Friday, July 24, 2015

My Creative Life: Art

I wrote earlier about my time as a musician. That was a long time ago and it feels like a different person lived that life. When I decided to stop playing oboe, I moved to a different state and sold my instruments. That was the only way I could really start over without answering painful questions every day. I had a fantastic oboe and English Horn that I didn't want to rot in my closet, so I sold them to other musicians. They are hopefully still living a good musical life without me!

I let myself go a little wild and be a kid for a few years in my mid-twenties. I'd been so serious and focused as a young musician that I needed that time. Right away I also started painting. I didn't want to fall too quickly into another obsessive career, but it kind of happened on its own.

Knowing all about music school, and knowing people who went to art school, I made the decision not to go back to school. I didn't have the money, and I wanted to explore art in a more organic way. Mostly it's been the right decision for me. In the last 20 years I've read tons of art books, taken workshops, worked for Riverhouse Editions making etchings, and even had the wonderful experience of working for Laura Wait as a studio assistant helping her make hand-made artist books and prints. Being a self-taught artist is kind of a misnomer. It's more about being a self-learner and tapping into all of the resources around you to learn what you can from them.

1 Potato, 2 Potato, 3 Potato, 4
I want to tell you about finding my calling. Which sounds silly. But it's happened to me 3 times in my life and it's an incredible feeling to discover the thing that resonates with you so perfectly. I found my calling making potato prints.
Couch Potatoes
Yep. I'm a goofball. I don't remember what prompted me to cut up russet potatoes with a razor blade and print them with acrylic paint, but I did. And it was SO FUN! I couldn't stop for about 3 days. I told my friend at work about it. I was working at a frame shop (a skill I highly recommend for any 2-D artist) and my friend said, "Hmmmmmm, maybe you should try linoleum prints."

I got a couple of linoleum blocks from the art supply store but I was too cheap to buy the cutting tool. So I carved this print with a razor blade. (Don't try it!!!!! Buy the cutting tools!!!!!) It's a commemoration of my truck's odometer turning over to all zeros.  I can't believe I pulled it off at all. I drew directly on the block and my drawing skills weren't great. I didn't really understand the way the print would be a reverse of what I was carving. I painted acrylic ink on the block with a brush and printed it by hand. And I LOVED the process. It was so much fun I could barely stand it. I wanted to do it for my whole life!

So I went out and bought a linocut tool and ink. And this is the next print I made:

I've discovered that it's the process of making a print that I love- monotypes, etchings, solar plates, letterpress, linocuts, whatever. I just keep making linocuts because I can do them at home without a lot of equipment and no press. One day I will own a press, but I'm so used to printing by hand that I don't mind it, and I can get effects that I couldn't get on a press anyway. Those first potato prints led me directly to becoming a printmaker. And I still want to do it my whole life!

Many years later I reprinted my beloved truck from that original block and put her in a field of stamped tulips. It looks like she's having a nice little vacation from the road. :)

But back to being a self-learner. I know that I can learn anything I want to. Sometimes it takes a while and it would be more efficient if I could just go to school or take some workshops. But I can't afford them. If it's something I really want to learn, I will take the time and find the resources I need and practice. I definitely know about practicing from being a musician.

There's one thing I didn't even realize that I needed to learn until recently though- self confidence. Some people seem to be born with it, but not me. I learned it as a musician, but I never learned it as an artist. Starting completely from scratch as an adult making art is no way to have built-in self confidence. I know I have great skills in some areas, and there are lots of areas that need work. But overall, my artwork is at a much greater level than my confidence. And it's time to change that!

What I've found that helps is listening to and reading inspirational material for creative people. A lot of it. And then I do any of the things they suggest that make sense to me. If I hear that I should join Instagram and post lots of art photos, I'll do that. If I hear that art directors still really like to get postcards in this digital age, I'll do that. If I hear that I should share more personal information, I'll do that. (See- I'm doing it!!) If I hear something that doesn't make sense to me or I think it's wrong, I won't do that. But lots of those little tidbits add up and help me feel confident in my business and my presentation. My favorite podcast for inspirational art business ideas is the Creative Pep Talk by Andy J. Miller.

I also like to listen to interviews of creative people and how they generated their own success. Here is a recent post with some favorite podcasts. It can be depressing to hear about someone else's great artistic life and achievements if you also want that for yourself. But then when you hear how they started out you realize that all beginnings are awkward and success wasn't built overnight. One of my favorite illustrators, Carson Ellis was a cocktail waitress in her twenties. She lived cheaply and spent as much time drawing as she could. Check out this great interview with her on Pencil vs Pixel.        

There is an inspiring interview with Anna Joyce on Jennifer E. Snyder's Creating Your Own Path podcast. Anna started her textile design business at a time when she couldn't get a job elsewhere. She had $3000 in savings and enough money for childcare for 3 months. And she dove in with all of her energy. Here is one favorite quote from the interview: "The number one thing that people should pay attention to if they are starting a creative career is taking themselves seriously. And when you take yourself seriously, others take you seriously. And if you really have a lot of passion, it's just about follow-through at that point. There are a million people that talk about wanting to do something and so many less actually do it. So if you have a goal and you just keep chugging away until you reach that goal, it's so much easier to reach the next one. So take yourself seriously and follow through with all of the things you intend to do."

And finally, when people compliment my work I really listen and take in the compliment. I was raised to be a humble girl and it was hard to learn to be publicly proud of my work. But I work hard and I'm really good at some things! So each little unasked-for compliment I take and use to build the strong base of self-confidence that I'm building. I'm not the person to build a skyscraper, but I've got a really good foundation for a cozy home right now. Thank you for coming over to visit. When I get the walls and roof done, I'll have you all over for a party!

1 comment: