Burst my bubble

So I’m in that dreamy, creative state; full of distracted, half-formed ideas and good intentions when I walk into my local art supply store to buy everything I need to create my next project. I’ve been dreaming of painting on a large canvas an abstract landscape that’s been living in my head for weeks. I’m stopped short by this:

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And suddenly all my desire to paint that dreamscape has been knocked out of me, like hitting a mass-produced faux brick wall. I just look at this stack of 20 identical “Art for your wall!” canvases and feel like, what is the point of my spending the time and energy on creating something that a factory can produce in minutes for pennies? It’s not that they aren’t nice to look at, and, somewhere along the way, an artist was probably involved in their creation, but it really sucks the wind out of your sails, you know?
As long as I can pretend that what I create is special, it’s very fulfilling to be a painter, but then when I’m nearly smacked in the face with a reminder that, no, it’s not special, factories around the world have figured out how to do it by reducing the creation of a work of art to a consistently reproducible formula of color balance and just the right shapes…
I almost didn’t buy the supplies I needed, it really deflated me that much. But then I did, and so I will paint. And so on. First lesson of the year 2015: I am not a special snowflake. Next post will be more cheerful, promise!

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Back to Basics

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I’ve had to take a micro step back for a bit from working on my art business, because I think with all of the business I’m losing sight of the art! I made a list of goals for myself at the beginning of the summer, and even though I’m nearing the end of that list, I’m still feeling like I’m not getting any closer to my overall goal of being a career artist. I remember feeling similarly at the the end of last summer. It’s as though I was thirsty  and decided to dig a hole to reach a spring of water. I keep digging and digging, trying different approaches,and different tools, all the while thinking that if I don’t find any water, how can I justify all this digging?

I guess what I mean to say is that I’m a bit worn out! Maybe it’s the marathon of trying to get things done with the boys home from school, or maybe it’s the guilt of trying to get things done with the boys home from school, or maybe its a little of both. Or maybe… it was the list itself. It did strike me that, of all the items on my list of things to accomplish for my business this summer, 99% of them were in the digital realm… Digital photography and editing, listing products, set up and maintenance of social media, Etsy teams, treasury building, and blog posts (*ahem*).

Very little art has gone into my art business this summer! It’s time for me to take that deep breath, just as I did at the end of last summer, and ask myself:

Why am I doing this? Answer: Because I love to paint.

So why aren’t you painting? Answer: Because I can’t paint if I don’t have the justification of it being my career.

Response: Baloney. Go paint.

A peek into my studio- please come right in!

I’m SO excited to share something with you that I have been working on for some time! I have just added a video to my blog’s about page that shows how I paint my miniatures in oils. It is my first time-lapse video, and I’m really happy with it! If only you could have seen the crazy set up I had rigged to get my camera recording at the right angle… I’m sharing it here in this post as well, so you can view it if you want to see how my miniature portraits are done! Of course, I didn’t come up with the idea until I had already done some work on it, so its not totally start to finish, but I wanted to do the time-lapse of this portrait, because I knew I would also be able to introduce you to the portrait’s subject at the end of the video! Enjoy!

Money = ? Deep Thoughts provoked by that darned (awesome) Tara Swiger

I have been absolutely Podcast- obsessed recently… It’s my guilty pleasure-way of “working” on my business even when I can’t physically be working on it. (driving, laundry folding, dish washing, all podcast time!)

If you are looking for a good listen and have an interest in entrepeneurship, my top 5 favorites for business advice are 1. Andreea Ayer’s Launch Grow Joy show, 2. Brilliant Business Moms with Sarak Korhnak and Beth Anne Schwamberger, 3. After The Jump with Grace Bonney, 4. Dave Conrey’s Fresh Rag Show, and 5. Explore your Enthusiasm with Tara Swiger.

If you are not familiar with Tara Swiger, she is an expert at craft marketing, and a small business coach who leads online courses for women (and men) who are trying to create a path for their handmade businesses. In a recent podcast episode she made reference to assigning a dollar amount earned as a potential goal (or “destination”, as she puts it) as a way of further defining one’s path on their map to success. For example, a person looking to earn six figures with their business might have a map that includes working with manufacturers, liscensing agents, and wholesale accounts, as opposed to the person who wants to earn vacation money might have a path that includes art shows and postcard mailings. No amount is “wrong”, just a personal decision. She also talked about defining what that money in your dollar amount you decided on represented- for the vacation money earner, was it Family? Contribution? For others who wanted to earn a larger salary to quit their day job, was it representative of Freedom? To the person who wants to be able to send their child to camp each year, was the money representative of Parenthood? By giving the money meaning, it would give your map more definition. Of course, I started turning the wheels about that question for myself.

I won’t tell you exactly what my weekly dollar amount “destination” is, but I will tell you that it took this podcast to realize it’s significance. I’ve always had a ballpark idea of what I’d like to make per week as an artist, and I actually had to laugh at myself when I realized that it is almost exactly what I used to make when I had a full time job WAAAY back before I had children and before I worked for my husband building his business. That was almost 10 years ago! I guess my subconscious doesn’t adjust for inflation. The truth is, the amount doesn’t really matter. My husband is, and probably always will be, the breadwinner in our house, and he’s darn good at it. I’m not  really contributing any money earned toward anything specific for our family, so the question was; what did that amount in my head represent?

It was none of those things I listed above in Tara Swiger’s examples, freedom, family, contribution… it was something even more personal to me. To me, that amount represents respect. Earning a salary like I used to before becoming a stay at home mom is, in my mind, the final answer to those akward “So, do you work, or do you just stay at home?” moments that I never became comfortable with in these past 8 years . Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have done it any differently, and I’m not in the least bit interested in landing a 9-5. I’m still at home, but I’ll confess that I’ve been coveting for years now the change in status from stay-at-home, to work-at-home mom. That’s not something that is easy for a SAHM to admit- there is always this strange ballet between Mothers who earn money and those who don’t, fear of judgement, yet unable not to judge themselves. Notice I don’t say those who work and those who don’t- that word “work” has alway been at the center of my discomfort. Is work without a paycheck not as respectable in society as a whole? I’m admiting to you now, that when it comes to my own judgement of no one else but myself,  I fear it isn’t. So that is where my number came from, and I’m not sure if it’s healthy or not- you can let me know in the comments! Sorry for the deep thoughts- back to back podcasts will do that to you…

What was I thinking?

 

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School’s out for the summer, my shop to-do list is a mile long, and I’m a little overwhelmed! I’m endlessly surprised by the discrepancy between how long I think something will take to get accomplished, and how long it actually takes. I mean, I’m off by an astronimically high margin!

Tuesday was my day to finally redo the photography on almost 60 pieces. I know that photography time can get quickly eaten up by perfecting lighting, fiddling with props, and trying out different angles, so I made sure to have everything perfectly ready to go. Weeks ago I had worked out my new photography set-up, experimented with lighting until it was just right, made lists of each type of listing photos I needed to get, and what props I would need. I ordered some of the props I needed, gathered all of the peices to photograph and organised them. I was SO ready. So Tuesday afternoon I popped a movie in for the kids and went for it. Of the 60 items to photograph I managed to get shots of 4. In one and a half hours. I’m sure you are wondering how that’s even possible, and if I didn’t experience it first hand I’d be wondering too… I guess there are endless ways to tweak and adjust during photo shoots that just end up being so time consuming! My point is, though, why did I think I could bang out 60 of these in one afternoon, and be so wrong?

I think it may be a matter of perception- through research, a number of online sellers of similar items have become my standard that I am judging my own shop against. The pictures are Amazon- perfect, the branding is flawless, the media use is thorough, and they do a high volume business. So though I know what I’m working towards, I think I forget that as a one-woman-show I’m on for every aspect of:

product photography

communications

social media upkeep

shop listings

packaging design

advertising

shipping

creative design

And not to mention, of course, actually painting!

I’ve jokingly said to friends that I could spend 24 hours a day working on my handmade business and still complain that there wasn’t enough time, but honestly, it’s actually true! So unless I move into a condo without kids, husband, and animals, and allow for a SERIOUS lapse in personal hygiene, it just ain’t gonna happen.

