Tag: art

How I Know it’s Time to Stop Asking for Advice

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.

Marigny Goodyear Art Visual Meditation Paintings Work In ProgressI 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. 

Marigny Goodyear Abstract Art Visual Meditation Paintings Work in ProgressEven 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.

Marigny Goodyear Art Abstract Mixed Media Visual Meditation PaintingsI 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. 

 Marigny Goodyear Abstract Mixed Media Art Seagulls Work in ProgressIf 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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How I Know It's Time to Blow Up My Routine

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. 

 Marigny Goodyear Art Sea Gulls in ProgressHere is my Sea Gulls Painting in progress.  This is the point in my process when it's time to "blow it up".

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.

Marigny Goodyear Art Work in ProgressWoah...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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How Art Helps Me Manage Unrealistic Expectations

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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Summer is Over - Time to Get Back to Routine

Being a self-employed West Coast abstract artist is a dream come true but staying on task and moving forward means being consistent and disciplined with my routine.

School is back in session.  Amen.  Hallelujah Brothers and Sisters.  For those of you who have children, you definitely know the struggle of keeping a routine during the Summertime.  If you have children and work from home, you REALLY know this struggle.  And if you happen to be a parent, who works from home and is easily distracted by outdoor adventure and activities…well…you get it…

I think all-in-all I’ve been pretty good about keeping forward momentum this Summer.  At the same time, I’ve also been trying to get in a decent amount of ocean time, relaxation and fun.  Now that Summer is in its twilight and school has started, I’m really excited to get back to my work routine.

Marigny Goodyear Art Summertime PlayingIt's hard to work when there is fun to be had and meadows of flowers to run through...  Photo by Jayden Becker.

Routine: noun - A regular course of procedure without which I aimlessly walk in circles pretending to be productive...and then go surfing.

 

Last blog post I talked about one of the most asked questions I get as an West Coast abstract artist: “Where do your ideas come from?”  Today, I’d like to talk about the second most asked question I get: “How do you stay on track working from home?”  This is, apparently, a common struggle for anyone who doesn’t have to punch anyone else’s clock but their own.  Unfortunately for the question askers, I cannot totally relate to this struggle because as long as I have a good routine in place, it isn’t hard for me at all to stay on task.

However, after being asked this question for the 80th time, I have been giving it more thought, and I realize that I do have a few things consistently in play that help keep me accountable to my routine.  Here are a few of the strategies I utilize to keep me on track.

  1. Social Media is my Boss. I post to social media every day.  Almost without fail.  In order to be able to post new content every day, I have to make new content.  Meaning, I have to be actively creating abstract art in the studio.  If I haven’t gotten in the studio and made a healthy amount of progress throughout the week, I have nothing to share with my followers.  I do keep a back log of images that can be used in a pinch in case of illness or a surf report that cannot be ignored, but for the most part, I try to stay productive. 

 

  1. Calendar it out! I keep an electronic calendar that I put my weekly tasks on. Monday is blog writing day. Tuesdays, I collect website/social media analytics to make sure I’m going in the right direction.  Wednesday and Thursdays, I reach out to media and influencers and check out education webinars.  Friday I schedule social media for the week.  Blog posts go live on the first and the fifteenth, work in progress/studio sneak peaks are eblasted the second week of the month and new available work for sale email is sent the third week.  And yes, I’m aware I missed most of these for August…dern ocean kept calling me back for more!  It’s Summer for Pete’s sake…we’ve all got to give ourselves a break every now and again…

 

  1. Progress in the studio yields more progress in the studio. Huh?  Well what I mean is that the more art I create, the more I want to create, the easier it is to get started and move from task to task.  The comments and likes I get on social media motivate me to share the next steps.  The more I’m working, the more ideas I get, the more techniques I discover and the more excited I am about working.

Marigny Goodyear Art Catching the SunI mean come on!  Summer goofing is hard to pass up!  
Photo by Jayden Becker

Having a routine leads to progress.  Progress equals growth.  Growth makes me excited and excitement creates a desire to work more. 

That being said, I’m SO very glad that school is back in session because the degenerate surfer in me was starting to more and more choose the surf over the work.  And while I am in full support of engaging in the activities that keep me inspired (as surfing does), I’m also aware that mid-August thoughts of renting the house out and living in the surf van are not the healthiest for my work ethic.  

So, it’s time to pull back the reigns, turn up the hustle and get back to a proper pace.  Here’s to the new school year, more progress, growth and excitement. Let’s rock and roll.  I'll try not to get too terribly distracted by the pretty flowers.

