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Sunflower Inspiration

If I were a flower, I think I’d be a sunflower. They’re my favorite because they look so happy and they’re a symbol of joy and summer to me.

I saw a bunch of sunflowers down by the road near the Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah when I went there for the annual Llama fest this weekend. Yes, Llama fest. Lots of fun. It’s like a big fancy dog show, but for llamas, and there are lots of crafts and good food, and the Krishna Temple is just a wonderful place to be because it smells like beautiful incense, everyone is happy, and it’s up on a hill with an incredible view of Utah Valley.

Anyways, Sam picked me a sunflower and I had a mini photoshoot.

I’m planning on using these in a mixed-media painting very soon!

Ok, I know. You guys want to see some llama pictures. Here you go:

And some more pictures, just for fun.

Thank you all for being such wonderful friends and readers. Have a fabulous day!

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Creative Funks

So, I know I’ve been pretty absent around her for the past few weeks. A lot has happened. I’ve sold a couple of small paintings, had strep throat, met a rattlesnake on a hike, and turned 24. My domain even expired while I wasn’t looking! I haven’t been online much at all, and I’m actually ok with that. Sometimes we need to unplug.

Most of the reason I’ve been gone is because I’ve been in a serious creative funk lately. I’ve started a few new paintings but I’ve run into some walls with both of them. Nothing a little modeling paste and rethinking can’t fix, but walls nonetheless. I haven’t worked on my novel much, I haven’t been very active on Etsy, and my studio is such a disaster that I can barely fit in there.

It happens.

I figured I could either hide behind some fluffy posts or just take a break. I chose the latter, because I knew I’d be in the mood to post again soon.

So, about creative funks. I don’t like to call them “blocks” because it sounds like something outside of ourselves that’s causing us to avoid creating, but it’s really not. Nothing that has happened over the last few months could have inevitably blocked me, but a funk, now that feels more like the sticky, mucky, internal mess that this really is. I picture it as getting stuck in molasses or tar; the gunk that clogs up our creative channels if we don’t clear it out in time. That gunk will always come, but it can either get stuck or pass through fairly painlessly.

In the past few months, I’ve uncovered and run into rejection, shock, the possibility of major change, shame, anxiety, guilt, regret, and all kinds of stuff that loves to gunk up our creativity like a giant hairball in a drain. This all came on fairly quickly and I didn’t really allow myself the time or means to move it out before it congealed. I avoided talking or thinking about it and instead read a bunch of (amazing) books, busied myself with household chores (my apartment is still a mess somehow), organized my ever-growing Pinterest boards so I can access my inspiration easier, and taking lots of walks. I knew that funk was there, but I wasn’t ready to deal with it. I’d let myself think about it in passing moments, tiny bites at a time because the whole elephant just seemed like too much.

I haven’t nailed down a surefire way to get out of these creative funks, but I do know that our spirits and therefore creativity are an ecosystem as delicate and complex as any rainforest, and all the little elements need to be there and working together in order for the whole to function properly. The extinction of one insect, the absence of one seemingly trivial ritual can potentially throw the whole system out of whack. Life is far too messy to balance properly, but we can make sure that the necessary things get taken care of. Creativity is a delicate little creature that needs proper care to survive. ”

Real” artists aren’t exempt from this. All creators struggle to keep their systems balanced, though some may have themselves figured out more than others. So, my solution for my creative funk is to do what I can to restore the environment in which my creativity can thrive. This means different things for different people, but for me it means making space for “creative playtime”, reading inspirational things like Laura Hollick’s blog or The Artist’s Way, and making sure to connect with myself by journaling and daydreaming instead of filling every free second with other reading or Minesweeper.

This morning, I’m planning to take myself shopping for art supplies with the rest of my birthday money and then having some creative playtime before I go to work. The thought of artmaking actually terrifies me at the moment, but I know that bribing myself with some new toys from the art supply store will coax me out of my shell. Whatever happens in the studio today will be ok, even if I completely ruin whatever I’m working on, make something wonderful, discover that I want to go in a completely different direction, bawl my eyes out, whatever. It’s all ok.

What to do when you don’t know what to do

We’ve all been there, and a lot of us never seem to leave. Life seems overwhelming, scary, or confusing, or maybe all of the above.

This isn’t a gloomy post. Feeling like this sometimes is just part of life and it usually means we’re on the verge of something important. The longer we stay stuck here though, the longer it takes to get that shiny prize at the end of the tunnel.

