Tag: fear and art
I have officially been a professional West Coast Abstract Artist for 1 year. By treating my art like a small business, I have seen growth that many professional artists have told me they didn't see until about 10 years in.
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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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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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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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”:
I'm a West Coast Abstract Artist who struggles with anxiety and negative thinking.
Thankfully I'm not alone. I wanted to thank Tiny Buddha for including my article, "My Proactive 8-Part Plan For Beating Anxiety and Negativity".
The response to this has been overwhelming. Thank you all for commenting, sending messages, emails, etc. I am truly humbled.
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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 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.
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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