I am so glad you stopped by to read my post today! While this blog post is a recycled one written several years ago, the artwork I am posting is completely new, and part of my new art portfolio. This week I am featuring the painting process of my latest work in progress, The Almighty Dollar. Its a mixed media collage which illustrates the poem, The World is Too Much with Us, written in 1807, by William Wordsworth. Although this poem was written in the 19th century, the theme of capitalism and greed is still relevant today. I think that’s what makes great art and poetry, something is written or painted in the past, which still resonates today! If you are working on an artwork or other creative project and feel stuck, I hope this post will help give you encouragement to carry on, or just start over again.
If you are a creative type or if you like to make things, you have probably encountered the moment when the finished product you imagined, does not live up to your expectations. Creative types such as musicians, composers, producers, dancers, writers, artists, photographers, cooks, and makers of all types, can probably tell you what it feels like to hit a wall with a project, and how it felt, and what they did to navigate that feeling of utter frustration. As an artist, I have experienced this frustration more times than I can count. Some paintings and drawings are simply learning projects and are difficult to salvage, while others can be fixed. I know it’s been said that you learn more from your mistakes than your successes, but when I get to a point in a painting or drawing and I realize that the painting or drawing doesn’t look right, it can be really frustrating. I start doubting myself, feel like giving up, or doing something that I am not good at, like cooking or cleaning because I know that I am not good at these things, so my expectations of success in these domains are much lower than for painting or drawing since I have no training in cookery or housekeeping. Since I know I am not a good cook, if it doesn’t turn out so well, it’s a waste of ingredients but I don’t feel as emotionally attached to the outcome as I would to a painting or drawing.
I recently read a forum question on the website, Wet Canvas.com, and the question of the day was,” When should I stop working on a painting? I was intrigued by the question, and wondered how other artists dealt with paintings that can “look like a dog’s breakfast.” I read about a variety of solutions suggested by artists who had hit the wall creatively. Some were familiar to me, like my tendency to put the painting away and stop looking at it for a few days, weeks, months, or even longer. Others were not as familiar such as putting the painting somewhere where you can see it, such as on an easel in a living room, and then taking time to look at it from time to time to diagnose the problem. Another favorite technique is to write a list of things I want to change in the painting, be it the drawing, colors, value, edges, etc. In my case, some of the artwork I have abandoned was started about two years ago, and I am just now starting to look at the sketches and Photoshop files.
This week I took some time to work some more on my acrylic painting, Waiting: Creative Block. I realized that there were several things bothering me about it. The colors and values, and the composition were some of the biggest glaring errors. I am realizing they there are many reasons why this painting series of poetry illustration works have been abandoned. One of which was being too busy with other things to give the series the proper amount of time it requires to get things right, such as the composition and the drawing. Since I dropped out of the Social Work program at Frederick Community College, I do have more time to work on paintings. And since I have deliberately looked at my schedule e and started marking studio days on the calendar, I have more “intentional “time.
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
as it will see it as part of a process of learning for me, and not an ultimate destination.
Artists: What kind of Artist Are You-Amateur, Hobbyist or Professional?
Why I decided to Write about Artist Types
It’s been awhile since I last posted on this blog, and I have debated off and on within myself, whether to continue blogging about the series I started in May called, and famous failures. However, at the end of the day, I decided that I would switch gears and write about a more arts-based topic. Instead, I decided to examine the topic of different artist types and the pros and cons of each type. It’s my belief that there is no superior type of artist, and that it is all about what type works best for you. However, I do think that it takes a very unique person to be able to combine the roles of both artist and entrepreneur.
In my opinion, such individuals must be extremely dedicated to making art their life’s work, no matter what it takes, or how much time they have to invest in learning their craft and other business skills to make a profit. On the contrary, not every artist has that sort of drive or wants their art to be consumed by the public as a commodity. Perhaps for some, art is an outlet for their feelings and experiences and they would rather keep that private, which is perfectly fine. Meanwhile, there are other artists who find themselves somewhere in the middle between hobbyist and amateur artist. These artists, sometimes called, “double jobbers,” want to take their art to a more professional level, but also work a day job, such as the British artist described in the article, “The Double Jobbers, Making a Living into eh Arts, by Kathy B. Sweeney, posted on The Guardian,https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2012/jul/29/living-working-in-the-arts. Consequently, they are not pressured to make a living from their art. On the other hand, there are artists who cannot imagine doing anything else with their lives and spend almost all of their time marketing and making their artwork. The three types of artists which I will discuss in this blog post are a hobbyist, amateur, and professional artists, along with the pros and cons of each type.
