My Journey : The Ugly Stuff

I’ve been thinking about showing my work more. Even and maybe especially the bad stuff.


Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram and all the other places we find pretty pictures have conditioned us to to believe that makers are born being amazing. Ie. The internet doesn’t show the time and effort and rejection letters. It doesn’t allow us to take into account the relationships that were dashed upon the rocks of fulfilling a life filled with lots of unknowns. The fruitless late nights or the tears cried in the shower.

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This piece is something that I was initially excited but hesitant about. It was much more detailed than anything I had tried up to that point- Lots of folds and ruffles with the corresponding light and shadow.


I was proud of myself for taking my time with the initial outline and figuring out base shadows. But then I started adding color and my brain just got confused. I realized I was unable to keep value {lights and shadows} at the front of my attention while trying to figure out colors on the piece itself. In the end, it looked like urban camouflage on an outfit Justin Timberlake would have wore circa 1999. I’m not sure I’m able to put in words the disappointment that that comes from unintentionally making JT’s horrendous clothing choices from two decades ago.


And I share because this is the process. This is the part where I learn to pay more attention to my values before I start adding color. This is where I realize I need to mix colors alongside my drawing, not on the piece itself. This is where I remind myself that when I’m in unknown territory I should take breaks so that I can recognize my mistakes before my initial work is not longer recognizable. 


We can’t all be 100% all the time.

Learning growing stretching. It’s important. Even if it is embarrassing.

My Journey : Finding Escalapia

The best advice I was given in regard to building a house was to find a word that was a perfect descriptor and then to base all my choices against that word.


It sounds simple but it wasn’t.

I am eclectic. I like a bit of this and a bit of that. On top of that I have very strong opinions on things I don’t like while I’m often not being able to fully verbalize the reason I do like a certain thing.


The woman who gave me this advice {the wonderful Adrienne of Animal Cracker Studio} noticed that lots of my boards had a Southern California vibe. She suggested I use that as my starting point to find my word.


So: California cabin?

West coast meets flyover?

A little bit country, a lit by rock and roll?

This was much harder than seemed necessary.


It wasn’t until my husband introduced me to the word “Escalapia” that I found my fit.  It was the name of the community that lived on our plateau around the turn of the last century. A community that is no longer there. But, not knowing that, I heard Escalapia and I thought about houses only fairies knew of and intricate sketches to the side of a large abstract painting and ferns and willows and wildflowers. To me it described the contemporary house that I wanted to fill with the colors and textures of the last century.

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Did this have anything to do with formal titles {mid-century modern} or a hashtag {#SoCalCabin} that some national home magazine would love? No.


But it fit. It made me smile.

And best of all: it worked.

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I started around paint choices and realized that Escalapia was natural without being terribly neutral. I took the blue we had previously picked for the cabinet color and found colors that resembled the world outside our picture windows to match: fog rising out of the valleys in the early morning, the deep blue of my husband’s favorite fishing hole, the deep grey of the storm cloud, and crisp white of the frost on an early winter morning.


Later on, I found myself looking at the tile I had already choose and realized, “That star doesn’t work. It’s not Escalapia.”


The brass Moroccan lamp from the antique store downtown? Totally Escalapia.


Contemporary four poster bed? Escalapia only after the addition of white linens and a second hand quilt.

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Other things that are Escalapian-

Storage in natural materials : so that we could do life and then put it the “stuff” of life back in a box

Natural light : to read and make art and play and do all the things that don’t involve screens.

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Unfussy landscaping : the day I remembered I was a plant lover but not a gardener was the day I called the landscape architect and said, “tell me what we should do.” Followed by a call a month later that hat went something like, “give me a very specific watering schedule so I don’t kill it.”

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The aforementioned eclecticism : I realized that my “little bit of this and that” method was good as long as I had parameters. White tile, black plumbing fixtures, and blue kitchen cabinetry were my initial palette. From that it expanded to wood tones and low key stone and the occasional brass element. On top of that I laid on the piece I had inherited from my grandmother and treasures I’ve found.


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Adrienne’s site: Animal Cracker Studio

Antique shop in Downtown Rogers: The Rusty Chair

Antique shop in Fayetteville: 410 Vintage Market

Antique shop in Prarie Grove: Southern Mercantile Antiques 

Landscape architect: Bradford Nursery

Bed: Restoration Hardware

Lights: Lighting Emporium Springdale

Bed lounger and side table and dining table: James and James Springdale

Round mirrors and counter height bar stools: Howse

Photos on canvas : Mpix 

Architect: Mathias Pearson

My Journey : Rejection Letters

Once upon a time, three lifetimes and five years ago, I went to a blogging conference in New York City held in Martha Stewart’s offices. There, I listened to Grace Bonney of Design Sponge talk about how you need to ask and apply and put yourself out there until hearing, “No,” no longer hurts.


It resonated.

But it didn’t stick.

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A lifetime of nonexistent self confidence had taught me that safe was boring but comfortable.


Reading through The Artist’s Way {told you I would be mentioning it lots}, the author keeps mentioning how generous the universe is. How, if we ask for something and do the work, it often happens in a flurry of coincidences.


Looking back on my time since listening to Grace speak in that beautiful venue, I made a mental calculation of all the creative opportunities I had been given that I myself had denied.


No, I will not illustrate your book.

No, I don’t do that kind of photography.

No, I’m not a good enough painter.

No, freelancing isn’t for me. I would rather work on someone else’s schedule.


The fear of failing and hearing the “no,” from someone else, even after they had asked, so terrified me that I shut it down before I had given myself the opportunity.


This past week a supporter of my work gave my name to a woman looking to commission several pieces of art. My first instinct was to say, “No, that’s out of my realm.” And then I remembered Julia and Grace and the united league of badass women creatives who were never given a chance simply because of their gender and I said, “I’ll try.” I invited her to my studio to have tea and a talk. It may not come to anything. But it won’t be because I was scared to hear the word “no.”

The Artist’s Way : The Artist’s Date

I’m reading through {and eventually working through} Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way for the first time since Sam was born.


I will most likely be referencing it a lot for the remainder of the year. It claims to be a game changer for artists if the artist is willing to do the work. And the way I work through things is most generally talking and writing about them.


I’m really excited to go through this process and document it here.


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One of the “pillars” of The Artist’s Way is the artist date. In short, this is a weekly date that you set with yourself to keep your creative well filled.


A few weeks ago I unexpectedly made this happen. While making dinner I scrolled through Instagram and saw that a muralist was teaching a botanical class that evening at Crystal Bridges. I immediately called to see if there was a spot available in the class. When I was told it was full I was terribly disappointed.


It was only later that I realized that this disappointment was less about the particular class itself and more about needing a creative booster shot. Regardless, I mentioned the disappointment at dinner and threw out the suggestion that I go explore the museum by myself anyway. My husband was on board with making toddler bedtime happen so I put up the dishes and drove the 30 minutes to the museum. This gave me almost two hours at the museum to see the “Georgia O’Keefe and The Beyond” exhibit.


Color and flowers? I loved it. 


But the thing that really struck me as I pulled into our driveway later that night was that it felt like spring had bloomed in my mind after a winter of cold and brown.


The synapsids in my brain were working with an ease that felt like levels above my normal. I was making connections that were fluid and poetic.


Poetry.


That’s where my brain goes when it’s at its most free. Colors and words, music and memories : all colliding in a way that make me cry at the joy of life.


Joy, freedom, poetry.


I don’t expect all my artist dates to get me to that level. But, for me, those experiences are worth chasing {and making time for} again and again and again.

My Journey: Conversation and Connection

Conversation and connection.

That’s why I will never be able to stop social media.


I was thinking about this when I finished up my last blog post. How sharing one photo on my Instagram stories had led to a really valuable conversation with an art friend who lives on the eastern seaboard. That conversation was good for both of us and helped solidify some things that had been rolling around in my head for a while.


That sharing, feedback, opinion sharing cycle is invaluable for me. The older Sam gets the more I realize how much the baby years took me away from the community that a creative person needs to truly grow.

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That being the case: I’m taking a social media break for the month of August.

 

It’s become a crutch - the thing I do when I need to take a break from life. “Just for a minute to check,” and twenty minutes later im still sitting in the parking lot of my son’s school, having nothing to show for the first thirty minutes of my free time for the day except the 46 hearts that I’ve given to other people.

 

That being the case, this social media fast isn’t about increasing productivity. If that happens it will be a nice side effect, but no, this is much more about reconnecting with my own self.

 

I’ve shared that I often get stuck in a comparison cycle. And for all the inspiration that social media brings me into contact with it also makes my Critic : Censor brain yell. “You aren’t good like she is. Why do you even try? You couldn’t even draw that leaf yesterday. And this lady has drawn an entire landscape. What is wrong with you?!?”

 

So I’m stepping away.  

 

I say I’m wanting conversation and connection so I’ll be finding that more in real life. I’m starting a bi-weekly date night with my husband and I’m ridiculously excited about it.  I’m re-reading Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” and have a desire to lead a group of creatives through the process. I’ll be writing more here {my notes app is getting full with the first two sentences of blog posts}.

 

And I’m going to keep writing my weekly-ish email. I recently restarted my email newsletter after 6+ months away and it’s been such a fun process for me. Hearing back from my people is the absolute best. You’re welcome to join here.

 

I’m excited to see where this break takes me and what I learn {growing pains and all} because of it. Cheers friends. 

 

Ps. Starting off this break at a beach house in south Alabama was the most wonderful way to get my creative juices flowing.

 

My Journey : Thoughts on the 100 Day Project

If you, like me, are even the slightest bit involved in the creative community on instagram chances are you’ve heard of the 100 Day Project. Started by user @ellaluna, it’s a challenge that individuals take on and pursue a certain creative goal for a straight 100 days. Whether painting one’s dreams, creating unexpected patterns, or making art out of the security side of envelopes {all projects I have watched while other’s were pursuing them}, it’s about establishing new habits and pushing past creative blocks. 

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And I truly know it works for some people. In fact, I have seen amazing work from people who have taken this challenge and subsequently worked their asses off for 100 days.  

That being the case, it’s always intimidated me. It was only during a conversation with a fellow creative recently that the “why” was solidified.  

I shared that it taken me 40 minutes to draw the outline of a kale leaf. She commented that she thought it was beautiful and that she felt the crunch of needing to work faster all the time.  

 I said, “Well I’m glad I shared then. I think there’s a misconception that if you love something or are good at something you should be fast at it. I LOVE all the 100 day projects or “make art everyday” projects but I think it’s lead to the thought that an entire piece can be cranked out in a sliver of time. And I don’t think that’s real life for most of us. At least, that’s not real life for me.” I went on to say, “I’m learning that there’s nothing wrong with ‘being slow’. It just means I care about getting it right.” 

Some people {because of style or medium or personal preference} work fast and are able to finish 100 projects in 100 days. And they’re still are able to eat /sleep / shower / feed themselves or their dependents {insert whatever you most struggle with : I personally choose E •all of the above.•

I can’t do that.  

That doesn’t make me a failure of a person or a bad artist or any less of of an artist.  

And, if this is something that you can’t make happen, it doesn’t make you any of these things either. 

My current goal is to be an artist with a strong eye toward being realistic. {I’m so wonderfully Pisces that realism isn’t my strong suit... this is a legitimate struggle for me.} For me being realistic means that some days I won’t have any extra energy to give to my art because of some toddler meltdown and some days laundry won’t get done because it took me half an hour to decide what angle I wanted to draw of the above mentioned kale leaf. It means not degrading myself when things don’t go as I hoped and taking into account unexpected creative side roads and counting them as wins. 

Most of all, I’m working on being kind to myself and constantly choosing to continue becoming the person I want to be.  

And the main way I will do that is keep drawing 40 minutes, and one single leaf, at a time.