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What is Artist’s block?

This week I am struggling once again with artist’s block, and also writer’s block, so I am posting an older post about artist’s block for now. Meanwhile, I am going to be researching articles of interest to try and come up with new blogging ideas. I’m also including some paintings I have been re-working, in spite of the artist’s block. I am finding it helpful to re-paint and critique old works that I wasn’t really happy with. This week’s offering is a collection of Lincoln oil portraits I have painted a few years ago. Here is the older blog post I mentioned.

Last week I wrote about my struggles with artist’s block and I identified two specific types of artist’s block that were keeping me from producing artwork, and they are 1.) a mental block and 2.) an emotional barrier. Both of these symptoms seem to culminate in negative self-talk that makes me afraid to put pencil to paper. In spite of these things, I have been soldiering on. How about you? Did these types of artist’s block relate to you, or maybe you might be dealing with different types of artist’s block, such as work habits that don’t work for you, or personal issues, or a shortage of time, money, or resources, or feeling overscheduled? These types of artist’s block were discussed in the article: Seven Types of Artist’s Block and What to Do about Them by Mark McGuiness. Here is the website if you want to read more about the article:  http://99u.com/articles/7088/7-types-of-creative-block-and-what-to-do-about-them.

This week my main difficulties with artist’s block have been feeling overwhelmed and pulled in too many directions, and my work habits and time management, which are keeping me from being able to consistently produce art. Now that I have made the transition from a hobby artist to a professional artist, there are many more demands on my time than there was when I was just painting for fun. Now there are a myriad of tasks that I need to complete to keep my art business organized (such as taking inventory of my works, so that I know what is available and what has been sold), marketing my artwork and sharing my art show events with others via Facebook, personal emails or Instagram, and keeping my website updated with blog posts to keep people coming back to the site, just to name a few.

The ante has really been upped this past month because I have signed up for more art events, which is a good thing because it opens up the door for more sales and personal connections with clients and patrons, but it also means that my administrative tasks increase exponentially. To cope with the added stress, I have been trying to incorporate self-care into my schedule again, whether it’s taking time to journal, go for a walk, going to my favorite coffee shop, coloring in my coloring books, or just taking a long drive to get away from it all. A little anxiety is a good thing because it motivates me to work, but too much anxiety can make me feel paralyzed and unable to work. And as for feeling overwhelmed, I have been making lists of the most pressing tasks with the soonest deadlines to prioritize my to-do list, so I am not running in too many different directions.

The second aspect to my artist block is dealing with my time management skills and avoiding distractions which can keep me away from making art. Distractions can come in many forms, whether it’s social media, email checking, etc. And I might justify this by saying that it is for my business, and it might well be, say a Facebook post to advertise my upcoming art show at Art Pops! Everedy Square. However, I am learning I need to limit my time on the computer, both for administrative tasks such as data entry for inventory of my artwork, or conducting marketing campaigns on Facebook or Instagram.  I also am a person who lacks structure and discipline, so I have to create an outside structure for myself by creating deadlines for myself, writing to-do lists, writing due dates on the calendar and setting my kitchen timer for what I like to call pomodoros.

These pomodoros are 25-minute increments in which I focus on only one task, whether it’s working on a drawing to post for Instagram for my 100 faces in 100 days drawing challenge or updating my Art of Schmidt web site. Sometimes to maintain my focus, I also need to turn off my phone and not answer emails. Afterward, I take 5-minute breaks to re-group. To learn more about the Pomodoro technique, visit the following website: https://www.focusboosterapp.com/the-pomodoro-technique.    If I don’t apply discipline and self-control to my routine, I get really behind in my projects, especially since there is no one who will keep me accountable for these tasks but myself.  The insecurity and negative chatter I mentioned in my post last week can really make me want to distract and procrastinate on getting into the studio. I am trying to be more gentle with myself and allow the art to unfold

Abraham Lincoln 3, flat
Abraham Lincoln in purple, oil on canvas, 9 x 12 inches, 2017, Jodie Schmidt.
Abe Lincoln, portrait in green-re-worked, flat
Abraham Lincoln in purple, re-worked, oil on canvas, 9 x 12 inches, Jodie Schmidt, 2018. This is the re-worked version of the above painting that I completed last week. I changed the color scheme from purples and blues to greens, blues, and blue-greens. I also added more paint and texture to the facial planes to create dimension and impasto strokes of thick paint. I’m happier with this more colorful result, and I hope to create more paintings of Lincoln with this more painterly approach. I used a painting demonstration book called, Classic Portrait Painting in Oils, by Chris Saper, as inspiration about how to create a light source and for color schemes. 
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This is a quote from Sylvia Plath, found online in a Google search, no copyright infringement intended.

as it will see it as part of a process of learning for me, and not an ultimate destination.

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Famous Failures: J.K. Rowling, Her Struggles and Her Triumphs (Part 2)

Similarities between J.K. Rowling and Abraham Lincoln: Depression

This week, I am diving into part two of the series I started on April 21, 2018, entitled, “famous failures”, a term coined by Sid Sivara, who wrote an article with that title. The personality I want to highlight this week is the author of the celebrated Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling. As I researched her life, I discovered that she has some striking similarities to the personality which I described a few weeks ago. For example, both she and Lincoln struggled with depression and poverty.

Abraham Lincoln, (1809-1865), was the sixteenth president of the United States and he grew up on a farmstead in Kentucky. (Source: James M. McPherson, “Lincoln, Abraham, (1809-1865), Sixteenth president of the United States”, American National Biography, http://www.anb.org, retrieved on 05/08/2018.)  During his childhood, he carved out a life which was marked by hard physical labor and a lack of consistent education in a one-room schoolhouse. (Source: ibid) He also suffered from melancholy and depressive episodes for much of his life, as well as “brooding” which his friends termed, “the hypo,” short for hypochondria. (Source: ibid, and Shenk, Joshua, “Lincoln’s Great Depression”, The Atlantic). “Hypo,” was the term medical practitioners used in the 19th century to describe what we now recognize as clinical depression. (Source: McPherson)

Similarities between J.K. Rowling and Abraham Lincoln: Professional Failures

Lincoln also tried and failed at much life professional pursuits, including “store clerk, mill hand, a partner in a general store that failed, postmaster, and surveyor.”  (Source: ibid). He also experienced failure in his political career from time to time, and in 1832, when he ran for the legislature, he was defeated. (Source: ibid, and Sid Sivara, “Famous Failures: Michael Jordan, AbrahamJK Rowling portrait_edited-1Abraham Lincoln portrait_edited-1 Lincoln and J.K. Rowling”, https://sidsavara.com/famous-failures-michael-jordan-abraham-lincoln-and-jk-rowling, retrieved on 03/29/18) However, when he re-entered the political race for the legislature in the New Salem district of Illinois, he made a decisive victory in 1834. (Source: McPherson). Despite many setbacks, Lincoln developed a new direction and ambition during his years living in the town of New Salem, Illinois. (Source: ibid) In fact, he started making decisive moves towards self-improvement by joining a debating society, received mentoring from the local teacher in New Salem, Illinois, Mentor Graham, in both mathematics and literature, and he developed a strong interest in politics. (Source: ibid)   In addition, he developed a lifelong interest and appreciation for William Shakespeare and Robert Burns. (Source: ibid)

Likewise, J.K. Rowling also faced extremely challenging life challenges such as poverty and depression. For example, she faced countless rejection letters for her Harry Potter books, initially at least. (Source: Elle Kaplan, “How J.K. Rowling Turned Failure into Massive Success, (And You Can Too),” https:// medium.com, accessed April 17, 2018).    Also, like Lincoln, she seems to be a deep thinker and one who had a specific dream and ambition. (Source: ibid) Rowling’s dream was to provide a good life for her daughter, and she did not give up, no matter how many times she failed. (Source: ibid)   Like Lincoln, she was successful, though it was far from easy. (Source: ibid).

J.K. Rowling’s Unlikely Success: What Motivated Her

While many of you may recognize J.K. Rowling as a bestselling author of the Harry Potter book series, did you know that she was once jobless, living on welfare and raising a daughter all by herself as a single mother? (Source: ibid) In her own words, she states: “By every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.” (Source: ibid).  In addition, she states that her failures helped to shed light on many aspects of her life, including her relationships with others, and that it gave her tenacity to “face adversity head-on to turn unfortunate circumstances into success.” (Source: ibid.)

One aspect of her experience that gave her the will to succeed and rise above her struggles was her wish to give her daughter a better life. (Source: ibid) During this pursuit, she held onto this truth she knew about herself and that was that she believed she knew how to tell a story. (Source: ibid) Understanding her “why” for wanting to succeed in life was crucial to her achievements. (Source: ibid) Learning about J.K. Rowling’s life before she was famous, makes her seem more human and relatable, and it gives us hope that if she can be successful against significant life struggles, so can we. But how do we do this? To investigate this question further, I referred back to the Kaplan article to see what suggestions the author made about being successful.

 

What to Do When Failure Occurs: A Few Suggestions

The author, Kaplan, provides some insights into what we can do to mitigate the sting of failure. For example, she states, when a failure occurs and it inevitably will, rather than letting it defeat you, get some perspective and ask yourself some questions, such as: Do I try again, or do I give up? What do I hope to achieve and why? Is there another way to reach my goal or a strategy I haven’t tried yet? (Source: ibid)

Another strategy you can use to rise above failure is to envision that you are actually being successful in your endeavors and to detach yourself from feelings of failure so that it doesn’t define you. (Source: ibid) According to Kaplan, “Visualization is a powerful tool for building confidence and changing your mindset toward success.” In fact, Kaplan states that: “A recent study looking at brain patterns in weightlifters found that parts of the brain activated when a weightlifter lifted hundreds of pounds were also activated when they only imagined lifting.”  In conclusion, I don’t suppose that I will ever be as famous as J.K. Rowling or Abe Lincoln, and I am OK with that. In fact, I’m not sure that I would want the kind of pressure that they experienced, such as the ever-present imperative to achieve because of their phenomenal successes and contributions to society. I just want to stop letting past failures stop getting the better of me. If I focus too much on these types of things, it can be paralyzing and keep me from moving on toward my next goal. What about you? Do you have a dream that just won’t die, no matter how many times you fail in the pursuit of its fruition? What is your reason for living? I’d love to hear all about your dreams, hopes, and ambitions. Send me a note in the comments section of this blog.

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Celebrities who Failed and Lived to Tell the Tale: Part 1

Why I haven’t been Blogging

Maybe you’ve noticed that I haven’t been blogging much recently and have wondered whether I had fallen off the planet, or have given up on blogging entirely or making art for that matter. It has been a month of life-altering changes since my husband and I bought our first home this past March. I have struggled to make time for art, much less write about it with all the additional responsibilities which have been added to my plate that come with being a homeowner. For example, the house is a fixer-upper, and my apartment needs to get ready for the move as well. I am sorry to say that despite my daily efforts, I still don’t feel prepared, even though the move is only one week away. My husband and I both work, and we’re spending nights and weekends trying to get our home move in ready. It’s been a lot of physical work too, and it’s been draining, exhausting work. Somehow, blogging has fallen through the cracks. In the middle of all this, I have been trying to complete a custom art portrait before the move, and to get to my sketchbook to draw and paint at least 1x a week. Furthermore, I want to present you with quality material and writing doesn’t come naturally to me. So, that’s why I have taken a break from blogging until I found a subject which really resonates with me. This brings me to my next point.

Failure: A topic with which many can relate

I’ve been thinking in depth about blog topics for a while now and trying to figure out what to write about. During this time, I have wondered, what kinds of topics would appeal to both artists and non-artists alike? After considering several topics, I decided that I wanted to write about “famous failures” which were written about by Sid Savara, in his article, “(Sivara, Sid. Famous Failures: Michael Jordan, Abraham Lincoln, and J.K. Rowling. https://sidsavara.com/famous-failures-michael-jordan-abrahma-lincoln-andjk-rowling/.Accessed 29 March 2018.  In my personal life, this topic feels increasingly relevant.  I have been dealing with several challenges in my art career, such as struggling to find consistent income from art sales. In truth, there have been a lot of ups and downs with my art sales over the years and I’m not sure what I can do to tweak my approach toward selling my artwork. At times, I honestly just feel like just giving up on the business aspect of art, and pursuing it as a hobby instead. There are so many aspects involved with being an artist-entrepreneur and I do not know if I have the drive, intelligence and patience to run that type of marathon, or the ability to learn skills so outside of my skill set, like marketing. It is a constant juggling act between the business side of being an artist and actually making time to make art.

My Personal Failure: Why Isn’t My Art Selling?

One of the setbacks I have been dealing with is inconsistent art sales. I’m asking myself, why isn’t my artwork selling? Could it be that I am not using the right marketing strategies or that I don’t post often enough on Facebook, and Instagram? Do I need to work more on my presentation of my artwork through my photography on my website, and commerce sites by purchasing a new and more professional camera and learning new photography techniques? Or, is there some other reason I haven’t figured out yet? Is it my medium, price point, style, or subject matter? Do I need more of a range of prices to attract more customers to my Etsy shop, Red Bubble shop or art shows? In the meantime, while I consider these questions, I am drawing inspiration from “famous failures” to learn how other people have successfully dealt with personal setbacks.

 

Abraham Lincoln: Famous Failure example 1

One of my favorite famous failures is Abraham Lincoln. To begin my discussion of this topic, I would like to start with a quote from Michael Jordan who stated: “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game-winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is how I succeed.” ( Sivara, Sid. Famous Failures: Michael Jordan, Abraham Lincoln, and J.K. Rowling. This quotation originates from a Nike Commercial by Michael Jordan, entitled, “Failure”.)

In a similar way, to Michael Jordan, Abraham Lincoln also faced many failures and setbacks on his journey to becoming the 16th President of the United States and one of the best we’ve ever had in my opinion. According to Savara, some of Lincoln’s failure’s included: being unemployed in 1832, being beaten for the legislature in 1832, failing in business in 1833, and rejected for Speaker in 1838. It was not until 1860, that he reached his greatest achievement when he was elected President of the United States. (ibid)

How did Lincoln going despite his countless challenging life circumstances and personal tragedies and probably clinical depression? I’m not sure what the answer to that is at the moment, but from one of his quotes, I would deduce that he was not content with failure and would not let it define him. In the words of Lincoln: “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.” To look at this question in more depth, I have done additional research about his strengths as a leader and some of his personal coping strategies, such as writing letters to people he was angry with and not sending them, which he called, “hot letters,” telling jokes to ease his melancholy, having good self-awareness  about  his weak points. Some other strengths he possessed include:  constantly learning and adding to his knowledge base, such as his intense study of military strategy, so he could play an active role as commander-in-chief, during the Civil war and talk directly to military leaders about their military strategies, and finally, listening to the opinions of others, whose opinions differed from his own, (Sources: Shenk, Joshua Wolf. Lincoln’s Great Depression. The Atlantic Monthly, October 2005 Issue, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2005/10/lincolns-great-depression/304247/ Accessed 19 April 2018, Coutu, Diane. Leadership Lessons from Abraham Lincoln. The Harvard Business Review, April 2009, https://hbr.org/2009/04/leadership-lessons-from-abraham-lincoln. Accessed 19 April 2018, Moreton, Catherine L.10 Qualities that Made Abraham Lincoln a Great Leader, June 25, 2008, https://hr.blr.com/whitepapers/staffing-training/leadership/10-qualities-that-made-abraham-lincoln-a-great-lea. Accessed 19 April 2018.

 

To conclude, I am going to divide this topic of Famous Failures, into sections so that the articles will be short and more readable. Each article will focus on a specific person

 

Abraham Lincoln Portrait with green, edit
Abraham Lincoln in Blue, Oil on Canvas, 9 x 12 inches, 2009, Jodie Schmidt.

 

Abraham Lincoln After portrait
Abe Lincoln, Oil on Canvas, 9 x 12 inches, 2018, Jodie Schmidt.
Abraham Lincoln in Pop Art Style
Pop Art Style Lincoln, Oil on Canvas, 11 x 14 inches, 2007, Jodie Schmidt.

with specific details about their stories. So next week, I will be writing about the life story of the author, J.K. Rowling. I hope that you enjoyed this post and that it brings light and encouragement to your day. Failure is inevitable but how we respond to it, is our choice.

 

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Abraham Lincoln Portrait: Available for Sale on Etsy

Hello Friends,

As promised, I am posting a new painting every week that will be available for purchase on my Etsy shop,  https://www.etsy.com/shop/ArtofSchmidt?ref=seller-platform-mcnav. Here is a portrait that I started a few years ago, back in 2012 to be exact. However, a few weeks ago I looked at the painting and I felt it could use some touches of thicker paint to add interest to the painting, which had been painted fairly thinly at the time.  I also toned the background down to a blue-gray color so it wouldn’t compete with the portrait of Abe Lincoln.This is the finished result, from left to right. Thanks for looking!

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Abraham Lincoln Paintings (for sale)

Hello Friends,

I have added two new portraits I made of Abraham Lincoln, my favorite United States President to my Etsy Shop at https://www.etsy.com/your/shops/ArtofSchmidt. These two paintings are pictured below. I was inspired to create these pieces by a day trip to Gettysburg, PA several years ago, when I happened upon a gallery owned by Gettysburg, Pennsylvania artist, Wendy Allen. Wendy Allen has dedicated many years of her life to capturing the likeness of Abraham Lincoln in a variety of fun and colorful incarnations from Andy Warhol pop art inspired to the tonal art of Pablo Picasso. Also, because Lincoln is one of my favorite Presidents, I knew I wanted to capture him on canvas.

He is an inspirational figure to me for so many reasons and he never let any obstacles stand in his way. Although he had a limited formal education and very little encouragement from his father to discover his potential and unique talents, he went on to achieve the American dream we all aspire to achieve. His step mother, Sarah Bush,  provided emotional support, and books, such as the Bible, Aesop’s Fables, The Pilgrim’s Progress, and Lessons in Elocution, to help Abe with his self-guided education. It just goes to show what can happen when someone believes in you, and you believe them!

In the meantime, I am also working on some acrylic paintings of Civil War Soldiers in watercolor and acrylic. I will be posting progress photos of these paintings this week. Stay tuned!