Why is it important to know what type of artist you are?
I picked this topic because I have been wrestling with the question about what category I fall into as an artist: Amateur, Hobbyist or Professional? In my opinion, it’s important to know which category of artist that you fall into because there are specific actions that you need to take if you want to go beyond making artwork for pleasure and start making it with a business mindset. According to author, Alyson Stanfield, who wrote the art business book, I’d Rather Be in the Studio, it is not enough just to make art, you need to learn about how to market and sell your art, as well as to sharpening your artistic skills and creating a specific body of work that showcases your unique style as n artist. (Sources: Artwork Archive, “Alyson Stanfield Shares Her 10 Best Marketing Tips,” https://www.artworkarchive.com/blog/alyson-stanfield-shares-her-10-best-art-marketing-tips, accessed on 06/14/18, and Alyson Stanfield, I’d Rather Be in the Studio!, preface, pg. 1, 2008, Pentas Press, Golden. Colorado, and Aletta de Wal, “Hobbyist, Amateur or Professional Artist: Which Are You?” http://emptyeasel.com/2011/02/01/hobbyist-amateur-or-professional-artist-which-are-you accessed on June 6, 2018. )
My Journey as an Emerging Artist
After my father died in 2011, I realized that I wanted to make the most of the time I had left. I wanted to live without regrets about not pursuing art to the highest extent possible. For as long as I can remember, it has been my dream to be an artist. In fact, my grandmother reported in her scrapbook that I began drawing at the age of 3. When I first started making art with the intention of selling it, back in 2011, my catalyst for making art was that I needed an avenue to express my grief.
Deciding what level of involvement in art I want to have in my life has modified my choices and informed my decisions about my career, how I spend my time, and how I spend my money. I’ve gone from being a wide-eyed dreamer of a someday art career, as an art student, who lived amongst the bubble of the art community, to living life after college with all its startling reality. This world I now live in includes: bills, student loan debt, working as much as I can on my art while balancing a night job, experiencing frequent rejections for art shows, and feeling unrelenting and crushing self-doubt about my abilities as an artist. I feel I have been drifting without many purposes in my quest to be a professional artist, and it’s making me wonder whether this is the life I really want.
Making the Jump from Hobbyist Artist to Amateur Artist
In more recent years, I have really stepped up my activity to bring my art to a more professional level, such as: creating profit and loss sheets in Excel, designing an art catalog of inventory, launching an artist website, blogging about art, participating in more frequent art shows, hosting studio sale events at my home, producing custom art, and starting commerce shops on Etsy and Red Bubble, etc. However, all of this activity has been challenging and sometimes disappointing. It seems to me that no matter how hard I try, I am still struggling to sell my art consistently. I have also made efforts to connect with people on a personal level through writing blog posts, and producing artist newsletters.
However, I am still not making a profit and instead, I find myself falling into debt to pay for framing, art supplies, and marketing expenses. Even more importantly, I feel I have lost the joy of making art in the midst of all this business related activity. Consequently, I’ve had severe doubts about whether I want to be a professional artist, because of the amount of work, time, emotion, skill, and unflagging confidence a professional artist must have to survive. I wonder, are I any other artists are struggling with this situation? And I’m also asking myself, do I really want to be a professional artist, or not? If not, then what type of artist do I want to be?
What are some Specific Types of Artists?
To investigate and to define the different types of artist that anyone can be, I read an article entitled, “Hobbyist, Amateur, or Professional Artist-Which are you?” written by Aletta de Wall on the website, Empty Easel, at http://emptyeasel.com/2011/02/01hobbyist-amateur-or-professional-artist-which-are-you. The author, De Wall, states that there are three categories of artists and they are: Hobbyist, Amateur, and Professional and that each type is distinctly different. (Source: ibid)
The Hobby Artist
For example, hobby artists are not trying to make a living from their art, and they may only make art when the creative bug bites. (Source: ibid) In addition, hobby artists may study for many years and hone their craft by taking classes and workshops, but they may not ever receive the recognition that their work deserves because they are not taking actions which would promote their art effectively, such as having a business or marketing plan. (Source: ibid) On the other hand, an advantage of being a hobby artist is that there is no pressure on them to cater to a specific audience or make a profit, so they are free to experiment with a variety of media and subject matter and styles and techniques. They may also have more time to make art because there is no imperative to make a profit and engage in business-related activities such as marketing, bookkeeping, or sales.
The Amateur Artist
Another category of artist types is the amateur artist. This type of artist has started to play with the idea of making their art into a profession. (Source: ibid) Perhaps they have started to think that they need to start selling their art to help foot the bill for their art supplies, and to start being able to deduct their art expenses from taxes. (Source: ibid) An important distinction between hobby artists and amateurs is that amateurs are willing to give up their personal time in order to learn how to sell their art and creating new works. (Source: ibid) However, they may be uncertain about how to turn their passion into a viable business. (Source: ibid)
The Professional Artist
Finally, the last category of artists that this article discussed is professional artists. This type of artist is distinguished from the other two types of hobby artist and amateur artist because they consider art to be their profession. (Source: ibid, and Drew Kimble, “9 Warning Signs of an Amateur Artist,” https://skinnyartist.com/9-warning-signs-of-an-amateur-artist, accessed on June 7, 2018. )
These types of artists want to make a profit from their art, build a following, and continue to build their business skills at the same time. They have an intense level of dedication to their art and are willing to sacrifice time, money, sleep and do whatever it takes to make a profit. (Source: ibid, and Drew Kimble) They might work another day job to help support their business or eventually quit their day job when they are able so that they can devote more time to making art and learning how to sell it. Other activities that they engage in are: making studio time a daily habit, applying for grants, writing artist newsletters, submitting their artwork for review at galleries and art fairs, write business plans, extend their knowledge of effective business practices by attending art business workshops, etc. (Source: ibid, and Hayley Roberts, “Twelve Things No One Ever Tells You About Being An Artist,” The Huffington Post, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/hayleyroberst/twleve-things-no-one-tell.html. accessed on June 7, 2018.) They also promote their artwork online and offline through social media, their artist website, and in real life artist events, such as art gallery openings, art festivals, etc. (Source: ibid)Some may also make a living by teaching their craft to others. (Source: Aletta De Wal, “Hobbyist, Amateur, or Professional Artist-Which are you?”, and Hayley Roberts, “Twelve Things No One Ever Tells You About Being An Artist,” ) .
These artists may receive more recognition for their artwork, but they may also experience more criticism and rejection than the two other types because they are more aggressively pursuing art gallery representation, etc. In addition, they may have less time for making artwork because they have to balance making art with business-related duties. Furthermore, they may struggle to sell their art or make consistent income and they may face stiff competition from other artists because it is such a saturated field. It is a long road for these artists towards building a following and making a success from their art, but they are dedicated for the long haul. (Source: Drew Kimble, “9 Warning Signs of an Amateur Artist,” https://skinnyartist.com/9-warning-signs-of-an-amateur-artist, accessed on June 7, 2018. )
What about You? What Type of Artist are you?
So what about you, reader? What type of artist are you? I would love to hear about your dreams and hopes with regards to making art. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and read this. Next week, I will be talking about this topic of artist types in more detail, with a slight twist. The twist will be a more in-depth look at what it really means to be a professional artist and why it has been traditionally so difficult to be successful in this field.
The photos below are a collection of art demonstration paintings that I created to help re-teach myself how to draw in pastels and to prepare for the pastel workshop I taught on June 16, 2018, at the Colorful Canvas art supply store. Also included are photos of my art students at work and the pastel drawings they created at the class. Please note, the pastel drawings pictured here are based on the art demonstrations found in the book, The Art of Pastel, published by Walter Foster, in 2010. These pastel drawings are not my original works and are not intended for sale. The works were made simply to practice pastel drawing techniques and help my students to have a demonstration format to follow. In addition, the pastel drawings were originally created by the artists, William Scheider and Marla Baggetta, and no copyright violation is intended.
Last week I talked about self-doubt in the context of one’s own self-doubt and self-defeating self-talk such as, “I am not good enough.”, and this week I am switching gears and writing about how to deal with constructive feedback or, not so constructive feedback, as the case may be. This type of criticism may come from a variety of sources such as teachers, family, friends, “fellow artists,” strangers, etc. Bustamante, 2016). Sometimes it is helpful and other times it is not. At times, these people may be sincerely “trying to help you” while at other times, their motives may be less than beneficent. (Source: Gill Bustamante, “Overcoming Self-Doubt for Artists…Even When Your Art Goes Terribly Wrong,” www.emptyeasel.com09/05/2016.