Marigny Goodyear Art Flower GirlPhoto by the lovely and amazing Jayden Becker

Photo at top is Shrimp 36x36 Acrylic & Paper on Canvas.  #2 in my Louisiana inspired series.

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In Search of New Art Ideas: 3 Ways I Collect Inspiration

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.

Paper_Airplane Cut Out Abstract ArtOne 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. 

Pelican In Flight Paper Cut Out for Abstract PaintingOne 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.

Marigny Goodyear Abstract Art Shrimp Paper Cut Out"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:

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

Prism Napkin Ring Scrap Paper 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.

Photo at top is the first from my Louisiana series.  Pelicans 36X36 Paper, Acrylic and Graphite on Canvas.  
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Creativity and Carnival: The Art of Mardi Gras Costumes.

Making Mardi Gras costumes is a creative outlet for many New Orleanians. 

Mardi Gras has come and gone in my beloved New Orleans and one more year has passed that I have missed this epic celebration in the Crescent City.  The above photo of me was taken at Preservation Music Hall in the French Quarter on Mardi Gras day, 2009.  It was an amazing day filled with eye candy that I continue to look back on for inspiration.  This year, I was tortured with pictures of friends and family dancing in the streets wearing amazing Mardi Gras apparel.  It was a reminder of a period of time when I wasn't painting, sculpting or drawing, but creating costumes during carnival season kept my creativity alive.

New Orleans Mardi Gras costumes are an unique art form.

Most New Orleanians grow up costuming and most don't think of themselves artists.  It's just what they do.  They are given no direction. Mardi Gras doesn't have a theme, unless you count debauchery.  If you're wondering what to wear for Mardi Gras, inspiration can come in many forms.  There is a group of people called the Skeleton Krewe that all dress as skeletons.  This year, some of my friends took on a beautiful floral theme.  Some use Mardi Gras to communicate a political or social point of view.  Whatever the chosen genre is, you can bet that New Orleanians go beyond the typical beads and face paint seen worn by tourists coming off of Bourbon Street.

Locals are versed in the art form of Mardi Gras outfits and I am always inspired by their creativity.  Keep in mind that Mardi Gras officially starts on Twelfth Night in early January and doesn't stop until Shrove Tuesday AKA Mardi Gras.  It is a multi-week celebration and that mean LOTS of costume opportunities.  So, without further adieu, I give you photos of my very creative friends from this year.  They are amazing and I miss them so!  Enjoy!

Mardi Gras Wear at its Finest

Mardi Gras Costume New Orleans
Bethany and Michael said "If anyone is looking for artificial flowers, don't go to the Michaels in Elmwood, we bought them all".

Mardi Gras Costume New Orleans Marie Antoinette
Of her Marie Antoinette costume Veronica says, "Oh ho hi ho ( insert French accent) I am redy to be zeen by meh pezant people... you vill eat zi cake and you vill like it..."


Mardi Gras Costume Stilt Walker New Orleans
Scarlett is very bacchanalian with her box of wine on a staff.  I suppose that's the easiest way to have a drink when you're on stilts.  Photo credit Ryan Hodgson-Rigsby.

Mardi Gras Costume New Orleans
Tiana (AKA MC Sweet Tea) and Sarah always rock it on Mardi Gras.  Sarah says "My first run as a pony girl was magical".  I mean that carrot...come on.


Mardi Gras Costume New Orleans Tin Man
Leah doing the Tin Woman. I assume Dorothy and the rest of her Krewe are not far behind.  Photo Credit Linka A Odom.


Mardi Gras Costume New Orleans
Laurie and Reya Sunshine in full bloom and looking gorgeous as always.  All on a Mardi Gras day.

Mardi Gras Costume New Orleans Cemetary
Buddah's neon suit is bright enough to wake the dead.  Photo credit Mark Balsam Photography.

 

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How Fear Makes Me a Better Abstract Artist

Fear Makes Me a Better Artist, Mountain Biker, Surfer, Skier, Mom, Wife...

Half way through my bike ride I stopped, ripped off my helmet, threw it to the ground and immediately burst into tears.  I had been mountain biking regularly for about 3 years and I couldn’t understand why I was still so scared.  I kept waiting for it to let up; for the fear to subside so I could bike with confidence; so I wouldn’t tremble whenever I went around a blind turn or when there was a sheer drop-off just a few feet away.  It never got better.  The moment I got on the bike, I was scared.  That was all there was to it.  As I picked up my helmet and inspected it for cracks, I asked “why on earth am I doing this to myself?”

This is the same fear I encounter every day in my work as an abstract artist.  Fear is alive and well and looms in my studio like a dark cloud.  It follows me to the computer when I’m trying to figure out marketing and social media.  It gets blustery when I sit down to write blog posts (because I’m a visual artist, not a writer!).  It starts to drizzle when I think about the future and if my choice to make art my living is a prudent thing to do. 

After that bike ride, I made a decision to stop riding.  I would no longer try so hard to do things that scared me like that.  That evening, I ran into my buddy, Nick.  (No, not on my bike…at a concert.)  Nick is also a mountain biker.  I vented that I was tired of the fear, tired of feeling timid, and that I just didn’t understand why it wasn’t getting better.  Then Nick told me something that changed my life:  IT NEVER GOES AWAY.  He said that after years and years of riding, he still gets scared and get this…he likes it.  It’s part of why he rides.  ?????????WTF?????????  Nick encouraged me not to quit and to embrace the fear.  It was a tactic I had never thought of. 

mountain biking Applegate Lake Applegate Valley OregonMountain biking on Applegate Lake.  It took me a long  time to get used to the sheer drop-off to my right.  Photo by Chris Goodyear.

Fear and Art is Another Version of Fear and Life

When I call myself an artist, I feel scared.  When I start a new painting, I’m scared.  When I decided to quit my job, and pursue art, I was so terrified that I got acid reflux and had to quit drinking coffee (true story).  But here’s the deal: some of the things that bring me the greatest pleasures in life are things that I’m scared of.  Mountain biking, surfing, skiing, being a good mother and wife, abstract painting…  I have the same reaction to them all.  I’m scared of failing so I work harder at it.

Abstract Art Inspiration Comes with Accepting the Reality of Fear

What Nick said to me changed everything.  I got back on the bike, this time, with a reframe of fear in my mind.  “Ok Fear!  You’re here!  I’m here!  Neither of us are going anywhere so let’s try to work together, yeah?”  I started peddling and a strange thing happened.  When I knew that fear was a natural reaction, it didn’t scare me as much.  It didn’t go away, but I wasn’t paralyzed by it and it didn’t influence my motor skills.  Riding became smoother and I became a better biker.

I have written before that I used to live my life driven by fear.  It’s true.  But what I have been able to do through outdoor sports like mountain biking is to re-define my relationship with fear.  There are times when fear means “STOP NOW” and there are times when I can brush it off my shoulder. 

mountain biking dread and terror trail north umpqua oregon
Smiling on the Dread and Terror portion of the North Umpqua trail.
Photo by Chris Goodyear

The Freedom of Art: Doing My Art Anyway Even If I Am Scared

Think of it in terms of a different emotion, happiness.  When I found out that I was going to be published in an art journal, I was so happy that I bounced up and down and hugged everyone around me and shrieked in excitement.  But does that mean that every time I feel happy that I need to do an ecstatic freak out dance of happiness?  I would go so far as to say that would not be normal behavior.

I have no idea what I’ve gotten myself into.  I don’t know if I will succeed as an abstract artist but maybe all I need to do is live with that insecurity knowing that it very well may never go away.  I do know one thing, staying still is no way to move forward. There a sure-fire way of falling over on a bike in a creek crossing and that is to stop peddling.  I think I’ll put one peddle in front of the other and keep moving.  Through moments of doubt when painting, through insecurities that tell me I’m not good enough.  I’m not going to stop and stare at that because then I’ll just be stopped and one thing is for sure…I do not enjoy and have never enjoyed being still.  I got things to do and people to see and paintings to paint and hustles to hustle.  Onward!

Artwork at top is Divide and Conjure 12x12 on Birch Board

"My Hustle has a Hustle." - Artist Ronald Sanchez

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How the Tortured Artist Persona is Actually the Process in Motion (even if it makes me want to puke.)

Pain and Art

I woke up this morning feeling defeat.  My painting is not coming along easily.  I’m running out of regional interior designers to email and art consultants to contact.  I still haven’t made that first sale to a stranger that I have put so much importance on.  My day job is ending in about a week.  I have to make it to the blasted grocery store today.  My scalp is itchy and my knee hurts.  Bitch, bitch, bitch… 

Suffering is Part of the Process

This part of the process isn’t easy.  The part where I am nearly physically sick.  The part where I doubt myself.  Every time I go through the same panic; the same nausea; the same “it will never come easily again!” feeling.  I will fail!  I will fail! I will fail!  I was actually walking around my studio saying “It’s awful! It’s terrible!  The most horrible I’ve ever done! I’m doomed!” (Enter thunder clap here.)  Oh, the drama!

mixed media abstract painting
 This is where it started.  I like it at this point but it is too "wall paper" like.  Time to take chances.

I have been through this process enough to know that over this hump is a real step forward.  Past this point, the painting has a history.  History ain’t always pretty, but it sure makes things more interesting and it allows room for learning and growth.    A painting has to have a past before it can have a present.  It is a gestation; a metamorphosis.  Even if it makes me want to vomit.  I mean…I got morning sickness while pregnant, right? 

 mixed media abstract paintingWell that's kind of cool...but still, something is missing. More chance taking ensues. 

Pain Brings Depth to Art 

When people ask me if I miss New Orleans, I say that I miss the architecture and the history.  I miss the oldness of the place.  I miss the ghosts.  New Orleans has lived so many lives, both beautiful and frightening.  It has so many layers and it is these layers that create fascination and mystery.  The ghosts of my frustration bring tension to the party.  It creates a mystery to unravel.  Otherwise my paintings are just pretty things on a wall.  

mixed media abstract paintingDetail of the "Oh Lord what have I done" moment. 

I figured all of this out while going through this painting’s grueling process. Prior to this painting, I have ridden out this feeling thinking that something is wrong with me.  There is nothing wrong with me or this blasted piece.  I know that I shouldn’t look at it as a crappy painting…it’s not even done yet. Without this step, the place beyond does not exist.  That doesn’t mean that it’s any easier to witness.  I still feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach.

 mixed media abstract artSwitching directions is nerve racking but often necessary. Even though it is now muddy and I'm not sure where to go, I already feel better.

Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said, “Suffering is justified as soon as it becomes the raw material of beauty.”  So, I begin today with a cup of coffee and some blog post writing in order to step away from the perceived piece of poop on my easel.  I know that with just the right amount of space and by allowing this God-awful feeling to have a role, a thing of beauty awaits.  It is part of my process and if I have to shed a few tears sometimes to get there, so be it.

 mixed media abstract painting artHere and at top is The Bus 48x48 Mixed Media on Canvas.  Sometimes you just have to get on and take the ride.

I’m not saying that all artists are tortured or that pain is necessary to create art, but it seems to be the case for me and that’s ok.  Anyway, the only thing that’s really wrong with me is that I think something is wrong with me.  That has always been the case and if that isn’t a tortured artist quote then I don’t know what is.

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If Opinions are Like A**holes, is Advice Actually Helpful to Artists?

I’ve been pushing this painting around as if I’m rearranging a room.  No huge, OMG changes but slowly the composition has been coming together and while I know it’s not done yet, I’ve been having fun with this one instead of feeling the dread “why isn’t this coming together?” feeling.  I’ve been thoughtful with my brush strokes while still letting my heart guide me.  It’s a balance that feels so good when it’s present.  Too much heart and the composition tends to get lost and the pallet is all over the place.  Too much thought and the painting is tight and has a feeling of being bound.  So, I’m feeling pretty good…

…Then I send the in-progress picture to my Mentor.  She likes it but says to be careful about being too tidy and that I need to be looser with my brush strokes.  I feel frustration coming over because it had felt so good when I was doing it and now I’m questioning that I actually know when I attain that important balance of heart and head and maybe I can’t really recognize it and if I can’t recognize it then maybe I’m not doing it right and if I’m not doing it right then maybe blah blah blah… and now my brain is off to the races.  I only need one little bit of doubt to creep in and everything else, all the hard work and that wonderful feeling of balance is, in my mind, shot to shit.  Not to mention I’ve already forgotten that she said she liked it.

abstract, art, expressionism, painting, contemporary, wip, work in progress, artist, mixed media
Too Tidy...?

I have a tendency to lean towards insecurity so by default I take things way too personally and generally assign too much importance to what other people think.  This, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with my Mentor.  She is a wonderful artist and a lovely friend who gives terrific advice.  She has a wealth of knowledge and experience.  She has guided me to the place where I am now.  She is invaluable and I don’t know what I would do without her.  That being said, I think that as an artist, I need to be able to draw a line between the soul of the art, and other people’s advice.

Artist, skeptisismWilamena and I are skeptical of opinions

When someone gives me advice, I tend to take it.  Especially when it comes from people that I love and/or respect.  Why wouldn’t I take it?  They know more than me.  They are further along in their careers than I am.  I should take the advice…right?  I’m thinking the answer is, not always.  And that’s the tricky part.  How do I know when I should take the advice and when I should continue on as I have been? 

 safety first, mask, sanding, good adviceMy carpenter Husband says that I should use a mask while sanding...that sounds like good advice from a reliable source.

I’m an emotional person who tends to think in extremes.  I go from smiling and being amenable to everyone’s advice to feeling resentful and vowing never to take anyone’s recommendations ever again.  (Blog on being a tortured artist forthcoming.)  I make the best decisions when I can remove my insecurity from the situation and ask the simple question “Is that right for me and my art?”  For instance, I’m looking at my piece 24 hours of cool down later and now that the comments are not so raw, yes, I can indeed see that there are areas that are too tight and tidy.  That doesn’t mean that the entire piece is bad, for Pete’s sake!  Breathe Girl!



Cross Town Traffic 24x24 Mixed Media on Canvas...and she was right...it was way too tight and tidy.

I suppose that what I need to learn is to do is to say “Thank you” and then give my emotions time to chill before making the decision to fully heed the opinions of others...or not.  There is a practicality about advice when it comes from a trusted, experienced source but there is also a point at which I know what’s best within my own process. So, I need to practice getting my Om on in order to find my own voice within this sea of people that know more than me.  And let’s face it, sometimes a painting needs a little crazy to balance out the practical. That may just be the contrast that this painting needed.

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How Gravity and Waves Aid My Creative Process

I have not been in the ocean for over 2 months, which is the longest lapse in the past 5 years or so.  I have been working on a website, setting up and keeping up with social media, learning how to create ads, reaching out to potential customers and making art.  On top of that there is family, which is always a priority, and rest (because if I don’t get enough rest, apparently I go bat shit crazy).  What has been lost? Exercise and getting to the coast. 

I’ve been trying to be better about exercise and I can gerbil at the gym with the best of them, but I need to get outside.  I’ve been thinking about my love for surfing, mountain biking and skiing and why those activities are part of my art practice; part of my formula for creativity. 

surf, surfer girl, ocean, beach, waves, cold water surfingMe surfing in Del Norte, CA.  Photo credit: Christian Dalbec

When I was in art school at Boston University, Professor Peter Hoss http://www.peterhoss.com/, my drawing teacher and the only teacher that I really connected with, made us read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Zen and the Art of Archery.  While I haven’t read either in over 20 years (I probably should as a refresher), they resonated with me so deeply that I scored the highest in the class on the written tests pertaining to these books.  It boggled my mind that I could see the message in these books so clearly and yet be so uninspired by art school. In the most abbreviated and loose interpretation, the Zen books are about getting lost in the moment.  Going to such a meditative space when engaged in an activity that you love, that all else slips away and time melts.  Even though I wasn’t happy in art school, I clearly knew what that was like and recognized that I felt it when making art.

mountain biking, biking, exercise, coast, trailMe in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.  Photo credit: Chris Goodyear

When I am on a surf board in the ocean, I do not have time to interpret the thoughts in my head.  When a wave is approaching me, my body and mind are one and I can only “do now”.  It puts me in a present state the same way that flying down a trail on a bike, or down a mountain on skis does as well. There is no time to think about my actions, I just have to trust that my body will react to what my brain observes and know that if I simply relax and roll with it, I have the best outcomes.  Engaging in these sports feeds the part of my brain that is able to let go and just be. 

skiing, ski, winter fun, snow, mount shasta, mountain

Skiing on Mount Shasta. Photo credit: Chris Goodyear

Each time I fill up that bucket of present-being, it flows into every part of my life.  My art is richer, deeper and more complex.  Balance and composition are not such a struggle.  Color choice is not overthought.  It is easier to surrender to the moment.  One thing flows to the next in a smooth and graceful stream of action and a painting appears.  

When I don’t fill up that bucket I am more resistant to that stream.  When that bucket is running on fumes, I overthink and swim against the current. I can keep it from running out entirely by practicing seated meditation each morning and getting out to hike, but my brain can still get lost in thought when doing both.  I need to be part of the speed that gravity creates or to feel the power of the waves.  Engaging with forces that I cannot control results in an overflowing abundance of present sight.  I have to focus on, and only on, what is happening NOW.  The ticker tape of thought is paused and instinct kicks in.  Brain and body work together in a brief moment of synchronicity, where there is no time to question either.

mountain, hike, mount ashland, outdoors

On top of Mount Ashland.  Photo credit: Chris Goodyear

 

That being said, I best be planning to get to the ocean soon.  Even if just for the day.  Even if the surf report is less than ideal and that blasted south wind is whipping.  I need to get out, paddle around, say hi to the sea lions and literally be immersed in nature. So down the Redwood Highway I go to the wind lashed, foggy, rugged, temperamental paradise of the Northern California Coast.  Time to inhale the marine layer and get lost in the sound of the waves.  Surf’s up y’all.

Painting at top is Quiver 28"x22" Mixed Media on Canvas - A gift for my amazing surfer dude husband. 

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