gallery.  The other thing I learned is that the marketing I learned in college changed super-fast with the introduction of social media and SEO.  I was in over my head and didn’t have a clue as to how to get the world to pay attention to b-native.  I gave it up after 5-years. 

Marigny Goodyear West Coast Abstract ArtistThis is what this artist looks like after spending a few hours learning about marketing and PR.  Ouch...it hurts.

Then my childhood best friend moved back home to New Orleans and hired me to work with her as an…

Education Programs Coordinator - “Party planning with lots of presentations and no booze.”

Here my hospitality education was applied in a different way but those lessons about attention to detail, follow up, customer service…it’s all really the same thing.  I also learned that I’m a terrible proof reader.  Again, this only lasted about a year because we upped and moved to Oregon where I became…

…Executive Assistant - “I do it ALL”

I did…I did it all.  I loved my bosses and the people I worked with.  I stayed with them over 8 years which was a record for me, by far.  I learned how to change hats quickly and as needed (even if it’s not on my schedule) and how to juggle the demands of two different people who have two different sets of needs. When I began working for them, they didn’t even own a filing cabinet.  I built their organization and scheduling systems, helped with fund raising, planned events, I even got to travel a bit.  Here I became an organizational master.  I kept myself, and them, on task and knowing what’s coming up next, without question.  I was really good at it and I enjoyed it until it just wasn’t challenging anymore.

While I was with them, I started doing art on the side and 4 years later, I left to pursue art as my career.  When I started painting and experiencing the joy and remembering how important art is in my life, I got a bit sad.  I thought “Wow, I’ve really wasted a lot of time.”  But now, that I’m actually pursuing art as a business, I realize that all of these different roles that I’ve taken on over time have allowed me to come full circle back to art. 

In this world of endless information choices, it is hard to see that we are on a path.  For me, all of the day jobs were a road to abstract art. 

We live in a time when the 40-year career at one company and retiring with a pension is pretty much dead.  Being bombarded by so much information and options, it is really hard to focus on what we are “meant” to do.  I believe that all of us have that thing that we are blessed with and meant to share with the world. 

The challenge is to see beyond the pay check, the obligations, the Joneses… What is our gift to give and how can all the different experiences in life allow us to grow that gift into a career? I am an artist.  I am also a business woman with an organizational mind.  Two things I grew up thinking couldn’t possibly work together in one brain.  But here I am. 

So, now that I’m done updating my financial spreadsheet and my marketing tasks for the day, I’m heading into the studio where my structured brain can release into a creative space. I’m realizing that all of my different talents can be applied not just to my art, but to my art business.   They actually complement each other quite well.  All of it wasn’t a waste of time at all.  In fact, it was necessity in order to pursue my passion.

If you experience day-job frustration, I urge you to make a list of all the things that you’ve learned at each jobby-job, and write how they can benefit you and your passion.  It may shift your thinking.  I’d love to see what you write.  Hit reply and let me know, or answer in the comments below and if you know someone who is frustrated by the time their day job takes from their passion, please share this with them.   Onward!

The painting at top is Animator, 36x36 Paper, Acrylic, Graphite & Crayon on Canvas. Please forgive the lack of images in this blog post....apparently I didn't take photos of any place that I work prior to becoming an artist.

Artist Profile: Nicholas Wilton - Building Communities of Creatives One Workshop at a Time

Being a career west coast abstract artist would not be possible without the help of talented teachers.

When I first started this journey of becoming a professional artist, I was running solely on emotion and old, ignored art supplies.  I didn’t have a goal.  I didn’t know that this would be my career.  I was merely trying to express feelings of remorse, anger and agitation that were alarmingly amplified when I decided to quit drinking.  No longer comforted by simply burying these discomforts under the weight of alcohol, I unearthed them and then needed a tool for dealing with the difficulties that bubbled up.  

I had leftover paint, paper and some brushes and so I started.  I had never done abstract painting before, but sobriety was just about all my brain could handle.  Thinking about realistic details of a still life, or…let’s be honest here…trying to do anything with any specificity at all was really difficult.  I just began to move my brush-holding hand and abstracts are what sprung from my fingertips.  And it saved me.  

Finding art again was an unexpected gift given to me by my willingness to let go of old coping mechanisms and being open to getting to know myself.  Self-awareness had never been my strong suit.  So, discovering that I am an artist was amazing and at the same time, a “well duh” moment.  I knew it all along, I just ignored it because I didn’t think it was practical road to travel.

Guidance from an established west coast abstract artist and teacher was the inspiration I didn't know I needed.

Nicholas Wilton West Coast Abstract Mixed Media Artist
Nicholas Wilton is a Sausalito, CA based abstract artist and teacher whose workshop I attended flipped me into action.  I have been painting consistently since.

 

A year into my self-administered art therapy adventure, a good friend suggested that I take an Art 2 Life workshop taught by Sausalito, CA based abstract artist, Nicholas Wilton.  After briefly checking out his website, I was immediately attracted to Nick’s art.  His use of shape, repeated pattern, movement and vibrant colors widened my eyes and motivated me to learn more.  I signed up and drove to California for 5 days of art making.  It was the best thing that I have ever done for my art, my confidence and my career. 

Nicholas Wilton Art 2 Life Workshop Westerbeke RanchDay #1 of Nicholas Wilton's Art 2 Life Workshop at Westerbeke Ranch in Sonoma. 

Nick taught his 6 art principles which included color, harmony, value and design.  Many of these had been introduced to me in my long abandoned fine arts schooling but not thought of since, and they were important reminders, but his 6th principle was the most important and influencing….Soul.  Heeding soul was not taught in art world academia and wasn’t that what I was really working on?  Cleansing, listening, being receptive and responding to my soul?  Without knowing it, Nick was reiterating what I had been learning over the past year…to thine own self be true. 

Nicholas Wilton Art 2 Life WorkshopDay #4: My works in progress at Nick's Art 2 Life Workshop.  The finished version of the one in the right corner is at the top of this blog post.

Nick also believes in the importance of having a community to lean on as well as contribute to.  Over the past couple of years, he has continued to be a huge support and inspiration to me through his art, blogs, video lessons and willingness to make time for students like me.  He recently made himself available for a 15-minute interview so that I may share some of his wisdom with you. 

If you are an artist needing direction, I highly recommend his workshops and if you can’t afford those, just sign up for his blog "The Artlife".  He often sends out videos discussing his work, process and problem solving.  Read on for our conversation about his influences, challenges and maneuvering through the business of art. 

A 15 minute interview with west coast abstract artist, Nicholas Wilton.

MG: You seem to be a master of creating patterns without making the painting have a “wallpaper” feel.  Is that something that you have to work for or does it come naturally? 

NW: People always say to make exciting design, you have to have a variety of sizes and shapes and things, and you can, for sure…but you can also [work within] a pattern.  If the pattern is repeating, that can be somewhat monotonous because when we look at one part of the picture, the same kind of feeling occurs in another part of the picture, so that’s the recipe for sort of boring somebody.

Nicholas Wilton Color-Field-1 Abstract Painting Mixed Media ArtNicholas Wilton, Color Field One, 36x40, Mixed Media on Panel, Caldwell Snyder Gallery

But if you can offer differences within that context, that can become really interesting.  So, for example, maybe the pattern repeats, but the color is different on different parts of the pattern. Then that becomes noticeable and interesting.  Or maybe the texture is different.  (Pointing to the painting above.) That painting looks like little chips of color [in rows].  That’s not a very particularly exciting pattern because the pattern isn’t really anything…just a bunch of colors…but I’m talking about colors and the conversation about color.  All of the sizes are the same and they are in a line but I’m really paying attention and offering the viewer something that’s different.  There are contrasts that happen to be in the [different] colors.  Patterns can be wallpaper like but when you change things within that, then it becomes exciting.

MG: The first artist you studied with was a stained-glass artist Ludwig Schaffrath.  How did working with glass influence how you paint now?  What was the biggest lesson that you learned from him as a new artist that you carry with you today?

NW: Well I entered into it more as a craft.  I liked making things, so I was learning how to make stained glass.  The thing about stained glass is that [you start with] incredible pieces of glass.  Some are translucent.  Some are transparent. There’s glass from Germany that’s really beautiful. What you learn pretty quickly is that maybe it’s the materials that are so amazing. 

Let’s say you pull out this amazing piece of glass that you love. It’s so beautiful just on its own. Then you cut it up and you make a flower out of it... So, I became interested in the questions of why do I keep taking this amazing material and turning it into pictures that happens to be made out of stained glass, but really weren’t very good?  When you think about a picture of a stained-glass flower, it’s kind of bric-a-brac. It can be kind of cheesy.  So, I started to look around at different artists that were doing work as good as the materials.  

Nicholas Wilton Art 2 Life Workshop Work TableAn Art 2 Life Workshop table.  The raw materials are just as important as the finished product

 

Ludwig Schaffrath was making these incredible modern day monastery windows…very contemporary and very much in alignment with the glass. I was seduced by the materials because of the caliber of the finished product.  The materials were so good that it upped my game to get better at designing and using it. What I learned from this gentleman when I was 15, is that the only thing you can really do is something personal and unique.  If you want to copy reality, that’s fine but you have to do it in a way that’s personal. He was the first one to press that idea that I still teach today and try to do in my own work.

MG: I recall you saying in a workshop that you can try to make your art look like another artists’ but it’s never going to.  It’s always going to look like you. 

NW: Yeah.  We can try on different ways of working.  I can copy an artist for a day and try to make my art look like theirs but you won’t stay there very long because it’s not very interesting because they’ve already done it.  But it is important for you to pull out and discover the reason why you were attracted to their work.  You might love Mark Rothko but you don’t want to be Mark Rothko.  You just want to understand the way he’s using color because that’s what you love.  I wouldn’t want to do a Mark Rothko painting because he already did them all.  People learn that eventually and they move on. 

Nicholas Wilton Bone-Yard Abstract Art Mixed Media PaintingNicholas Wilton, Bone Yard, 12x12, Mixed Media on Panel, Caldwell Snyder Gallery (I LOVE this one.)

MG: What is the most challenging part of being an artist at a professional level?

NW: I think there are three parts: 1. Isolation 2. Not having all of the information to do this…it takes time to have all of the information, how to paint, what to do when you get stuck, all of that technical stuff and then 3. Having the right place to do it.   I couldn’t make these paintings in a small room anymore.  I had to move to a bigger space and it was scary.  I had to pay more, I wasn’t sure I could do it… Having a practice that works…that’s something you have to learn.  They don’t teach that.  Having a good community and a solid art practice or approach and just the basic information.  That is what I teach in my online courses and workshops.  If you can give that to people, that does it…. especially the community part.

Nicholas Wilton Millwork Abstract Painting Mixed Media ArtNicholas Wilton, Millwork, 60x60, Mixed Media on Panel, Caldwell Snyder Gallery

MG:  So creating a community of artists that you see regularly and having people that you talk with often…

NW:  Yeah and even connected on a Facebook group or whatever.  I’m really interested in creating community…that’s why I’m talking to you right now. We are staying connected.  We might not have talked for a long time but we’re connected and I just believe that’s a path that allows me or anybody to do this rather unusual activity and pull it off successfully. 

MG: You teach workshops as well as painting.  Do you enjoy one more than the other? Do you feel that teaching and painting complement each other?  How? 

NW: They work in conjunction.  I don’t think I could teach if I wasn’t doing the practice.  I have my own personal practice and then I’m helping people develop theirs.  I do these Sunday blog posts and those are done completely spontaneously.  I’m painting and then I learn something new or I’m getting new perspective and I just share that with people. Certainly, the teaching is derived from the painting. And teaching clarifies my own practice.  The best I ever paint is after 7 days of teaching a workshop.  I go home and I can pretty much guarantee that I’m painting more confidently and probably a little bit differently than I was before I left.  So, it’s a win/win as far as I’m concerned.  It works for me.

Also, you can’t forget that by teaching I’m getting inspired by all of these other people.  When I see your painting and what you’re doing…you’re painting larger now…I get that juice from you.  There’s been an exchange because we’ve worked together a little and I see what you’re doing and it’s bigger and it’s “wow!” and that fires me up and my day is just a little bit better and I use that energy to go do this challenge (pointing around the studio). 

Nicholas Wilton Pin-Point Abstract Art Mixed Media PaintingNicholas Wilton, Pin Point, 12x12, Mixed Media on Panel, Caldwell Snyder Gallery

MG: You had a gift line business adventure at one time.  How did you feel when that opportunity came along and why did you ultimately decide that it wasn’t for you? 

NW: I created the opportunity in a way because I was tired of doing illustrations…you get paid for one and then do another one and another one and another one… I would make some really good art but it would just disappear so I thought “how can I make some of this art stay around?” and the idea of putting it on products, gifts specifically, like trays, boxes and tote bags, came along and I worked with some friends and we created a company. 

What happened though was that the momentum, the need, the desire to sell, that directed the company, of course…that’s the whole point…to make money.  But my direction was partly that, but to also make the best possible work I could.  And at one point, one of our biggest sellers were basically little tiny cheap reproductions of paintings that you could get at Walmart or Bed Bath and Beyond for like $5. I saw my own personal work [reproduced] but I was uncomfortable because I’m also a fine artist and I had done a lot of work to keep my work at a premium, to keep the prices high, to make it prestigious, because it is. It’s what I do.  It’s really important.  But I saw that this was cannibalizing that and I didn’t like that.  It didn’t feel good to me.  And when something doesn’t feel good to me, regardless of the money, I know from art, from my life, you don’t do continue doing that.  You do something else. There are alternatives.

Nicholas Wilton Blue-Storm Abstract Art Mixed Media PaintingNicholas Wilton, Blue Storm, 12x12, Mixed Media on Panel, Caldwell Snyder Gallery

MG: Spring is almost here.  Seeing as nature is such a big influence for you, do you notice that your paintings and pallet choices change when the seasons change? 

NW: Yeah.  I think so. My studio isn’t heated and I’m warmer now, which is half the problem.  I get so damn cold in here because these ceilings are so high so I’m bundled up in the Winter and it’s just a hard road for a few months.  Also, I think Spring is more of an opening and unfolding and Winter is a closing more.  There is an ease to it and a looseness and more color.  I think there tends to be, over the course of an artist’s career, to go from control to more and more loose and more and more exploration and an opening or broadening and I think that relates to seasons as well.

MG: What piece of advice would you give a young artist starting out and does that advice change if someone is starting out as a young artist vs. an older artist? 

NW: I just think it’s important to realize that each person, old, young, whatever, whoever, if they’re interested in doing this and if they can pay attention to what they love, and really focus on that and look within themselves, that’s really the path to making personal, authentic, sellable, desirable work that you love.  That’s the path and that’s available and they have everything they need they just may need some guidance.  Everybody’s unique and everybody can therefore make unique and personal work.  They just have to pay attention to themselves.

Learn more about Nicholas Wilton on his website.

The painting at top by me is "Original Bubble" 12x12 Acrylic, Paper and Graphite on Birch Board and was one of the pieces I created while attending Nicholas Wilton's Art 2 Life Workshop in 2014.  

Want to Make a Living as an Artist? Better Learn to Hustle!

As I dive into a professional career as a West Coast abstract artist, I am caught in the balancing act of finding time to make art and also figuring out how to get my art noticed.  

I have been in my office today thinking about my job in advertising sales.  I sucked at it.  I had to cold call all sorts of different businesses, from architect firms to gift shops, by phone and in person, in attempt to sell ad space for a New Orleans city magazine.  I didn’t like it at all.  My boss would say things like “We don’t take no for an answer!”  In my mind, I’d be thinking “but they said no…wtf am I supposed to do about it?”  I’m not a pushy person and talking about circulation and demographics just sounded like a hustle.  I didn’t like the hustle.  Now that I’m following my passion, all that has changed. 

Self-promotion is a MUST if I want to get my abstract art noticed.

I had been working on my art biz for almost 4 years when I finally decided to become a full-time artist.  I have enough business background and had done enough research to know that self-promotion was going to be necessary and I was NOT excited about it.  My past experience in sales showed me that I didn’t enjoy it and in turn, I wasn’t very good at it.  

I have never been a person who enjoyed the spot light.  Alcohol used to help with that but when I gave that up, I felt as though I was an introvert who had been pretending, my whole life, to be an extrovert.  The last thing I wanted to do is stand in front of you and tell you how awesome I am.  I realize now that the issue was that I didn't think I was worth much, and how can you self-promote if you have no confidence in what you’re selling?

Finding creative ways to market myself as a West Coast abstract artist is half of my day.  The other half, I actually make art.

As I’ve been diving deeper into what it means to be a professional artist, I find that “hustling” is about half of my day.  I have to figure out different ways to promote my art. I don’t mind talking with people about my art.  I don’t mind sending emails and making phone calls, starting dialogs on Instagram and whipping out business cards without being asked.  In my prior sales experience, my cheeks would burn red and I would get embarrassed talking about the magazine.  It all felt so phony.  But now I believe in what I’m selling and I’m finding out that’s half the battle.

I know there are people in sales who are true artists of their trade.  They can sell anything to anyone at any time.  Hats off to them.  For the rest of us, the most important ingredient to getting noticed is to, first and foremost, believe in your product.  If you’re selling yourself, you’d better like yourself ok or you’re going to have a really hard time.

When I joined Instagram, I stumbled across an artist from Miami named Ronald Sanchez who recently had a show called Word Play.  I am attracted to his use of reclaimed objects and stencil work.  I love his strong typography use and mixed media projects, but what I am really attracted to is his message.

 

My Hustle Has A Hustle Ronald Sanchez Art Miami Florida

After I saw Ronald’s above piece, it became my mantra.  I’m not kidding when I say that every person I see, I’m wondering if they could be a potential collector or influencer.  If I meet you for the first time I’m sizing you up and I can’t wait to tell you I’m an artist.  When I see that spark of interest flash in your eye you can bet that what I’m thinking is, “how can I engage you further?”  My hustle really does have a hustle.  And when I’m feeling so confident about myself that I feel I can do no wrong, I look to another one of Ronald’s pieces that speaks out to me:

 

Humble Hustle Ronald Sanchez Art Miami Florida

 

I can’t forget that staying humble is sometimes as endearing as oozing confidence and the two working together, well it seems a balance that I’ll strive for the rest of my career.  So, thanks to Ronald, for giving me my work mantra.  Because even on days like today, when my hustle feels pretty small, I just have to remember that that the squeaky wheel gets the grease and that I’m not going to reach anyone without making a little noise.  

And with that, look out because I’m off to hustle you, your Grandma and anyone else that might buy my art.  (Note the link?  That's right...I'm hustling you right now!)

The piece at top is Submerged 36x36 Paper & Acrylic on Canvas and it is for sale in my gallery.  Buy it before someone else does...

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Inspiration: Glorious and Moody Mother Ocean

The abundance of ocean art and surf paintings is proof of just how much inspiration the ocean gives. 

I've just returned from Baja and although the surf Gods were not really stirring things up in my favor this trip, I left Mexico reminded, once again, of the power of Mother Ocean.  Visually, there is nothing in comparison with looking out over the vastness of the ocean.  There seems to be no end, and in comparison to the self centered, ego driven, social media heavy life that people in our culture gravitate toward, the ocean puts us humans in our place and makes us remember how small we really are.

Mother Ocean astounds me.  Graceful, beautiful, and I am yet a twig in comparison to her power. 

Mentally, the ocean seems to change my brain waves.  My gerbil wheel of a thought process slows down when I'm ocean side allowing me to ponder more deeply and not be so reactive.  Physically, the ocean lets me know that I am nothing in relation to even her "small surf", as seen by the mighty mouse of a wave that grabbed me under water, flipped me around 4 times, and injured my back on the last day we were there.  (An hour later I was standing in a taco shack and salt water came pouring out my nose.) At times she beats me down, but in doing so I get stronger and stronger.

But I love her so.  Even if she kicks my ass every now and then.  She keeps me in check.  She helps me remember what's important.  She reminds me to be present in my life. And she encourages me to keep challenging myself even when I feel I've been beaten.  

While my art is not as "surfcentric" as some, it is certainly influenced by the ebbing and flowing of the tides and the ever changing, yet somehow repetitive surface of the water.  

Below are images of some of my very favorite ocean and surf inspired art.  

These artists see Mother Ocean through the eyes of water dwellers.  If they're anything like me, a piece of them feels like it's missing the longer they're away from the sea.  Sand in my toes and water up my nose.  Yeah.  That's my happy place.  

Wolfgang Bloch: Wolfgang's painting are moody, mysterious and alluring; reminiscent of the the beauty and danger of the ocean.  Calming to look at yet uncomfortable in their darkness and distance, these paintings are the simultaneous trepidation and elation I experience sitting on my surf board on the edge of the ocean.  So joyous to be on the water yet unsure about the world under my dangling feet and the white thunder that will inevitably come rushing towards shore.  

surf ocean art oil painting Wolfgang Bloch
Untitled NO. 175, Mixed Media, Wolfgang Bloch
surf ocean art oil painting Wolfgang Bloch
Untitled NO. 7, Oil on Vintage Painting & Wood, Wolfgang Bloch
Surf ocean oil painting Wolfgang Bloch
NO. 1025, Oil on Wood Panel, Wolfgang Bloch
surf ocean art painting Wolfgang Bloch
Untitled NO. 3, Oil on Vintage Wood, Wolfgang Bloch


Ross McDowell:  I get the sense that Ross has a true water soul.  He must be an astrological water sign.  His paintings give me the experience of being part of the ocean.  When I look at Hammer Time and Honu below, I can sense the muffled amplification that I experience when submerged under water.  I can feel the wind currents that the Pelicans are riding and the sense of anticipation when their wings are gliding just inches away from the surface of the ocean.  When I look at Ross' art, I can feel my body begin to sway and relax as if I am part of the tide.   His work also has a sense of history and a wisdom engrained throughout that may be attributed to his use of reclaimed wood. 
Pelican painting Ross McDowell
Pelican, Reclaimed Indonesian Teak, Ross McDowell
Hammerhead Sharks Painting Ross MacDowell
Hammer Time, On Reclaimed Indonesian Teak, Ross McDowell
Turtle Painting Ross McDowell
Honu, On Reclaimed Indonesian Teak, Ross McDowell


Heather Ritts: Heather's splashy ocean water colors manage to show the graceful adrenaline of waves and how they might feel underneath as on top.  By combining dynamic abstract painting techniques along with realism, Heather gives me the experience of both peacefully riding the wave and wiping out, all in one look. 
surf ocean art water color painting Heather Ritts
Complexity, Water Color By Heather Ritts
surf ocean art water color painting Heather Ritts
Purity, Water Color By Heather Ritts


David Macomber: David had a near drowning experience when he was 31 years old and has since dedicated his life to ocean art, and helping others change their perspective on life.  When I look at his art, I see grace under the water and calm in the sky, yet I feel I'm looking at the moment when that serenity shifts.  I'm almost waiting for the whale in Wind and Waves to come breaching out of the dark blue of Fourth Watch and with it, bursts of colors.  He writes "wind and waves grew calm" but I see energy waiting to explode.  It's true to the volatile nature of the ocean and coastal areas.  Calm one moment, and a storm the next.  I feel that in David's work.
ocean surf art painting David Macomber
Fourth Watch, David Macomber
ocean surf art whale painting David Macomber
Wind and Waves, David Macomber


Joe Vickers: I want to live in Vicklandia.  I want a brightly colored VW bus that runs on salt water and surf wax to pull up and take me away to lands where sleepy seagulls loiter on the beach and perfectly shaped barrels rush towards shore with the intensity of a Nerf wave.  Where everyone can nose ride and Bill Wither's Lovely Day plays on a loop.  Joe's work just plain makes me smile and we can all use a little more of that these day, don't you think?
Surf ocean art painting Joe Vickers
North County, Joe Vickers
Surf ocean art painting Joe Vickers
The Original Birdy Beach, Joe Vickers
Surf ocean painting Joe Vickers
Panhandle Summer, Joe Vickers
 

The drawing at top was done by me about 4 years ago. Just pencil on paper.

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How to Survive being an Artist? Be the Tortoise. Be the Duck.

Abstract Expressionist Painting comes from a deep, raw and vulnerable place in the soul.  Survival means being able to detach and be patient. 

Long before I was an artist, I worked in restaurants.  First in Boston and then in my home-town of New Orleans.  If you’ve ever worked in the service industry, there are some truths that you are familiar with.

  1. Service industry people are the hardest of workers who are brilliant with timing and efficiency while dealing with hyper-stimulated environments. They work long double shifts even if burning themselves in the kitchen or taking abuse from drunk customers and hungover managers/co-workers. And the good ones do all this with a smile and a kind of grace in team work that is mesmerizing to watch.  On a good night, it’s like being a part of a symphony.

 

  1. Cooks are artists. The people in the kitchen are practicing their art and it is the most delicious form of mixed media abstract expressionism.  They compose using a plate as a canvas so people can first eat with their eyes.  Then they combine taste contrasts and complements that make mouths water.  The culinary arts are practiced and mastered by some of the most creative people in the world.  They are crazy creative.  And speaking of crazy…

 

  1. …did I say crazy? Yes, there is a lot of that in restaurant kitchens…and front of house…but there is something about that kitchen.  A cast of characters they are, and I must admit I love those crazy fuckers who choose cooking as a trade.  Truth be told, I’ve always had a thing for a guy in a sexy white chef’s coat.  In fact, I had a baby with one of them.  But that’s not the point. 

Ross Mcdowell Sea Turtle PaintingWave God Honu, by one of my favorite ocean inspired artists, Ross Mcdowell.  

Being a West Coast Artist is about as opposite as being a restaurant server in New Orleans as you can get.  

The point is that now I am a painter alone in my studio, and while historically I have liked working in fast pace, high energy environments where I would ride the curve of a dinner rush, I now have to BE THE TORTOISE.  Let me explain.  I like, no LOVE, the efficiency found in restaurant work. If you’ve worked in the service industry you know the bottom line is “turn and burn”.  The way to make your money is to turn your tables.  Get them in and get them out!  The way to do that is through that well-oiled efficiency machine.

Now that I’m an artist by trade, I realize that in a lot of ways, it is the exact opposite of restaurant work.  My next steps are not as clear as knowing I will need a steak knife for table 9 because she ordered the filet mignon.  There is no “dinner rush” to get through.  I have to be slow and thoughtful and have patience with the art.  If I get impatient, the mixed media piece I’m working on just gets…well…mixed and sloppy looking.  I also have to be the tortoise while making contacts, building my mailing list, educating myself about marketing and SEO, building websites and social media followings and literally waiting for paint to dry.  It isn’t easy for me.  Plus, as discussed in previous posts, I’m an emotional person which brings me to my second directional:  BE THE DUCK.  

Mallard Ducks Long Exposure PhotographDribble (Mallard Ducks Feeding in the Ohio River), Falls of the Ohio, Indiana, 2015 © Scott Gilbertson

As an abstract expressionist painter, I have to tap into my emotions which doesn’t always feel so great.  I’ve got to let it roll off.

When I worked at a well-known steak house Boston, the chef was a large French man whose name I can only remember as “Chef”.  He liked to yell in French and having come from New Orleans, I was one of the few that understood what he was ranting about.  He seemed unhappy a lot and directed that at the wait staff, usually during the busiest hours of the night.  The only way to make it through?  Let it roll off my back like water from a duck.  My first waiting job I fled in tears during the first shift.  5 years later, I just yelled Oui Chef!!!, Non Chef!!!!, or Pardonnez moi Chef!!!! all the while focusing on getting my shit done.  It’s the same now except the one yelling expletives at myself is usually me or else it is someone giving well-intentioned advice.  It takes a lot of courage for me to put my artwork out there in the world.  It takes even more to not react to everyone’s opinions.  I just have to say to myself “Come on girl.  Be the duck and let it roll on off!”   

I love what I do.  I love being an abstract expressionistic artist.  Even though it’s challenging for me, I love working alone in my home and yes, I even love watching the paint dry (albeit with a hair dryer sometimes when I’m antsy).  So…quack quack and *whatever noise a tortoise makes.  I’m in this thing for the long haul and slow and steady really does wins the race, even when it’s raining opinions that are often hard to take. So, now that I’m moving too slow to create dust, eat my lack of dust!  I’m just cruisin’ here!  

The painting at top really tried my patience this month.  It is still a work in progress.  Join my mailing list get a sneak peek at the finished painting.