So when my head is spinning and I have no idea what to do or which path to take, here’s what I do:

  1. Cling to truth: When you’re confused, nothing feels better than to anchor yourself with things that you know to be true. List them. They can be as simple as “My husband loves me” or “I am a good person”. Confusion is to not know, but having truth is to know. Once you have a grip on that, you can figure the rest out.
  2. Realize that everything is ok: I tend to get caught up in my own little maelstrom of emotion, but sometimes I need to step back and notice that the sun is shining, the cat is sleeping, the world is still turning, and nothing is really wrong. Not in the grand scheme of things. The drama is all inside me. I don’t have to listen to it.
  3. Do a tiny thing that scares you: If you’ve been cleaning the house with a Q-tip to avoid working on your novel, sit down and write a page. Set a timer. If you’ve been putting something off, do a tiny bit of it. Bribe yourself. Set a timer. Whatever gets you going, do it.

I actually did all three of these things today, and I feel a million times better. If you feel confused or overwhelmed at all, I highly recommend it.

Have a great week!

New Paintings!

I haven’t listed any new work in awhile, but today I’m posting a few new small paintings in the shop today:

11X14 Acrylic and Cracked Gesso on Stretched Canvas, $85

Purchase here.  This painting features layers of crackled gesso painted icy blue and white with a black tree. I really love this one and I had a great time making it. I’m not sure what prompted me to paint something so…frosty looking, but I’m really happy with it.

8×10 Ghost Girl and Tree on Green, Mixed Media. $35

Purchase here. This painting features a young ghost girl standing under a white tree with collaged red orbs and a stamped moon. I love the veiny texture that comes from using thick paint on hand-carved stamps!

8×10 Linocut Tree and Acrylic on Newsprint and Canvas Board, $35

Purchase here. In high school, I carved this linoleum block stamp of a tree, and I’ve used it quite a bit since then (like in this piece). I love combining linocut with collage and painting. I printed the tree onto newsprint and sealed it onto a flat canvas board.

I love these pieces because they’re the result of creative playtime.

Have a great…what is it, Thursday? Wow. One of those weeks.

Whatever it is today, have a good one!

3 Secrets to Creativity

People often tell me that they’re not “the creative type”.  A lot of those same people tell me how creative I am, as if it were some rare trait that only a few gifted people possess.

Compliments are nice, but I’m here to tell you that creativity is not something you’re born with. There’s no “creative type”. There are people who tend to gravitate towards things like art, dance, theater, writing, and basketweaving. Some people are naturally unafraid to express themselves, while others are more timid. Some people are more visual and emotional and tend to think more creatively without really trying. This really isn’t any different from people who are naturally good at math, or who think analytically, or highly useful people like my husband who can look at any broken do-dad and know how to fix it (I, however, am much better breaking things. Match made in heaven, right?).

We all have a creative streak whether we use it or not. We may not all be inclined to paint or write novels, but everyone is moved by some form of creative expression, and I firmly believe that everyone can become adept at some sort of creative pursuit whether it’s writing operas or creating flower arrangements.

After years of listening to people lament about their perceived lack of creativity and my observations of “creative types”, here are some of the differences I’ve noticed:

  1. Don’t be afraid to screw up. People who are truly in tune with their creativity aren’t afraid of making lousy stuff. If you’re too afraid of messing up, you’ll never start, and nothing will get made.
  2. Let your ideas change and evolve as you create. I was talking to my friend the other day, and he told me that he doesn’t like to make art because it never ends up looking the way he pictured it in his head. This is a common complaint. I’ll tell you a secret: I make a lot of art, and it NEVER comes out the way I’d originally imagined it, but sometimes it’s even better. Creativity is not the ability to reach into your brain and pull out your intended creation intact; it’s more about discovering as you create and allowing your work to take on a life of its own. It’s spontaneity.
  3. Spend some time in La-La land. Though I was a good student, I used to get in trouble for daydreaming a lot in school. I even wrote a poem about it. If you don’t let your imagination wander, you won’t get idea; and if you don’t get ideas, how will you create anything? On the same note, it’s important to let those ideas marinate for awhile before you try to make them real. Yes, some ideas just burst for fully-formed, but that usually only happens in the movies. I recently re-learned this when I got the sudden urge to start working on my novel again. I’d been stalled for month even though I still thought about the story a lot. As the words flowed out during my writing session today, I realized that I hadn’t gotten to know my characters well enough, so no wonder the story wasn’t working! After letting them run wild in my head for a little while, I found out who they were and they were able to take on lives of their own.

I’ve had plenty of creative blocks before, and I’ve found that in each case I wasn’t doing at least one of these things. When I do all three, I find that my creativity flows like a fire hose. Try applying them to your own life. See what happens.

So, do you consider yourself a “creative type”? Do you run into creative snags?

Shifting Creative Gears

Ok, I’m going to keep this quick because I’m in a mood that I haven’t experienced in quite awhile.

The writing mood.

This happens to me sometimes. I’ll be working on one creative project and then wake up one morning feeling like doing something completely different. This happens with my art and writing. Thought I’m both an artist and a writer, I can’t seem to do both at the same time; I’m always both feet in either one or the other. I’ve made more art in the past couple months than I have in years, but I haven’t touched the novel I’ve been working on off and on for three years. Most of my readers probably have no idea that I’ve even had that project on the back burner. Two weeks ago though, I went to bed with all kinds of art ideas and a plan for the next day’s painting session and woke up with a hankering to work on my book.

That’s what I’ve been doing ever since, nearly every minute that I’m not at work. I’ve been living off watermelon and pb&j because I don’t have the patience to make anything else.

Some creative people have a single, burning patient to which to devote their time. Others, like me, have more than one. Sometimes it’s possible to split their daily activities to include both, but I don’t work that way. I’ve had to learn to go where my creative urge takes me. If I feel like painting, I paint. If I feel like writing, I write.

It’s kind of an unpredictable cycle and it makes it hard to set any long-term goals, like a goal date for finishing the first edit of my manuscript or introducing a new item to my shop or a new series of paintings this summer. I have to ride the waves though, because if I do anything else, the work won’t be as good.

I’m a writer at the moment, but I’m still an artist too. Who knows when the winds will change again. Don’t worry, I’ve still got plenty of art in me!

Trust the urge to create, no matter what that may be.

The Great Creator, Jim Henson

22 years ago today, Jim Henson passed away, but he left the world with his numerous creations that continue to influence people of all ages today.

Source

I wrote about Jim last year and how he revolutionized entertainment. I called him my “creative role model”, which he certainly is.

Though my work bares little or no resemblance to Jim’s, I’m still surprised by how much his work has affected my life and creativity. I almost always watch Fraggle Rock or the Muppet Show while I paint. If you’ve met me in person, you’ve experienced my oddball sense of humor and puns that were shaped by years of watching the Doctor Bob sketches on The Muppet Show. If you read my writing (which I’m assuming you do), you know that I have an optimistic view on the world and I use humor to get through the rough times.

Jim left a lasting legacy of silliness, creativity, optimism, and the general joy of being alive. Not everything he created was wildly successful, be he kept creating and playing nonetheless. He loved what he did and the people he work with. This is why he’s my creative role model.

Source

Just for fun, tell me about your favorite Jim Henson creation in the comments! The Muppet Show? Sesame Street? Labyrinth? Fraggle Rock? Let’s hear it!

10 Things I Love about Art

I love art. That’s no secret. I’ve met people that don’t love art, and I just can’t wrap my brain around it. How can someone not love art? How can someone go through life without encountering a piece of art that moves them? I don’t know.

Mixed Media, 8X10 canvas board

Why do I love art? Here’s why:

  1. It can be deep and thought-provoking, or just pretty.
  2. There’s not right or wrong way to be an artist.
  3. It scrapes to the very bottom of my soul and gets to the little crevices. It brings things to the surface that I never knew were there.
  4. It fills us with emotion.
  5. It’s a universal language. It helps us communicate feelings that transcend words alone.
  6. Art is fun!
  7. It brings us together, and also brings us closer to ourselves.
  8. Anyone can make art. Anyone can have fun with it.
  9. Art heals.
  10. Art allows us to exercise one of our most divine traits: creativity.

What do you love about art? What do you love about your passion?

Art and Location

The part of California that I struggle with is the driving, but luckily I got to ride in the back of the van the whole way and take pictures of trees out the window.

I went on a lot of car trips growing up, and I think a lot of my work stems in watching the trees and landscape as we drove back and forth to California and southern Utah. I pay a lot more attention to trees than that stuff than I used to, but I noticed that the trees and sky in California look so much different than they do in Utah. Utah is full of trees standing out in the middle of nowhere by themselves, or huge dead trees. They’re very gnarly looking. Everything in northern Utah is very jagged and sharp. We’ve got the Rocky Mountains and the trees are…sharp-looking I guess. The trees in California are much more serpentine. The San Gabriel Mountains are hilly and round rather than rocky. All the trees had their leaves, and as far as I know, most of them don’t lose them.

As I snapped pictures of trees by the freeway, I wondered how my art would change if I still lived in California, or if I go back. I was actually born in Pasedena and we lived there until I was almost five, but I remember it very vividly. Every time I go back, some part of me feels at home. There’s a California girl in me somewhere. Not the part of me that has to drive, but some part. My husband is an animator, so we may very well live in California at some point. He certainly wants to. What would that do to my art? Would my trees get more snakey-looking?  Would my skies get flatter, because the sky in California mostly seems to vary between blue and brownish-gray? There’s the beach though. I could get into that. There are palm trees, and all kinds of flowers.

It’s an interesting thought. Though my work really isn’t realistic or representational, the Utah landscape is a huge source of inspiration for me. I think my art will always have some Utah in it, but it will probably change to reflect wherever I’m living at the time. I may try to incorporate a little of my California girl into some art this summer. I’ve been playing with some ideas all winter while I was pining for the sun.

I’ll probably live in California again someday, as well as other places. My art will change right along with my surroundings, because my surroundings are part of me. I project myself into the landscape.

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?