Category Archives: Learning

Let Your Passions Feed You

I’ve wanted to be a lot of things in my life. I’m interested in a lot of things. Even though I’ve always planned on being an artist and a writer, I’ve also seriously considered going into theatrical set design, archaeology, teaching, horse breeding, nutritional counseling, and  art therapy.

The other day, Sam and I were sitting at an outdoor table sharing wings and mozzarella sticks, and we started talking about talents and abilities that we each had. It actually started by comparing his super-sensitive taste buds to my ears. Sam can taste things that I can’t, and I have some crazy-sensitive ears. For me, any sort of squeaky, scraping sound practically causes seizures, but I can also hear things in music that Sam can’t. He likes to play songs I’ve never heard to see if I can guess the band (if I’ve heard of the band, I can usually tell). I can’t remember the words of most songs, but I can remember obscure little beats and entire guitar solos. I hear music in a very visual way, if that makes sense. I could probably sculpt or draw the sounds. One of my favorite things to do in junior high was to listen to a song over and over and draw it.

I’ve taken voice and piano lessons and I’ve played with composing, but I’ve never really done much with music. As we ate our lunch that day, Sam asked “Why aren’t you in the music industry?”

I just shrugged. I love music, but I don’t know what I’d do with it. I also love animals and could happily be with them every day, but I don’t know what I’d do with that either.

Sam’s kind of the same way. He’s a man of many talents and he likes to experiment, but like me, he’s has a hard time settling on one career. He’s also dabbled in set design and engineering, but he’s also a web designer and he’s going to school for 3-D animation. He’s draws and he loves film, and he  loves creating props for haunted houses. Someday he might open a creature shop and make puppetry-assisted animatronics for haunted houses and movies.

It’s hard to juggle so many interests. One things that I love about art and writing though, is that I can use them to cover all my other interests. I can write about anything, paint anything, learn about anything and let it show up in my creative. Everything I do, see, love, and dream about feeds my art and writing. Even though I’ve checked out plenty of different paths, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. Though someday I’d love to go back to music lessons, I’d love to spend more time with animals, and I still think there’s plenty to be explored in my other interests. Those interests are there for a reason. I used to get frustrated that there’s only one of me and that I couldn’t do everything I want to do, but it doesn’t bother me much anymore.

I watch Sam juggle his different interests and ambitions, and I noticed that he doesn’t stress out about it. He doesn’t seem to worry that there isn’t enough time or that he’s doing the wrong thing. He just has a good time with it.

I guess that’s the best thing to do when you feel like your choices and passions are overwhelming. Just have fun with it. Let it feed you.

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Rising Above Discouragement

A few weeks ago, I posted about how I overcame my fear and entered a few paintings into a very big, very competitive juried show. I mean, the awards are competitive, but the real goal for me was just getting in. Out of over 950 entries, about 250 were actually accepted into the show.

My work wasn’t accepted.

Even though I knew it was going to be competitive, I was a bit bummed out. For the weeks leading up to the announcement, I walked the fence between hopeful confidence and not getting my hopes up. I visualized getting into the show, I found several other shows to enter in case that one didn’t work out, and I told myself that I’d be ok either way.

I am ok, but when I went to the museum to pick up my paintings the other day, that black cloud of discouragement settled over me. That museum is one of my favorite places in the entire world because it’s always quiet and full of gorgeous art. It’s a great place to think; especially the back room where the abstract work is always hung in this show.

This day, the museum wasn’t quiet. It was busy and rather noisy after the bustle of the opening the night before. The door to that wonderful back room was open and all the noise from the other side was coming in. I studied the work in the show; amazing, as expected. I wanted to get an idea of what I can improve to help my chances of getting in next year, but the closer I looked at the perfect details and flawlessly crisp lines, the more I felt myself retreating into my little cave of fear. How will I ever compete with this kind of work? Will museums and gallery ever see the value that I see in my work? Will I be able to communicate my message clearly? Will/do people really connect with my art?

My brain knows that my work treads the fine line between the realism and purely abstract works that usually get into that show. I know that people love my art, because they tell me all the time. Not necessarily people in the “art world”, but people who feel free to enjoy art for it’s own sake. I know that I’m just starting out. I know that my art isn’t about perfection in the slightest, and that it might be better suited to homes than museums, but my heart didn’t believe it just then.

I cut my visit a little short and asked the volunteer at the front desk for my work, and she took me down into the basement of the museum, where I’d never been before. The entire basement was just PACKED with sculptures and paintings. Hundreds and hundreds of pieces. We found one painting right away, but the other one wasn’t where it was supposed to be, so I got to help the volunteer search through all the other works to find it, which was fun because I got to look at a ton of great stuff. On the one hand, seeing the quality of the work that didn’t get accepted made me feel better, because not getting in doesn’t mean that my work sucks, or even that they didn’t like it. Again, my brain knows this, but our emotions don’t always listen to our brains. One the other hand, it made me feel worse because if amazing art like that didn’t make it in, do I really have a chance?

There are plenty of other shows coming up, so hopefully I’ll get in somewhere. That doesn’t really worry me. I have some ideas to try that may improve my chances of getting in, and I did get some really fun ideas from looking at the work in the show, like attaching smaller canvases to the bigger ones for more dimension, mixing my paint with gloss medium, and stuff like that.

The problem is that I haven’t much felt like painting for the past few days. My brushed feel awkward in my hands, the colors haven’t been blending right (I don’t think I like the new brand of paint I’m trying), and I’ll admit that I’m kind of second-guessing myself. I collaged a little bit, just for fun. No matter what though, I cannot let discouragement hurt my passion. It doesn’t matter if I don’t get into a show, or if I compare myself to other artists, or even if my colors don’t want to blend.

Even if I never get to make a living as an artist, if I never get into a show or no one ever buys my work, I’m still an artist. Nothing can take that away from me. Even if I lost everything somehow, I’d still draw pictures in the dirt with sticks. I’d still get excited when I see cool trees against a colorful sky. This is true of every artist whether you’re an actor, writer, musician, whatever. If no one likes what you do or if you blow an audition, get five rejection letters in one day, or get booed off a stage, you’re still an artist.

This probably seems like a lot of drama over nothing, but I think everyone feels like this at some point. We don’t get promotions. We dont get the part. We get shot down when we finally get the courage to out that cute coworker. Our inner Simon Cowell tells us to quit what we’re doing and take up accounting instead.

I have no doubt that I’ll be successful. I know I can stand to build up a thicker skin, but that process is a tough one. So what do we do when we feel small and insignificant compared to the world we’re trying to be a part of?

Well, I put on my Beats and blast my tough girl music (at the moment, I’m listening to Van Halen. I know, I’m a monster.) and I write, or I paint something just to paint, or I stare at the ceiling and realize how good it feels just to be laying there with a fully functional body. We just keep going, that’s all. Music does help though.

All right, it’s your turn to gush. Any rejection stories? When did you feel discouraged? How do you get past it?

Art is for Everyone

I’ve written a few times about my experience as an art major in college. It only lasted my freshman year, and then I switched to a (highly useful) English degree after that. After changing my major, I often wandered the halls of the art building feeling sad and lost inside. I felt like a starving person with no money standing outside the Bellagio buffet.

Still, I felt like I made the right decision, just like when I dumped my theater scholarships to study art and still to this day feel a twinge of sadness when I hear showtunes.

Why did I leave art?

Lots of reasons, all of which I hope to explore here later because I feel they’re valuable, but one of the biggest reasons is that I felt like art “abandoned” me somehow. Art was like a lifelong friend who turned into a jerk once we got to college. Instead of finding my artistic voice and feeling free and creative, we debated the definition of art and whether beauty has value. The art department praised the new, edgy, shocking, and obscene while scoffing at “decorative objects”, or “pretty” art. Crucifixes in jars of urine were “art”, but a simple drawing with no other purpose than to be pleasing was not. “Hard” art was “good”, while “soft” art was not. Real art was either be sold for thousands or millions of dollars, or not sold at all. Art was for people with money and doctoral degrees, or those who were willing to starve for it.

While I took notes and felt my spirit shrinking, I could only think “Man Art, you used to be cool.”

Don’t get me wrong, I had some good times as an art major. I met some great people and had my moment of zen moments perched on a drawing horse while sketching wads of crumpled paper, but I came into the art program wanting to be an artist, and I left it wanting nothing to do with the art world. The art world was a crooked, elitist place and I wanted nothing to do with it.

Luckily, I’ve come to my senses.

I barely made any art in college. I made art for assignments, but that was about it even though I haunted the local art galleries and put all kinds of good ideas on the back burner until I felt like being an artist again. Last spring, I started painting for fun again and in the fall, Sam suggested that I try selling art. I started learning about the real world rather than the art world, and I realized that it’s not such a scary place after all; at least it doesn’t have to be. I learned about Etsy and met all kinds of artists who are real people and proud of it. (I’m not saying that edgy, post-modern artists aren’t real, it’s just the image that’s not real.)

Most of all, I realized that owning and enjoying art isn’t limited to rich collectors or people with alphabets behind their names. Art can be affordable, approachable, and most of all: fun. It doesn’t have to make a huge statement or be shocking (though it certainly can). Sometimes, art can just be pretty. It can just make someone happy when she looks at it. It belongs in homes, offices, on desks, in wallets, in our jewelry boxes, on our notebook covers, everywhere! Anyone can make it, and anyone can enjoy it. It can say anything or nothing.

Art is for everyone, and that’s one of the messages I hope to send with my own art. I don’t mean that my art is for everyone, because not everyone will like it and that’s fine. I want my art to be approachable, thoughtful,  beautiful, and fun. I want it to be accessible and positive. Not everyone has room or money for large art, so I’ve started making small art as well, and I have plans to expand my shop and share my art with as many people as possible.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. What do you think about the art world, or what art “is”?

The Season of Reflection

“Misunderstood” by Jude Harzer

This is my experimental winter. I’ve had winter blues since I was a child, but this year I decided to accept it and observe it rather than feel angry.

I’ve learned to accept that this is my slower time of year, that this season is for contemplating and reflecting. I do a lot of that in the summer too, but it’s different.

I’ve realized that winter is when all my inner garbage comes to the surface. Any buried fears, hurts, loneliness, anger, or pain of any sort comes out. For years I’ve stuffed it down with food and denial, and while I’ve done my fair share of emotional eating this winter, I’ve also done a lot of “cleaning.”Issues that I thought I’d resolved and pains I didn’t even know were there are floating up for me to work with. They lift their heads and say “here I am!” and even though they seem like ugly little suckers at first, they all have something valuable to teach me. When I learn, I reap the peace and freedom that comes from letting go, and enjoy it all summer long until the next round of “trash picking” arrives. It’s like rebreaking bones so they’ll set properly. It’s painful and liberating. I know that dealing with these feelings authentically is the only way to move past them.

I’ve understood this for awhile now, but I’m writing about it now because the biggest monster of all has risen to the surface, past hurts lodged deep inside. I’ve had a massive headache all day long and I feel exhausted because  haven’t taken the time to sit with him, hear what he needs me to know, and send him on his way. My deepest, slimiest, most gripping fear has come to visit. I doubt this is the last time I’ll see him, but I can feel that our relationship is about to change.

I don’t think I’m the only one who goes through periods like this. I think everyone does to some degree, but not many of us realize it. It’s terrifying and painful when our deep hurts rise up for us to see. We numb them out, we shut our eyes, we pretend they aren’t there, but they don’t leave until they’re acknowledged. Sometimes we call this depression, or a bad day, or getting “triggered.” These times come in all shapes and forms.

Notice when these times come to you. You’ll probably feel tense or grumpy, maybe weepy, you may feel physical discomforts, maybe all of the above like me. Don’t fear it. Meet your monsters, listen to them, and part as friends (or at least call a truce).

Enjoy the peace of letting go.

Selling Art and Letting Go

I sold my favorite painting last week. I was happy to release it to someone who loved it so much, but it was still a little sad for me. I wasn’t expecting to let it go at that time; the buyer and I had previously discussed a different painting, but he ended up changing his mind. This one was more money than the one I’d expected him to buy, so that was nice, but that blank spot on my wall is still a little sad looking.

Acrylic on Canvas 24X48

As I drove home from delivering the painting, I thought about the weeks I spent working on that piece. I made it in October and I spent the whole time either listening to the Muppets Green Album or watching Soul Art TV. I remembered each stage of that painting; laying on the paint and peeling it back back off with an old library card, spreading the paint around the sky, dabbing the jewel red leaves, wondering what the figure should be doing and watching the piece change under my brush.

I then realized that I already had what I needed from that painting. I got my value from making it, and from seeing its new owner light up when he hung it on his office wall. I now have some money to put toward my business and an empty spot on my wall for the painting I’m currently working on.

Being the dork I am, I thought of the Doozers from my favorite show, Fraggle Rock, who live to build.

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If you have no idea what I’m talking about, get thee to Youtube.

They don’t mind that the Fraggles eat their towers  (because the buildings are made from radishes, the Fraggles’ favorite food) or when Sprocket the dog accidentally wound up in Fraggle Rock and knocked them all down. They were happy because now they had more room to build! Their joy was in the process, not the end product. Building made them happy. They also loved to see their buildings make the Fraggles happy as they ate them. One of the doozers once watched a Fraggle munching on a piece of the roof and he sighed and said “Ah, does my heart good. Architecture is meant to be enjoyed.”

As an artist, this is something I’ll have to get used to, but I don’t imagine that letting go will always be easy. I just have to remember where the joy comes from, and where it goes. It’s a beautiful exchange.

School VS Education

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I recently went through my old college flash drive and found tons of old essays and stories that I’d forgotten about, so I might share some of them over the next few weeks. This is from my senior year, an essay assignment called “This I Believe.” 

I won’t pretend that I’m thrilled about this assignment. I have a lot on my plate right now with five classes, work kicking my butt, and a novel in progress. My kitchen is overflowing with dirty dishes, my laundry isn’t put away and my living room looks like my desk exploded. One more paper to write is like a fly buzzing around my face while my arms are full of books; annoying, stressful, and something that should be done away with. What’s the point?

Unfortunately, that’s been my mantra this semester. I’m dragging myself through my literature classes, trying to absorb these literary jewels but instead wishing I could be home writing or researching my genre instead. I take notes in lectures, chew pen caps in testing centers, and wade through pages of phonetic transcription and wish I were in a book somewhere, either my own or someone else’s. I graduate in May. I’ve taken dozens of classes, written dozens of papers, taken dozens of tests and what do I know? Not much. I even made a list of important things I’ve learned and I realize very few of them came from school.

I believe school is only a tiny part of education. A degree can get you a job, but the rest of your life is a mess if all your education occurred in a classroom.

I can read and write well. I partially credit my abilities to school, but I learned to write by reading and writing outside of school, reading and writing what I wanted to. I can make a soup or casserole with anything in my fridge. I can take care of kids, balance a checkbook, budget, and pull myself out of depression, but I didn’t learn that from a textbook. Learning happens through practice, trial and error, and help from other people.

Van Gogh said “I never let school get in the way of my education.” I’ve written that quote on top of pages of notes when I start to get overwhelmed by class work and feel my brain clog up like a drain full of hair. I remember to step back, get perspective, do my own thing for awhile and come back fresh so I can absorb what I need from school.

Bad attitude? Maybe. School is important to me. I’ve had some amazing teachers who helped me become better than I would have on my own. I’ve taken classes that have opened my mind wider than I could have alone. I’ve been introduced to some amazing books, ideas, and people I may have never discovered otherwise.

School is part of education, but only a part, not the whole . Education is learning from everything while retaining your identity and core values. Learn from school, people, experiences, trials, experiments, people, places, books, and your own thoughts. Life is a giant school really, but in the school of life, you are your own academic advisor. You choose your teachers, your classes, your curriculum. The world is your classroom.

A Year of Gratitude

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On Saturday morning, I went for an extra long walk. I didn’t take my hat or scarf, though I should have. It was the kind of weather that fools you into thinking it’s warm even though it’s freezing. Sunshine does something for my soul, it stirs up some deep happiness that I forget sometimes when it’s been cloudy for awhile.

I veered off my normal route and walked down the hill a little further so I could get a better view of Utah Lake. It was so beautiful for some reason. I stopped and looked at it for a minute, and then a feeling of gratitude came over me as I thought about where I was a year ago and where I am now.

Last February, I would have never imagined that my life would be like it is now in such a short time. A year ago, I was depressed, sick, my stress and anxiety were through the roof, and overweight because my compulsive eating was out of control. I lived in a tiny studio above my uncle’s garage and worked as a nanny, and I had no idea what to do about my future. I had no social life. I was so creatively stuck that I started to believe that I wasn’t meant to be an artist and writer after all, that I had nothing to say. I felt stuck, and I was miserable.

Now, standing on that hill looking over the lake, I have a clear vision of my future and a path to get there, but I also have the faith to let things unfold as they must. I have a great job that’s actually related to my degree, my body is maintaining a happy weight and though I’m still tweaking my self-care, I’m much healthier. I have an apartment I love, and I’m making art and writing all the time.  I’m actually selling my work, and I have plans for growing my career from this little seed I’ve planted.

I’m so thankful for this past year and how incredibly far I’ve come. I’m so blessed. I’m amazed how I’ve been led to everything I need whether it’s tools, signs, opportunities, friends, or ideas. I’m grateful for my new outlook on the world, that I understand that struggles are important opportunities to learn, and therefore blessings. I could have never learned how to be truly happy without being truly miserable first. I couldn’t learn how to grow if I couldn’t experience being stuck. I couldn’t have acquired the new tools and knowledge I have without the situations that prompted me to seek them.

I hope that you all are well and that you’re experiencing some wonderful growth right now. Have a wonderful week. 🙂

Wise Words: Living and Learning

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The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead;  we remember that faith is always pointed toward the future.

Jeffrey R. Holland

When Life is Rough

Some days are just rough. That’s how life is, because without the rough days, the great days wouldn’t be so wonderful.

Sometimes the darkness and cold of winter sinks into your bones and you forget that spring is just a few months away. You forget to let yourself settle into the slower time, to admire the landscape, and to appreciate the contrast from the hot, busy days of summer that seemed like only yesterday.

Sometimes it feels like your career will never get off the ground, that no one will ever want what you have to offer. You forget that the struggle to create your career is what makes you a stronger business person, and that the fact that your passion drives you forward anyway is a sign that you’re on the right track.

Sometimes it seems like you’ll never get out of debt or have enough money. Sometimes things get so tight that you don’t want to turn on the lights or drive to the library, but things won’t always be this way. It may be a sign that you need to be more conscious of the way you spend, or that you need to explore some unopened income channels.

Sometimes life isn’t fun, but things always change. As cheesy as it sounds, a positive attitude and a bit of patience makes all the difference. Appreciate the moment, be grateful for it, and learn what you can from the current situation, and let go of the outcome.

Everything will turn out all right.

A Little Day to Celebrate

So, today is my half-birthday.

On my actual birthday this year, I posted a list of things I’ve learned in those years, even though I’d learned most of them in the past year. 22-23 was a year of tremendous emotional struggle and growth for me. The the six months since my birthday were much less painful, I feel I learned as much as I did in that bumpy year. In six months, I’ve gone from a mass of unorganized creativity and hope running around like a dog  let out of the kennel at the end of the day, to being focused and clear. Six months ago, I was just happy to be free. Now, I have direction and I’m taking steps to lay the foundation of my creative career.

I feel that’s something to celebrate.

The most recent picture of me, and I'm very happy.

Do you celebrate, or even acknowledge your half birthdays?