Tag: abstract expressionism
I am an extremely sensitive artist type person. Fear, anxiety and self doubt can cause stagnation in my abstract art practice, and life in general.
But thankfully, I have found tools to help get past these times of sluggishness. One of these tools is surfing. There is nothing that puts me in the moment and shows me my place within the universe quite like being in the waves.
Thank you to TinyBuddha.com for publishing yet another one of my essays, How Surfing Helped Me Turn My Fear and Anxiety into Confidence. Take a read and comment below and/or share if it resonates with you.
Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! Don't forget to get outside and play after all that turkey and pie!
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After 18 years of working in restaurants, hotels and busy offices, suddenly I find myself able to pursue my passion of abstract painting…working all alone in my kitchen studio and home office and well...loneliness happens.
Sometimes I talk to myself more in one day than I speak to other people. I’m not kidding. I talk to myself out loud throughout my work day because, frankly, I get tired of the quiet. I listen to music pretty much constantly, but sometimes I just want to hear other people’s voices. I’m not quite desperate enough to have the TV on all day but man, do I yearn for humans sometimes.
Before jumping full time into my career as a West Coast abstract painter, I worked in many different environments. Happening restaurants, bustling offices, full Yoga studios…I’ve had so many different careers but they all had one thing in common: I was always around people.
While I'm in the studio, I often day dream about being outside. Loneliness can make me wish to be anywhere but where I am.
Now I find myself alone in my house all day. Sometimes I relish in the quiet. Sometimes I feel the silence is WAY too loud. As a person who battles anxiety and depression, that quiet can sometimes feel utterly stifling and although I have a loving family and many friends, I can begin to feel pretty darn lonely.
Compound the physical loneliness with the fact that my daughter just turned 16, now has a car to get herself around and a very busy school and social life…well...I’ll just say that this year has been full of more transition than I was really ready for or expecting to deal with. Transitions are always harder than I think they will be. I knew that working from home and being self-employed was going to be challenging to begin with. But throw in early empty nest syndrome and suddenly I find myself alone in my work AND in my role as a Mom.
Just me...alone and thinking away.
Oddly enough, the loneliness can make it hard for me to motivate to be around people. Weird, huh? It’s like the sadness can wrap itself around me and I just don’t want to have to talk to anyone, even though all I really want are for people to be around. I also find that when my friends reach out to me, it’s always at inopportune moments…like in the middle of my work day. I vacillate between irritation when my friends call to wondering “why is no one calling me?!” Oh Lord…
I started working with a marketing firm who tells me that I should be posting pictures of me doing fun things with my friends once a week. I guess potential collectors also like to know that they’re buying from a well-rounded popular artist. Well guess what…I have lots of photos of me making art alone in my studio but very few of me doing fun things with friends. Queue violins here.
Oh me oh my! Whatever should a lonely artist do? Well, having good cries every couple of days is a release, but does that really help me battle the loneliness? Now, don’t feel too sorry for me. My life really is great. I have a loving and supportive family, amazing friends, and an incredible opportunity to follow my dreams. Unfortunately, knowing this only makes me feel guilty in my loneliness. So now I’m lonely, sad, AND riddled with guilt. Oy.
I am an extremely goal oriented, organized, efficient person. My social life has never needed managing. I used to have dinners, parties, coffees and live music dates multiple times a week. It used to be effortless, but life has changed. I’m older, not drinking anymore and immersed in my art work. Now, 9 months into my new business venture, I am realizing that perhaps I need to apply new strategies when it comes to being around people on a regular basis.
When THIS is what I'm thinking about while I'm working, it's time to go outside and play.
5 Ways Artists Can Battle Loneliness:
- Schedule a coffee, a hike, a dinner, an anything – Duh. This is so obvious that I’m not sure why it took me so long to do. I schedule everything from exercise to social media posts so why it took me so long to realize this is beyond me. I now try to schedule time with a friend at least once a week even if I have to do it a few weeks out. It’s good just to get dates on the calendar.
- Allow social media to boss me around– I mean, I already do. I have to post to social media every day and to do that I have to have content to post. So, I’d better be getting in my studio to make art every day or else my followers are going to get bored with me. Since I have been told that I need a friend post once a week, that means that I actually have to be physically next to a friend at least once a week in order to have photographic proof that I’m not an isolated hermit.
- Talk to my family when they get home – This is harder than it sounds. The 16-year-old, while she still seems to like me ok, doesn’t want to be bombarded with me talking at her as soon as she walks in…or at all really. My husband gets an ear full when he comes home. It continuously surprises me how many words come out of my mouth when I’ve been alone for a whole day or two. He’s a very patient and kind man and gives me ample time to vomit words before we surrender to exhaustion, fall down and go boom. Bless him.
- Talk to a therapist – Yeah yeah yeah. I went back to her this week after not going for about three years. I’ve gone on and off since I was 13. I won’t go way into this except to say that if therapy works for you, as it does for me, every couple of years a check in is a good thing. And let’s face it, talking to a therapist is different than talking to friends or family. I don’t have to censor myself at all, which can feel really liberating.
- Get outside and play – I know…this is on every single one of my “How to cope with _______” lists. But it’s true. Being outside helps with just about everything. Sometimes, I get up and go for a morning walk before anyone else in my family is up. Oddly enough, it’s alone time that I feel is really good for me. I don’t have to think about work, or anything in particular at all. I just get outside and get some exercise while the sun is coming up. I suppose when I’m in tune with nature, I feel I’m closer to something bigger than me and that is very comforting.
So yeah…I get lonely working by myself. I am getting better at applying old strategies to my loneliness, which is merely a new problem that old solutions will work for. I’ve just never in my life been in tune with this particular issue as much as I am now. As I’m typing this, new solutions are presenting themselves: I’ve just been invited to a meeting with 6 other professional artists this evening. So, I can now add to my list of strategies: “Get involved with local artist community.”
It makes sense…I mean…anyone who works alone is familiar with this particular struggle. Why should we have to struggle alone? So, I’m going to motivate and reach out more so I freak out less. Because even though I’m living my dream I’m also going through new experiences and transitions. Change is hard and loneliness can happen, even in noisy, crowded rooms.
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As a West Coast abstract artist, I am, by default, also a small business owner. Even when my gut is telling me the answers, I find that I yearn for outside approval before making decisions regarding my business. It's time to stop.
I am a well-supported individual. I always have been. I have the love and support from a team of people who want nothing else than to see me succeed. I have always felt this support, especially from my parents, my entire life. They supported me when I wanted to go to art school, switched majors to business, became a yoga teacher, a stock broker, when we decided to move 2500 miles away… I am a well-loved person. I am so grateful.
But now that I'm 8 months in since I quitting my day job to focus on my art, I am asking myself the question “Am I listening to too many voices?”. Feeling so supported is a wonderful thing, but I wonder, does it change the way I listen to myself? The past couple of weeks I have felt a bit stuck. Like, in every way. It has been difficult to make decisions and therefore, my forward momentum has been like moving through molasses.
Now, I am fully aware that my idea of “productive” is probably way beyond a normal level of productivity. My Mom and I were joking the other day that the reason that I didn’t cry when I was born, but instead lifted myself up with my arms to get a good look around, was because I was trying to figure out where to start multitasking. I have always been a “doer”.
For the past twenty years or so, I have had jobs where my checklist was clear and straight forward and I spent my days with a great sense of satisfaction as I moved from one task to the next, checking the items off my list. Five years ago, I brought my art practice and business development into my routine and every day I checked off items. Make art, check. Build a website, check. Set up Instagram and Facebook business, check. Incorporate mailing list and send eblasts, check. Write blog, check. Attend business webinars, check. Setting everything up was not hard for me. It was just another to do list.
I made a decision to make smaller pieces in order to create a lower price point rather than reproductions because it felt right for me, despite advise from loved ones saying otherwise.
But then I quit my day job to work on my art business full time. Suddenly, the check list items became more ambiguous. Like, Revise Bio and Artist Statement…ok, with what changes? Grow social media following…sounds good…how? Start working on different series of art work…uh…won’t I confuse what I’ve already done?
Then there is my support team. They are awesome and each bring something different to the table in the ways of life and career experiences. But what happens when I try to talk things through with the people who are closest to me and they don’t say what I hope to hear? Or suggestions are made that are simply not in line with the business model that I’ve been investing in. Do I go and change everything around based on their advice?
I’d like to focus on a fragment from the above paragraph: “…and they don’t say what I hope to hear”. Basically, by admitting that I’m hoping for certain advice to come out of their mouths, I am acknowledging that I already know what I think the answer is and I am just simply passing it by another to reinforce what I have already decided. When the opinion is different, it just confuses and frustrates me.
I think I’m at a point in this process where I know what is best for my art and business. The problem is that I have always had such an amazing and enthusiastic cheer squad, that I have become habitually reliant on passing things by my support team. It’s almost like it’s not real until I talk to one of them about it, whatever the “it” might be.
Even at this point in my process, just finishing the under paintings, this choice felt right for me.
It is because I’m scared. I’m scared of making the wrong choices. Of spending my time and focus on the wrong items. Of failing. Of letting them all down.
Maybe, in a way, I feel the need to pass every little detail by them because it takes some of the burden away. If they give me advice, and it turns out to be the wrong choice, then part of the responsibility is taken off of me and put on them. Just typing that makes me feel like a coward.
Recently, I’ve been feeling as though maybe I need to keep things a little bit closer. Maybe I need to proceed with actions based on the instincts within me. For example, I’ve been trying to come up with ideas for “entry level art” and the idea of reproductions keeps coming up from one of my support team. The problem is that I have wanted to build a business making only originals. The idea of creating cheaper reproductions is not attractive to me. I can’t finish the paintings the way I want. I can’t wrap the paint around the sides of the canvas. I can’t hand sign the back. It’s just not the ideal model for me.
I’m not throwing the idea completely under the bus, but I know that I need to try to build my ideal business and right now, I’m not sure I want to invest the time and energy it would take to get high quality photos taken of the pieces for reproduction. To research all the different print on demand companies. To test each one by ordering the reproductions…and on and on…
I would rather invest that time in creating small originals. And so that is what I’ve been doing all week. Now, I will say that I did have an hour-long conversation with my Mom (the Head of my Cheer Squad) about this that enabled me to make this final decision. She asked good questions and at the end of it, I had clarity. So, I’m not saying that should become an island.
I am so glad that I put energy into this project. Not only do I have a new series of work in the form of visual meditation paintings, but I also have a great price point for the holidays and for "introductory level" art.
What I do think is that when it comes to my art and business, that my instincts are usually correct and that I need to learn to trust them more. Because of that, I think it may be time to talk less and act more. I need to trust my artistic voice and my business gut.
It’s difficult because in the past, I haven’t always made the best decisions. But in looking back, most of those decisions were based on what I thought other people would want me to do. As Polonius says “To thine own self be true.” How can I be true to myself when I am constantly reaching outward for approval? It’s a bad habit.
Going forward, I am going to only ask about things that I have actual confusion about. Not things that I know the answer to and I’m just hoping that someone else will agree with me so I’m sure it’s right. I already knew the solution. What I risk is confusing what is already clear, and that is just a waste of valuable time.
If I wouldn't have made the decision to do this, I wouldn't have my Seagulls painting. (Detail of Seagulls can be seen at top of this blog post.)
I am my own CEO, CFO, Creative Director, Marketing Manager, PR Executive and Board of Directors. I also have an Advisory Council. Not every decision must be passed by them. They are there for support and guidance, when needed.
It’s intimidating being my own boss. If I fail, I don’t have anyone to blame but myself. But failure is just an outcome of being ballsy enough to try, so what’s the big deal? Faith in my own abilities is a muscle that I need to exercise. I have a feeling it’s one of those things that will get easier and easier the more I do it. So today, I begin.
The detail at top is Seagulls 36x36 Acryllic and Paper on Canvas.
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As a self employed West Coast Abstract Artist who works from home, routine is oh so important to keep me moving forward. But how do I know if the routine needs adjusting?
On September 1st, I wrote a blog on how important my routine is to me and how I was excited to get back to it after a Summer of distractions. Now, I’m going to take all of that back. It is time to BLOW UP MY ROUTINE.
I have always been a goal oriented rule follower. I created my routine and as a rule, I’m going to stick with it until my goal is met. But what happens if my goals aren’t attained. Then what do I do? Well…after having a panic attack (and a carton of ice cream), I think it may be time to re-assess.
Last month I read you off my routine schedule and how it keeps me on track. That’s true. But what happens when I realize that the routine I’ve been adhering to isn’t creating the returns that I had hoped? I’ve been working the same routine for 6 months. Now in the long term, that’s nothing but in the faster paced world of social media, that’s quite a chunk of time.
I’ve had a rough couple of weeks. I blamed it all on my routine being screwed up. But here’s the deal…after trying to get back to the routine, I realize that it’s not working. My eblasts aren’t getting engagement, the links aren’t getting clicked on and the social media isn’t growing as quickly as I’d like it to.
So, what’s the fix here? Time to try something new.
I’ve been focusing on multiple platforms and I’m going to reduce it to one. Not that I won’t maintain the others, but I’m going to narrow my focus for a moment and see what it yields. I won’t get into the technical specifics as it’s more boring than watching paint dry. The point is that I have to start looking at marketing like I look at my painting process.
Woah...a scary step, indeed. But a necessary one in order to move forward.
When I’m painting, and something isn’t going the way I want it to, I change it. I take a “when in doubt, do” attitude and I experiment away. Now, with marketing, it’s a bit different as I have to have a period of time to examine and so changes can’t be quite so reckless. However, I think 6 months of a steady marketing routine is time enough to decide if this is working, or not.
The answer when applied to my current marketing strategies is “or not”. My social media growth is slow, my email list growth is non-existent and the website visitors are not beating my online door down. After careful analysis, lots of research and the implementation of some marketing help, I start anew. Let’s see what the next 6 months are going to bring.
It’s time to shake things up and see where they land this time around. *deep breath…and here I go.
The painting at top is Paper Airplanes 22"x28" Acrylic & Paper on Canvas. A gift for my daughter on her 16th birthday.
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Through the practice of Abstract Expressionism, my inner control freak has loosened her grip on my life and my loved ones.
Thank you to TinyBuddha.com for publishing my article titled How Expectations Can Drive People Away and How to Let Go of Control.
I once was my own worst enemy when it came to being fixated on outcomes. Being so focused on what I thought "should" happen all the time led to constant disappointment and a feeling of isolation. Through the practice of my art I have found that stress truly is optional.
Once again, I am completely humbled by the response to my writing. I have received emails, DMs and comments from people who know and struggle with the constant disappointment of expectations never being met. Please take a read, and if it resonates with you, feel free to share.
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As an abstract artist, the most common question I receive is "Where do you get your ideas?" Having giving this much thought, I realize that the answer is all around, and inside me.
I am preparing for my third show of the Summer and boy, my soul is tired. I was so excited at the response that I received when looking for places to exhibit my work. It wasn’t expected and so when three different places offered me shows for June, July and August, I knew that I was in for a busy Summer.
I have been working consistently and was able to have completely new paintings for each show. Making the art isn’t hard for me. I don’t really have to wait for inspiration to come. I have a schedule that I’m on the computer the first half of the day doing marketing and admin, and I’m in the studio the second half making abstract art and for the most part, I’ve stuck to it with ease.
The most common question that I’ve gotten is “where do you get your ideas?” and it’s a bit of a tough one to answer. My first instinct is to respond that the ideas happen in the moment as I practice abstract expressionism, which by definition, is spontaneous. But after answering the question for the 15th time, I’m realizing that I may be becoming less spontaneous and more thoughtful as time goes on.
Sometimes the most simple shape can have the most meaningful impact in my abstract paintings.
One of many paper airplane cut outs for my kiddo's birthday gift.