For instance, according to Bustamante, 2016, “Artists often find themselves targets of people who put them down with carefully worded barbed comments or “advice” that leads nowhere, or other thinly veiled criticisms that will discourage the artist on their efforts.” (ibid) In addition, according to Bustamante, it is very important to carefully weigh what others tell you about your artwork, to decide if their opinion is valid or not, taking their advice with a hefty grain of salt. (ibid) The litmus test seems to be, how you experience these people after spending time with them. (ibid) For instance, Bustamante, 2016, asks, do you feel better about yourself after you spend time with them or worse? (ibid) If you don’t enjoy spending time with them, then stay away from them. (ibid) However, if you can’t completely escape these people because they are co-workers or your spouse, “put up a shield “ to guard yourself against what they say. (ibid)
I’ve had my own share of experiences with really bad critiques from teachers, and insensitive comments from others over the years as an art student, and a professional artist. These sorts of comments make me want to give up and are usually too vague to be of any assistance in making improvements in my art. And I have also had the reverse experience; in fact, some of my best constructive feedback has come from art students, during class critiques where there are some ground rules about constructive feedback. These types of comments tend to be more positive, like a word sandwich, such as, I think what works in this painting is, (blank) however, if you changed the color, value, etc, here, it could be even better. The paradox is, if I can’t take any feedback about my artwork, I won’t grow as an artist because I am too close to my work and have tunnel vision, or too emotionally invested in it to see the flaws. On the other hand, if I am too strongly influenced by others I might give up too soon on drawing and painting, or start to pursue art styles that are not really part of my authentic voice, in an attempt to please others or make sales.
Meanwhile, I am trying to keep on keeping on with my weekly studio practice, working in my sketchbook at least on a weekly basis. My hope is that by keeping in practice with drawing it will remind me why I fell in love with making art in the first place. My themes from my sketchbook that I am showing you this week are animals and plants, kind of apropos since spring is supposed to be around the corner…They were drawn with pencil and Prismacolor Colored Pencils. Thank you for reading! I hope this speaks to someone out there who is struggling not to give up on their art.
In my last post, I talked about some marketing techniques for artists, such as: why artists need to create a portfolio, but this week, the topic that resonates most with me is self-doubt. I know it sounds kind of depressing; however, I am trying to be more authentic in what I write about on this blog and not just what seems popular or trendy. And I promise I will end this blog post on a positive note. I believe that having self-doubt as an artist can really create obstacles to making more artwork, or having the confidence to step out and show the world your art. Sometimes it can cause an artist to stop making art altogether, whether it’s for a few days, weeks or sometimes even years. I know this from personal experience from several bouts of artist’s block and countless doubts about my abilities as an artist. Somehow, though if you want to get your artwork into public spaces and out of your studio, you have to find a way through this issue, because without artwork artists cannot promote themselves, period. In her own words, Alyson Stanfield states: “If you are not consistently producing art, then you have nothing to take out of the studio and market. Remember you are an artist first and foremost. Your career starts in the studio.”(Source: “Alyson Stanfield Shares Her Ten Best Art Marketing Tips,”Artwork Archive, https://www.artworkarchive.com/blog/alyson-stanfield-shares-her-10-best-art-marketing-tips, retrieved, 03/15/18).
What is an example of Self-Doubt?
Here are a few examples of self-doubt, which I am citing from an article, entitled, “5 Fears that Can Destroy an Artist,” from the Skinny Artist website, https://skinnyartist.com/. For example, one common type of self-doubt that artists face is, “I’m not good enough.”(ibid) In the interest of space, I am just going to focus on the first type of self-doubt, listed in the above-mentioned article. According to the author, Drew Kimble, the first type of self-doubt, describes an artist’s doubts in their craftsmanship and skill, and this is one of the most common types. (ibid) For example, as artists we are creating items that are not entirely essential, and that meets basic needs such as food, water, shelter, health, etc. (ibid) For instance, when times are tough and money is short, items that are not considered a necessity are often the first to be cut back from one’s budget. (ibid) Things like, “books, music, movies, art, performances,”are frequently considered to be an indulgence. (ibid)
What Causes Self-Doubt?
You might ask what things can cause self-doubt for artists. This is a question that has many answers…Sometimes it may be a rejection form letter that comes in the mail for an art show, and it’s not the first one you’ve gotten. In fact, the number of rejections is beginning to grow. You will most likely get some sort of form letter stating something to the effect, Thank you for applying to this (blank) art show, but unfortunately, we were unable to select your work for this show. Please apply next time, etc. Or maybe, your cherished dream of getting into a graduate school program to study art did not work out, and it has made you wonder why you were not selected. Questions begin to swirl in your mind and you wonder, “Am I just not good enough?” or,” Why didn’t they choose my artwork, or why wasn’t I accepted to that particular art program?” The worst part about this type of situation is that you often can’t know why your art wasn’t selected unless you take the plunge and ask the art gallery director or dean for some feedback about your art. Sometimes, jurors or other decision makers might answer your question about why you didn’t get into the show, or the dean of the graduate school might give you some feedback about why you weren’t accepted into the graduate school program. If you can find out the reasons why for these types of rejections, especially if it’s in the form of constructive feedback, it can be very useful, to getting unblocked in your art practice, and start making progress toward your goals.
What can you do With Constructive Feedback about Your Art?
Maybe it means that your artwork didn’t fit with the style of that gallery, and you need to find a gallery that is a better fit. On the other hand, maybe you need to work on your portfolio some more and your artist statement to be sure that they both re-enforce each other. For example, I did get the chance to ask the admissions office of James Madison University why I wasn’t accepted into their painting program, and they were very gracious in their response with some specific guidelines about applying again. The dean suggested that I show my ideas and artwork to some art faculty members first, to get some feedback before re-applying for the art program. Ultimately, I decided not to re-apply for a number of reasons, but the feedback was helpful. So, what is an artist to do? Give in the feelings, press on anyway, take a break from painting and go on a vacation to Tahiti and avoid the whole problem until it hopefully, magically goes away?
What Can Artists Do to Alleviate Self-Doubt?
Although this type of self-doubt may always be an issue for artists, there are some things that artists can do to challenge self-doubt, and re-evaluate how they think about their abilities. For instance, artists can complete a short-term art challenge, such as the Draw this Again meme, which was posted on the website, Deviant Art.com. This challenge charts the progress of several artists’ skills over time with photos of past and present artwork of the same subject, i.e. portraits. These artworks can be completed in whatever medium the artist wishes to work in, some of which include drawing and digital art. It is truly amazing to see what some time and practice can do when you look at the before and after photos. I’m going to try this challenge myself, between blogging, custom art orders, and building up a new portfolio in my “almost” daily sketchbook. I’m hoping this challenge will help me to get out of my own pit of self-pity and passivity, and start picking up the brush more often, to see that change is possible and that growth in my skills as an artist is up to me. It’s been a week since I started writing this post, and I just completed a self-portrait painting to compare it to an older self-portrait that I painted as a student at McDaniel College in 2005, to do more own version of Deviant Art meme, Draw this Again. Next week, I will elaborate some more on other types of self-doubt that artists experience and hopefully, I can provide you with some helpful tips for overcoming these hurdles, especially the negative self-talk that seems to fuel the artist block and self-doubt.
This week I would like to talk about one of my greatest struggles, and that is, making time to create art. It probably seems ironic for me to say that since I think of myself as an artist and I make art for art shows, clients, and I studied art in college. However, sometimes the things I want to do the most, such as painting and drawing, seem to be the most, difficult to make time for in my schedule. So many things battle for competition of my time: everyday stuff like laundry, cooking and balancing my checkbook, administrative tasks for my art business, like marketing and accounting, time wasters like internet surfing and excessive social media use, etc., etc. All these need to get done, but if I am not careful, they can crowd out too much of my time. And if that isn’t enough, I have been battling with artist’s block and self-doubt about my abilities to succeed as an artist, (whatever that means), ever since I have taken my art to a more professional level, by showing at art galleries and art fairs, and creating custom art for clients. My standards for making art have really skyrocketed, (and they were already ridiculously high) since I now feel the pressure to try and please others by making art work that “sells.”
However, in all this, I have lost my joy in making art, and don’t even know what it is that I want to say with my art anymore. This period of my life reminds me of another time period when I faced the same kind of self-doubt, when I was a senior in at McDaniel College in Westminster, MD, studying art. I was in my final year at McDaniel and taking an art studio thesis course, where I had to make art work that demonstrated something I wanted to say and write an artist statement to support that work. After I got that assignment, I felt paralyzed with indecision. It took me two weeks to come out of that episode of artist’s block, and I really wasn’t sure what I would do during that time. When I was going through this ordeal, I felt that everything there is to say about art has already been said by many famous artists such as Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Vermeer, Rembrandt, etc. and that every art subject has already been done in the thousands of years of art history. I felt I had to come up with some really “original” idea and I looked everywhere I could think to find inspiration: art magazines, art books, etc. I finally found my inspiration in the songs of singer/songwriter, Sting, which seemed an unlikely solution to me. I decided to try and illustrate the feelings in some of his songs like Lithium Sunset, by using myself as subject, and color as a way to express emotions. The crisis was solved and I made it through, but I really struggled to climb out of that pit.
Unfortunately, I am finding myself in that awful place again of uncertainty and doubt. So this week I am writing about how to make time for art, in hopes that it will help me to focus my time better and to get back into the habit of regular studio practice. I’d like to share with you some insights from two blog articles I read by Lisa Congdon, entitled, How to Find Time toMake Art When You Work Full Time, (2017) and an article entitled, How to Find Times for Art in aBusy Life, Tara Leaver, (2014) in hopes that you will find it helpful to you in managing your life and making time for creativity. According to Lisa Congdon, there are a few things you can do to help make time for art. For example, she recommends that artists and other creative types set aside a block of time every week, even if it’s only for a few minutes or a few hours, and that these small increments of time will add up over time. She also mentions an all important habit and that is to limit your time on your computer or phone screen. Another blog writer, Julie Fan Fei-Balzer, recommends a few time management apps she uses to track her time online, such as Flipboard, Tweetdeck, and Alinoff (an online computer app that records the amount of time you spend online.) I’ve been taking this advice by setting aside small increments of time daily, just working on demonstration paintings from art technique books to try and get myself back in the groove. And slowly I am getting my courage back to work on original art, which I really need to get back to doing more often, because I realize that if I don’t make art, I have nothing to share with others, as was so wisely said by Art Biz Coach, Alyson Stanfield on her podcast, on Art Marketing Action series, at http://www.artbizcoach.com.
For example, she recommends that artists and other creative types set aside a block of time every week, even if it’s only for a few minutes or a few hours, and that these small increments of time will add up over time. She also mentions an all important habit and that is to limit your time on your computer or phone screen. Another blog writer, Julie Fan Fei-Balzer, of Balzer Designs, recommends a few time management apps she uses to track her time online, such as Flipboard, Tweetdeck, and Alinoff (an online computer app that records the amount of time you spend online.) I’ve been taking this advice by setting aside small increments of time daily, just working on demonstration paintings from art technique books to try and get myself back in the groove. And slowly I am getting my courage back to work on original art, which I really need to get back to doing more often, because I realize that if I don’t make art, I have nothing to share with others, as was so wisely said by Art Biz Coach, Alyson Stanfield on her podcast, on Art Marketing Action series, at http://www.artbizcoach.com.
In addition, Tara Leaver, author of the article, How to Find Time for Art in a Busy Life, (2014), states that one way to make time for art is to schedule in blocks of time during the day when you feel you are at your best, whether it’s early in the morning, in the afternoon or late at night. I personally prefer the afternoon or mid-morning, but I know it would be pointless for me to get up early to try and fit art into my schedule because I am not a morning person. She also mentions that having healthy boundaries and the ability to say “No” to others can help you make time for art, although you can occasionally say yes to say, a meeting with friends over coffee.
For me, the saying “No”, might be to a variety of things such as additional art shows, (since they often require much more than just making art, such as marketing, or pricing the work, or getting it ready for distribution, e.g. (framing, matting or pricing). Or it might mean saying “No”, to watching movies or surfing the internet. Even a well-intentioned visit to Pinterest to look for inspiration for my art work can turn into a rabbit hole that keeps me away from my work and instead results in mindless scrolling through other’s people’s art work, recipes, fashion ideas, etc. if I don’t limit my time there. The biggest takeaway I am getting from this journey out of artist’s block, is that I fear to make mistakes so much that I have been avoiding doing my art work, staying busy with other things, such as cleaning the house, art business stuff, or anything else I can think of to stay away from the easel and my fears about whether I might mess something up. I seem to have a pattern of getting excited about projects, and then giving up, when I get to the hard part. However, today I choose to make art in spite of the fear because it’s what I truly love to do, and I want to share my work with others. It’s been my dream to be an artist for as long as I can remember, and despite many setbacks and self-doubt, it seems to be something I return to again and again. I hope it will bring some light and joy to your day viewing my paintings. The Geese drawing and paintings are my original art work, and the landscape is a demonstration from the Jerry Smith book, Expressive Landscapes in Acrylic.
A phoenix is a mythical bird that is a fire spirit with a colorful plumage and a tail of gold and scarlet (or purple, blue, and green according to some legends). It has a 500 to 1000 year life-cycle, near the end of which it builds itself a nest of twigs that then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix or phoenix egg arises, reborn anew to live again.
I’m stealing this tidbit about the Native American legend of the Phoenix, from blogger, Julie Fan-Fei Balzer of Baltzer Designs because it seems so apropos to the struggle I am facing about how to start again on a failed painting that I started last week, Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Vermeer, painted in 1665. Source: Fan-Fei Balzer, J. (January 3, 2011). Like a Phoenix. Retrieved from http://balzerdesigns.typepad.com/balzer_designs/2011/01/like-a-phoenix.html.
In some ways, beginning a project over again after you are dissatisfied with it is like a death and re-birth. You have to let go of what isn’t working in your artwork (death) and be open to letting in what will work in a new piece of artwork, (birth). This process might include a new approach to the painting or a more positive mindset. I also feel that this symbol of the phoenix that lives, dies, and is reborn is a powerful affirmation, and I feel in need of that kind of empowerment this week to make the plunge and actually get to work on starting this new painting…
It seems that this week I have hit the wall on several creative fronts, whether it’s in writing this blog or maintaining a daily painting practice and finishing the projects I start. I have a collection of unfinished paintings and drawings that has been accumulating in my art studio. The process starts out something like this, I will see a reproduction of a painting in an art book and feel excited about the prospect of re-creating it myself, begin the work, and then get stuck because something isn’t working and I can’t figure out how to fix it. Then, out of frustration, I start up another painting just to try and move forward and not let too many days go by without painting or drawing.
All of this stagnation has brought me to a standstill and made me ponder some deep questions, such as: “What am I hoping to accomplish with this master copy series?”, “Why do I paint?, and “Who am I as an artist?”. Recent disappointments in my creative life and in my personal life have also contributed to my doubt and stagnation as an artist. I’ve had to work hard to dig myself out of this mire I have found myself in… And I have been opening myself up to other artistic sources in blogs and documentaries, such as artist/blogger, Julie Fan Fei Blazer’s blog, and a recent documentary by musician John Mayer, called Someday I’ll Fly on YouTube, to fill the creative well inside me. Both have shared their journeys in the creative process, talking about their trials and successes, and most importantly about their craft. In his documentary, Someday I’ll Fly, Mayer talks about creativity as a battle to be fought, which all artists are fighting, and it definitely feels like a battle this week!
I’ve also started a new weekly drawing practice, working in a sketchbook with pre-planned subjects for each day so I won’t have to think about what to draw/paint, while I am trying to get up the courage to start this painting again. I’m hoping this forward motion will propel me to jump off the diving board and start this painting after a week of procrastination.
So here is my revised version of Girl with a Pearl Earring, ca. 1665, by Vermeer, painted with Gamblin 1980 oil paints on prepared canvas. I started with a brand new canvas for this painting and focused more on checking the proportions to the original painting as often as I could. This stage is called the under painting and it concentrates on the three main values in a painting of lightest, middle, and darkest. I used a burnt sienna oil paint and mixed it with titanium white for lighter areas while adding a mixture of ultramarine blue, viridian green and alizarin crimson to create my own black. To thin out the paints, I used a non-toxic, Solvent Free Safflower Oil Gel made by Gamblin. When this layer dries, I will be working on blocking in the local colors of flesh tones, the blue and yellow turban and the yellow ochre coat with fur collar. I will also be delving into some of the questions I asked in this blog about why I paint and what I hope to accomplish with this master copies series.