It is actually kind of a relief to acknowledge that reality; that no matter how much time I was given, I could fill it up and still want more. I have no choice, really, but to be OK with what I can get done in the time I have, and allow myself to enjoy the time off with my kids. That is, after all, why I want to work from home! So please pardon this one-woman-show’s occational intermissions…

What’s in a word

 

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Sitting in my studio the other day, from the corner of my thoughts, a little word floated up to meet me. Stubborn. That’s strange, I thought. I’m not thinking of any stubborn people, my kids are nowhere to be seen, why does my wandering brain want me to consider this word? There it floated, stubbornly. It was a little moment in my day that changed my perspective. I’m stubborn. What? No, no, no- I’m sweet and mild mannered, I don’t send food back at restaurants, or even return things that break, in fact I spend most of my day doing exactly what other people ask me to do.

Yet here I am, after a year of creating, developing, and researching this handmade business,  inching toward my dream with such sloooow progress, and I don’t give up. No one in my life would describe me as stubborn, but I’m proving to myself everyday that I am. And I’m kind of liking it!  It’s probably the strongest word I’ve ever used to describe myself, and I feel like wearing it like a badge of honor. I can’t let this dream go, and I know that I’ll never back down on this. It might change form a bit as I struggle to make a creative living happen, but I just know that I’m going to work at it, pour more into it, sometimes rage and rail at it, until it works. And that makes me both fiercely proud and kind of scared.

———- Brief intermission———–

So of course I got interrupted while writing this (I’m also making dinner, hanging laundry, and managing siblings), and it gave me a chance to think about what I’d written. As I stirred the macaroni, I realized: There’s another word to describe what I was writing about. Passionate. I like that one, too. I think I’ll wear both.

Seriously, Chem Lawn, just stop. You’re embarassing yourself.

Seriously, not a stock photo.

Sadly, not a stock photo.

Every Spring it begins anew… The slowed down trucks as they pass by my house, the flyers left in my mailbox, on my doorstep, the phone calls… Chem Lawn (excuse me, I mean True Green) begins their courtship ritual. Every lawn service guy that rides down my street stares slack-jawed at the weed fest connecting the sidewalk to my house and thinks to himself: “My God, this woman clearly is unaware of her lawn issues, I’d better report this outlier hippie!”. I’m surprised they don’t break down the door and stage a full on intervention, I mean, I’m pretty sure they must think that the poor family that lives here must be tied up, duct tape over their mouths, unable to make that critical call to rectify the unacceptable state of their lawn! Because what other possible explanation for this dandelion-ridden, clover-filled, pathetic excuse for a lawn could there be??? Don’t they know that they live in a neighborhood full of people who have paid good money to have the bejesus blasted out their enormous lawns in the persuit of perfection? And that their dandelion fluff is ruining it for everyone??? Arrgh!!!! Seriously, lawn guy, calm down.

And of course the truth is… I do know. And I feel horribly guilty that my lawn is ruining it for everyone. I cringe with embarassment everytime I pull into the driveway. I keep thinking, when the lawn is mowed, it will look better… it’s totally going to blend in and everyone will will be fooled into thinking that we’ve taken care of the problem… but no. I swear those leggy yellow bastards conspire to lie down when that mower blade passes over them, only to slowly rise again like the zombie-dandelion apocalypse! Kill it with fire!

The temptation is HUGE every year to kill the weeds with herbicides because the natural products and fertilizer we have been using for years don’t work (and what are we fertilizing exactly? Not grass, that’s for damn sure). Part of me really wants my lawn to match the other lawns, if not for the sheer OCD-ness of needing things to visually “go” together.

There is a reason for the state of my lawn of course… a bunch of reasons. Millions, in fact, if we are going to count every living organism in a 1000 foot radius. But mostly it’s my kids who keep me from jumping off that cliff. My kids who are upset when we mow the weeds because “Mom, now what are the butterflies going to eat??” My kids who play and roll down the big hill, and wrestle with the dogs in the front lawn. My kids, who, upon seeing the side of a lawn service truck plastered with pictures of a green lawn and a giant butterfly that doesn’t exist in Nature remark that maybe using chemicals on your yard will breed mutant butterflies!! Um….no.  My kids, who remind me everyday that the creatures big and small are really grateful not to be soaked with toxic stuff.

So when I start to lose my resolve, and begin to leaf through that brochure that’s been left on my front door for the 50th time, I look to them to remind me why we don’t give in.

 

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Oh yeah.