My daughter is turning 16 this month (holy crap) and she asked for a new painting for her room, which we are going to paint and make over for her birthday. When I was beginning her painting, I thought about objects and images that she likes, and a sharp yet light paper airplane shape stuck out to me. And so, I began Nora’s painting with paper cut outs of 16 dark paper airplanes and 16 light ones (she is amazingly balanced for an almost 16-year-old).
The painting came out fantastic. (I'll share it with you all after her birthday.) It was the first time that I used an actual “thing” for my paper cut out instead just a repeating shape like a circle, diamond or hexagon. It was whimsical and fun without being immature and it managed to retain sophistication. And upon completion, my brain was immediately flooded with images from my own childhood growing up in New Orleans and the swamps of Louisiana.
Inspiration may come from many different places but images from my childhood in Louisiana are allowing me to create more meaningful pieces.
One of many different pelicans cut for the first of my Louisiana series. (See finished painting at top.)
I settled on pelicans for a second experiment and began a painting using the same process that I used for Nora’s paper airplanes. I'm so pleased with how it turned out. I have sketches now for a Louisiana series that has images of shrimp, hurricanes, fishing hooks, fleur de lis, snowballs… There are a lot of ideas and this is how I plan on spending my Autumn. I’m can’t wait to dive in.
This series is more personal and I’m finding that it is reminding me of some of my old artistic inspirations that I got from children’s book illustrations. I can’t wait to see how the series turns out. In sketching these images, I began to realize that even in the paintings that seemingly come out of nowhere, just as these Louisiana images came to mind and I was able to observe and collect them into my sketch book, I have been collecting ideas for my abstracts in similar ways all along.
"Shrimp Again?!" A common dinner time complaint from me as a "spoiled by fresh gulf seafood" kid. #2 in my Louisiana series.
Want new creative ideas for your abstract art? Just look around. Observation is an important tool.
So, when I’m interested in finding inspiration, here is my tip to myself: Be Observant. I mean this in a few different ways:
- Observe what gives me a “charge”. I took Nora to see Taylor Swift in 2015 and at one point during the show, her dancers had huge paper airplanes on sticks and they were flying them over the crowd. Visually, it was right up my alley. It was playful, whimsical, surreal and a little magical. I felt a fire of amazement begin to burn in my chest at the visual impact that these simple paper airplanes had on the audience. Nora felt it too…we still talk about how amazing it was thus, the paper airplane painting.
- Observe recurring images in my head. Ever since I was a kid, I loved to watch the pelicans sore over the bayou. When I learned to surf as an adult, I was so excited to see them surf the air currents over the waves. I didn’t know they could do that as we didn’t have waves like that in the bayous. After beginning my pelican painting, I realized that I have a ton of these simple images in my head. They are all special to me and I believe that connection can be seen in the painting. It is more personal.
- Observe all the time. One night I was out to dinner and the server brought over our silverware rolled up in napkins. The napkin rolls were secured with strips of paper about an inch or so thick and were covered in an intriguing prism like purple and blue pattern. I took everyone’s little piece of paper from their napkin rolls home and included them in a painting. I also have taken candy wrappers and foils, wrapping paper, cocktail napkins in pretty prints… Art supplies are everywhere. I’m in the habit of being on constant look out for them.
Unbelievably cool paper used as napkins rings at a local restaurant.
It took about 2 years for this habit to develop. But now, I have to carry a little sketch book with me at all times as when I see inspiration in my head (or on my dinner table) I know that I have to catch it quick or it may be forgotten. Last night I thought of another great New Orleans image and this morning it’s gone. I was lazy and didn’t make a note of it and there it goes. Out into the ethers. I hope I remember it later.
So, if you’re wondering where I begin, the answer is that I simply look around both externally and internally for those little nuggets. Who knew a simple paper airplane or a silhouette of a pelican in flight could be inspiration for a painting? A better question is why wouldn't it be? Thankfully there are an infinite amount of ideas flying around and all I have to is pluck them and put it in my pocket, or in my sketchbook. It’s just that simple.
How and/or where do you find inspiration? Please tell me in the comments below. Thanks for your input! Please share this post if it resonates with you.
My inner critic has a loud, booming voice. Sometimes it can drown everything else out.
Thankfully I have identified my Critic and have learned how to manage her so that she doesn't control my decisions and how I feel about myself.
I want to thank selfdevelopshop.com for publishing my article titled When Feelings are Fiction - 5 Ways to Know if I'm Telling Myself the Truth.
Please share or comment if this resonates with you. If the response from this tells me anything, it's that I am not the only one feeling this way. We must learn to be kinder to ourselves.
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For this West Coast abstract artist, dealing with rejection is just part of putting myself and my art out into the world.
In the past week, I have received 2 rejection emails for articles I wrote, very little response to a social media challenge that I’ve been working 2 months on, and an art show that yielded no sales. Oy…all of that sure doesn’t feel too good on the old confidence level.
If you know me, you know that I have a very healthy work ethic. I’m a goal oriented doer. I have the ability to get more tasks done in one day than most and this didn’t change for me, as it does for some, when I started working for myself at home.
So, when I received a flurry of rejection this past week, the work horse side of my ego took a supreme hit. “What the hell?! I’ve been working my ass off! Doing ALL THE THINGS that I’m supposed to do to grow my business. Why isn’t this working?”
Being a professional abstract artist means consistently putting one foot in front of the other, but sometimes a rest is in order.
I received advice from my artist group and my mother (who is a novelist) that it might be time to take a little rest. This is not my instinct. My default to “failure” is to work harder. But this advice, mixed with exhaustion and a touch of sadness, led me to take a few days off.
After two days of loafing around, one cheeseburger with tater tots, a carton of chocolate-chocolate chip ice cream and more episodes of “The Good Wife” than I care to admit to, I was ready to get back to work with a renewed sense of optimism. That makes rejection recovery sound pretty simple but I have to note a few things about dealing with “failure”:
By doing the following, I am able to renew my creative energy and confidence and get back to making abstract paintings.
- Shift your perspective, Woman. I need to stop using the word “failure”. These periods of time when more people are saying “no” than “yes” are not total defeats. I’m new at what I’m doing. The fact that I’ve only been at this 6 months and have had multiple acceptances (2 shows under my belt and another in August, articles published, press from local media…) and multiple rejections mean one thing: I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, which is putting myself out there and which also means I’m going to hear the word “no" often…but I also have heard “yes” plenty of times too.
- Chill Out, Lady. My Mom told me that early in her career, she and another writer friend of hers decided that when rejection hit particularly hard, they deserved at least one day of feeling sorry for themselves and room to mope. I’m a sensitive artist. Sometimes ignoring negative feelings is not effective for me to move on. I have to honor the crap-ass feeling. Usually this happens when I’m more tired than I realize anyway and rest and relaxation is exactly the remedy.
- Get back on the damn horse, Artist. This week I continued work on a botanical and nature inspired series that I’m doing for my August show. The style of abstract painting is different than what I have been doing and the change was refreshing. I’m also deciding that it might be time for a strategy change in my marketing and PR efforts. I still haven’t found all of my audience and after six months of my current tactics, it’s probably time to move on to new ones.
That doesn’t mean I’ve failed! It means that I’m making progress. I know more now than I knew last year and I will learn even more in another 6 months.
I am a sensitive artist by nature. Sometimes exhaustion, frustration and sadness just have to be honored in order to move forward.
By now, you’re probably all familiar with the old WWII British motivational poster, “Keep Calm and Carry On.” I’ve seen many satires of this poster all done in red and white with the crown at top that say things like: “Run Around and Freak Out” and “I am Latina! I Cannot Keep Calm!” I often thought there should be one for artists that says “Keep Painting and Cry Often” (maybe with a cheeseburger on top instead of a crown).
All joking aside, sometimes the emotional release is necessary for continuance. So is rest. And the funny thing is that once I cried, ate junk food, slept and binge watched Alicia Florrick, I was able to be calm and carry on. Sometimes we just need to give ourselves permission to glimpse defeat in order for the fire of persistence to start burning again.
Rest and relaxation allows me to take flight once again.
And so, I shall close with a silly poem as #4 on my list should be “don’t take myself so damn seriously”: